Apple, Amazon presell Office 2008 for Mac

No guarantees that the suite will arrive on Jan. 15, however

Online retailers, including Apple Inc.'s own store, have begun taking preorders for Microsoft Corp.'s Office 2008 for Mac, the first new version of the application suite on Apple's platform in nearly four years.

The bundle, which includes updates to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage, is set for a Jan. 15 launch at next week's Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco.

Both the online Apple Store and Amazon.com are taking preorders for the suite, but neither promises to deliver the software by next Tuesday. An Apple Store sales representative, for example, first told Computerworld that the product would likely arrive "around the end of the month," then changed the estimated arrival date to Jan. 21.

Office 2008 for Mac is available in three editions: $149.95 for the Home and Student version, $399.95 for the standard version and $499.95 for Special Media Edition. Two upgrades, $239.95 for the standard version and $299.95 for Special Media Edition, are also available for users running earlier versions of Office.

Apple's e-store cites the list prices for Office 2008, but Amazon, as it often does, is discounting the suite. The Seattle-based e-tailer's Web site, for instance, lists the Home and Student version at $130.99 and the standard edition at $354.99.

Microsoft has essentially been preselling Office for weeks, however. In November, it cranked up sales of Office 2004 by offering a free copy of Office 2008 Special Media Edition to customers who purchased the older suite through Jan. 14. Another special that ran only on the Friday after Thanksgiving promised a $100 rebate on Office 2004 and the free copy of Special Media Edition (U.S. customers were required to pay $7 for shipping and handling).

The suite was originally supposed to debut in late 2007, but last August, Craig Eisler, general manager of Microsoft's Macintosh business unit, pushed the release to early 2008. "It was clear from our June and July quality checkpoints that no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't release our product in time for the Christmas season with the kind of quality we wanted," Eisler said on Aug. 2.

Office 2008 is the first version of Microsoft's suite to be offered in a native Intel version. Although Office 2004 runs on Intel-based Macs, it does so through the Mac OS X's Rosetta technology, which has caused users to complain about long start-up times and slow performance.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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