Microsoft Office 2004 to ship in May, pre-order available

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Microsoft Corp.'s Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU) on Tuesday will announce that Office 2004 for Mac will ship the third week of May. While the release is still six weeks away, Mac users can pre-order Office from several online retailers beginning today. Analysts feel that the contribution that Office makes to the Macintosh platform cannot be underestimated in Apple's push for more customers.

In an interview with MacCentral, Jessica Sommer, Product Manager for MacBU, said that the code for Office 2004 would be released to manufacturing on April 14, 2004. In the next few weeks, six localized versions of Office 2004 for Mac will be released to manufacturers: French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Swedish.

Users interested in pre-ordering Office 2004 can do so at The Apple Store online, MacConnection, MacMall and MacZone.

"Customer feedback on early versions of Office 2004 for Mac has been overwhelmingly positive; we are really excited to get it out the door and into the hands of our customers," said Roz Ho, general manager for the Macintosh Business Unit (Mac BU) at Microsoft Corp. "The entire Mac BU has been working hard through research, development and testing to build a new version of Office for Mac that meets our customers' evolving needs. I couldn't be more proud of the talented team of Mac users in the Mac BU."

According to Jupiter Research, 11 percent of businesses with $50 million revenue or greater, report running Office v. X, while another 8 percent plan Office 2004 upgrades this year.

"Without Mac Office, Apple would have a harder time selling systems to companies where the productivity suite is essential; considering Macs are often run in shops where Windows dominates, cross-platform availability is a major consideration," Joe Wilcox, senior analyst at Jupiter Research, told MacCentral. "About 90 percent of business users run Office, so the Mac version is a must-have product in Apple's catalog.

Apple and Microsoft have been friends and rivals since the companies first began. Over the years, features and the look and feel of products tend to be similar after application revisions, and as Wilcox points out, even Microsoft's upcoming Longhorn operating system has some familiar features.

"People forget that Microsoft's early application success was on the Macintosh first, with Excel and Word, long before Windows," said Wilcox. "No operating system is successful without good applications, so, from that perspective Apple owes much to Microsoft. Over the years, Microsoft has taken many cues from Apple, starting with the graphical user interface adopted for Windows. Apple's mark is on forthcoming products, too -- a number of Longhorn's publicly showcased features bear striking resemblance to Mac OS X."

Microsoft will also release today the second part of its Flash demo series outlining some of the new features users can expect to see in Office 2004. Features in the latest demo series include:

  • Charting improvements in Excel 2004: New charting tools make quantum leaps in helping create amazing charts and graphs.
  • Smart buttons in Word and Excel 2004: Smart buttons give unprecedented control over powerful automatic functions in Word or Excel documents.
  • New design templates, animations and transitions in PowerPoint 2004: Office 2004 features more than 100 brand-new design templates and new, smoother transitions and animations.
  • Save as Picture in Office: This feature allows users to save objects drawn in Office as separate graphics files.
  • Soft Shadows in Office: New, fully adjustable Soft Shadows add a measure of elegance to every document.
  • Microsoft released the first Flash demo series on March 16, 2004 where they looked at Presenter Tools in PowerPoint; Three Column View in Entourage; Junk E-mail Protection in Entourage; and Archiving in Entourage.

    Also See Macworld's Office 2004: First Look.

    This story, "Microsoft Office 2004 to ship in May, pre-order available" was originally published by PCWorld.

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