Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac gets an upgrade

The new service pack focuses on document sharing

Microsoft released today SP2 (Service Pack 2) for Mac Office 2008, the first upgrade in more than a year and a step toward bridging the gap between Windows Office and Mac Office, which traditionally lacks full integration with other Microsoft software. SP2 features standard performance enhancements--faster launch for Word, faster calculations in Excel, that sort of thing--but it is primarily concerned with document sharing and collaboration.

The biggest new feature SP2 offers is the Document Connection tool, which Microsoft first teased back in January. Document Connection helps users of both Mac and Windows-based Office share documents either via Microsoft's Office Live Workspace or through SharePoint, which Mac users previously had to access through a Web browser.

[ Microsoft increasingly has been turning its attention toward online productivity apps, where some analysts believe it even holds an advantage over Google Apps. ]

Microsoft is looking to become a leader in cloud computing in general, and in particular, it is seeking to build a sharing and collaboration ecosystem around Office Live Workspace and the forthcoming Office Web suite of hosted productivity apps. Enhancements like the Document Connection tool allow users to ease into using the online services by integrating them with the desktop version of Office.

Though the next version of Microsoft Office, Office 2010, is expected to be delivered for Windows in the first half of next year, Microsoft has not set a ship date for the Mac version of the software; release dates for Mac versions of Microsoft software typically trail behind Windows versions' release dates.