Microsoft sets Mac Office 2008 versions, prices

It will debut Jan. 15 in the U.S. during the MacWorld expo in San Francisco

Microsoft Corp. yesterday set the pricing and contents for Office 2008 for Mac, the next version of its application suite for Apple Inc.'s machines, and kicked off a promotion to make up for its delay.

The new bundle will debut in the U.S. on Jan. 15, the opening day of MacWorld Expo 2008, Apple's annual blowout in San Francisco. The software's release in other markets will follow shortly thereafter, said Microsoft.

Office 2008 for Mac, the standard suite, includes Word 2008, Excel 2008, PowerPoint 2008 and the Entourage 2008 e-mail client. It will sell for $399.95 for the full version and for $239.95 as an upgrade. Also in the lineup is the now-familiar Home and Student Edition, which can be installed on up to three computers. It's priced at $149.95, and includes the same application quartet.

New to the line is Special Media Edition, which bundles Expression Media for Mac -- a digital content manager that organizes photos and video and audio files -- with the four core applications. The addition of Expression bumps the price to $499.95, or $299.95 for those who are upgrading from a previous version of Office.

Last month, Microsoft was forced to push the release of Office 2008 into next year after Craig Eisler, the Mac group's general manager, said the software was plagued with quality issues. "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. Previously, the suite had been scheduled to ship sometime in the second half of the year; Microsoft was never more specific than that.

The new promotion, which Microsoft dubbed a "technology guarantee," may have been in response to the delay. The guarantee gives customers in some countries an upgrade to Office 2008 if they purchase the current Office 2004 for Mac between now and when the new version ships. The only charge: A $10 shipping and handling fee. The upgrade offer is good through March 15.

Although Microsoft's Mac development team has kept details on a short leash, the company did say yesterday that the two higher-priced packages -- the standard Office and the Special Media Edition -- will include support for both Microsoft's Exchange Server and Apple's own workflow automation tool, Automator. The lack of support for Exchange Server has long been a bone of contention among enterprise users and corporate e-mail administrators using the Mac version of Office. Many of the comments posted by customers to the blog run by Microsoft's Mac division have pleaded or demanded that the Office e-mail client do a better job of replicating the connections that Microsoft Outlook, the client included with the Windows version of Office, has with Exchange.

A Microsoft spokeswoman, however, said that the Mac development team won't yet divulge any additional details of the Entourage-Exchange operation in Office 2008 beyond the little already posted on the team's blog.

Microsoft, which has said in the past that it didn't intend to put Office 2008 through public beta workouts, reiterated that position today. Testing will be done using a limited, invitation-only pool of users.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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