Microsoft grants Mac Office 11th-hour reprieve

Day before Office 2004's retirement, extends support until January 2012

Just a day before Microsoft was to have retired Office 2004 for Mac by ending updates and fixes, including security patches, the company said Monday that it would instead extend the five-year-old suite's support until Jan. 10, 2012.

Microsoft announced the 27-month reprieve on its Mac Business Unit's (MacBU) blog, saying the extension was meant to give Office 2004 users, who can utilize Visual Basic-based macros, enough time to migrate to the next edition of the application suite, which isn't scheduled for release until late 2010.

"The date has been extended to 2012 specifically to ensure continuous cross-platform compatibility for Office 2004 customers reliant on [Visual Basic for Applications] until support for VBA is released in the next version of Office for Mac," said Mike Tedesco, a senior product manager for MacBU, in the blog post.

Microsoft scrubbed Visual Basic from Office 2008 for Mac, a move it tacitly admitted was a mistake when it said in March 2008 that the next upgrade would again support the scripting language.

The still-unnamed Office, which Microsoft promises will appear by the holiday selling season next year, will also include a Mac-specific version of Outlook as a substitute for the widely unpopular Entourage e-mail application.

Today, Tedesco stressed that the extension would not change Microsoft's policy of supporting Mac versions of Office for only five years.

Because Microsoft labels Mac Office as a "consumer" product, it supports the suite half as long as it does the Windows versions. Office for Mac receives what Microsoft calls "mainstream support," which generally runs five years, but it is ineligible for the additional five years of "extended support," a phase that includes security updates but provides other fixes only to companies that purchase support plans.

"This extension does not change the five-year support policy for other Office for Mac products, including future versions," Tedesco said. "Nor does it affect any other Microsoft products, including Office on the Windows platform. With the additional support [for Office 2004], we will continue delivering all the types of support associated with mainstream support, including security updates and non-security bug fixes."

As of late Monday, Microsoft's site had not been updated to reflect the new Jan. 10, 2012, support deadline.

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