Pro File: Q&A with Roz Ho

A lot can change in a year. Just take a look at the relationship between Microsoft and Apple. In the past 12 months, a five-year technology alliance between the one-time rivals expired, Apple released a pair of products that challenge Microsoft's long-standing dominance of presentation software and Web browsers, and Microsoft brought in a new general manager for its Macintosh Business Unit. Roz Ho now heads the software's giants Mac efforts, replacing the departed Kevin Browne. But, as Ho explained in a recent interview with Macworld, sometimes the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same.

I've been with Microsoft for 11 years and joined the Macintosh Business Unit in 2000 as a product unit manager. Prior to joining the MacBU, I served as a program manager for Microsoft's PowerPoint and OfficeArt, where I was responsible for defining product vision, designing, and writing specifications for product features, as well as managing overall project dependencies. PowerPoint received dozens of patents and numerous industry awards under my leadership.

The Macintosh Business Unit will continue to develop products that customers love and can't live without including award-winning software and online products for the Mac platform. Additionally, our customers tell us that true cross-platform compatibility is key to enabling them to seamlessly work with their Windows counterparts, and we will continue to ensure that compatibility is never an issue for our Mac customers.

The MacBU remains just as committed to the platform as when we had an official technology agreement with Apple. We continue to develop and ship software on the Mac platform because our customers have a need for it. If anything has changed, I would say that we are working more closely with Apple. Just recently, we've had, and will continue to have, great discussions about test suites and enhanced support of Apple technology.

Our relationship with Apple has never been better. For example, we recently worked closely with Apple on the Office v. X Test Drive pre-install-allowing Mac users the opportunity to try Office v. X on their Mac for 30 days without purchasing the productivity suite, which now comes pre-installed on all new Macs shipped in 2003. Additionally, we just wrapped up another very successful promotion with Apple, in which we offered Mac users the opportunity to purchase Office v. X for Mac for $199 when they purchased a new Mac. The MacBU development team has always had a great technical relationship with Apple, and it's even closer now that we are coordinating on test scenarios. We have weekly meetings with Apple to go over bugs and have regular meetings to discuss our requirements as a [developer] on the Mac platform and future Mac technologies.

We've heard positive things from Mac users who have tried Apple's Keynote and Safari. We believe customer research is key to developing quality products and we continue to listen to our customers for their thoughts on Apple's products and ours.

No. Our relationship with Apple continues to be solid and our commitment to Mac customers is as strong as ever.

MSN for Mac OS X is the first Internet subscription service built by the MSN team and MacBU. We know that more than 90 percent of Mac customers connect to the Internet, and yet the software experience for them has been less than perfect. Mac customers deserve a great Internet experience. With MSN for Mac OS X, we are delivering a great ISP service, combined with the best communication tool, the best browsing, true online security, and helpful Mac-specific customer service.

With the launch of MSN for Mac OS X, OS X users in the United States will boast a better Web experience with top requested features including a powerful junk mail filter with multiple layers of filtering, customizable parental controls that help parents protect their children from inappropriate online content and limit communication with strangers, and free, around-the-clock Mac-specific customer support.

The response has been fantastic. Our Mac users have told us time and again how much they love Entourage and have asked us to offer it as a separate program. We're excited to meet our customer's needs by offering Entourage X as a stand-alone product for $99.

The Exchange update for Entourage X is aimed at Entourage X and Exchange Server users from small organizations to larger enterprises. The Macintosh Business Unit recognizes that many of our customers utilize Exchange for their server-side communication needs and are in need of a OS X client solution. Our goal with this release is to offer an Exchange solution that will offer robust e-mail, contacts, and shared calendaring in a corporate Mac environment.

It's going extremely well. We're excited to continue development of Virtual PC for Mac to improve the experience Mac users have when they run Windows-based software applications-including business, education, Internet and home applications-all from their Mac.

Microsoft is always looking to enhance its Mac offerings to make it seamless for Mac users to work with their Windows counterparts, but we have nothing to announce at this time regarding future acquisitions.

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