Microsoft said on Thursday that starting next year it will include Outlook in its version of the Office for the Mac platform, replacing Entourage, the e-mail and groupware application for Mac users the suite has now.
The move will give business users of the Mac version of the suite more of the same features Microsoft already offers for people using Office on Windows, said Eric Wilfrid, general manager for Microsoft's Mac Business Unit, in a teleconference Thursday.
Microsoft also will reduce the number of editions of Office 2008 for Mac from three to two when it releases a new Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Business Edition on Sept. 15, he said.
The new edition will replace the current Office 2008 for Mac and Office 2008 for Mac Special Edition that Microsoft sells and will cost $399.95, the same as the current Office 2008 for Mac. Microsoft will continue to offer Office 2008 for Mac Home and Student Edition for $149.95.
These changes to Office 2008 for Mac lineup will not necessarily remain in effect until Microsoft releases the new Office for Mac around the holidays in November and December of 2010, however. Microsoft will reveal any further changes at a later date, Wilfrid said.
The new business edition of Office for Mac is designed to give business customers using the software better connections to Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft's messaging server for delivering business e-mail, Wilfrid said. Once Outlook becomes part of the suite, this integration will improve, he said.
Microsoft also engineered Outlook for the Mac to be compatible with Outlook on the Windows platform, Wilfrid said. Outlook has been the e-mail and groupware client software for Office for Windows for many years and is widely used with Exchange Server for corporate e-mail.
Michael Gartenberg, vice president of strategy and analysis at Interpret LLC, said that with Apple's Mac computers becoming a more viable option for the enterprise, it is an important move for Microsoft to make its Mac version of Office more on par with its Windows version for those users.
However, Apple's next version of Mac OS X, Snow Leopard, will include native support for Exchange Server when it's released next month, which means business users can get Exchange-based business e-mail through Apple's built-in applications. With this move imminent, Microsoft's inclusion of Outlook in Office for Mac at the end of next year might be too little, too late, he said.
"Apple is going after business users with these types of features," Gartenberg said of native Exchange support. "There are still some things Outlook could offer that Apple's integration with Exchange might not offer -- we'll have to see. But it will be more than a year [after Snow Leopard]. That's going to give Apple a pile of time to evangelize to folks."
Microsoft has definitely been feeling the pressure on its Office business not only from Apple's gains in PC market share, but also from free or low-cost competitive applications from Google and others. In fact, Thursday's announcement was the second the company made this week to expand its Office business, which next to Windows remains the main profit driver at Microsoft.
On Wednesday, Microsoft and Nokia unveiled a deal to put Office applications on Nokia's Symbian-based mobile devices, a move that will help Microsoft reach more mobile business users with its Office Mobile suite. The software currently only runs on Windows Mobile devices, which have less market share than Nokia's Symbian handsets.
This story was updated on August 13, 2009