Are Apple and Microsoft approaching final split with Office the next baby to be knifed?

Alex Salkever for BusinessWeek writes that “Apple’s real worry isn’t the loss of IE,” in his latest “Byte of the Apple” column.

Salkever writes, “Who needs Internet Explorer, now that Jobs & Co. has its own browser? The much bigger threat is the growing chance that Microsoft will abandon Office for the Mac.”

“That Redmond pulled the plug on IE for Apple was hardly a surprise. After all, Jobs & Co. must have expected some reaction when it released Safari. But far more daunting is the prospect of Microsoft abandoning the Mac version of its popular Office software. That’s because Apple hasn’t yet shown it can replace Office for most of its users. And without Office, Apple’s whole “switchers” program to convert Windows users will probably run aground,” Salkever writes.

MacDailyNews Take: Newsflash: Apple’s “Switch” campaign ran aground a long time ago. Witness no new televeision commericals in months and all we see broadcast now are Apple ads for the iTunes Music Store.

Salkever writes, “…I’m having trouble seeing why Microsoft would continue throwing a significant amount of resources -? the Mac BU has 150 coders — at a computing platform with a market share of only 5% of the installed PC base, according to Apple itself. Software works as a business when it scales to larger numbers of buyers. That’s because once a program is developed, the cost of selling an extra unit is virtually nil.”

“Yes, open-source Office clones are now available for Mac. But all have some compatibility problems. Worse still, they’re open-source. That’s anathema to Apple. From Day One, Jobs has made sure that the final software layer between Apple and its users remains proprietary. That layer, the vaunted Mac user interface, is Apple’s key selling point. Surely Apple would want to continue that ease of use into the most popular applications for its platform — the Office-like programs,” write Salkever. “So if Apple chooses to replace Microsoft Office with an open-source version, Jobs would have to make a hard choice. Should he let the open-source community peek at his proprietary code to build Office clones that work more effectively on Macs and have the same smooth feel that Mac users expect?”

“The upshot of all this? Losing IE is no big deal. Safari works even better. Losing Microsoft Office, however, would create far thornier problems for Jobs. That possibility looks increasingly likely if Office for Mac can’t clear whatever profitability hurdle Redmond has set for it. And with the Apple-Microsoft marriage having one less thing in common now, a final split may be the only move left,” Salkever opines. Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Note how Salkever says that “Safari works ever better” than IE, implying that IE works well. Has he ever used MS IE for Mac and compared it to Safari? IE does not work well. It is slow, more often than not fails to render the full page without forcing the user to resize the window to force the whole page to render, and lacks many features found in modern browsers, such as Tabbed Browsing. Macintosh would survive just fine without Microsoft Office, thank you very much. The vast majority of Mac users using MS Office don’t even need it, they just think they do.

17 Comments

  1. This article seems to have been written before MS reiterated its’ comittment to Apple with their other software, the products which bring in revenue – IE did not. The writer also fails to speculate that Apple might be working on a new office suite of their own to replace AppleWorks. He speculates only in the negative.

  2. I just sent an email to Mr. Salkever. Here’s the verbiage:

    Alex,

    I�m sure you did some research when you wrote your article for Business Week, which I just finished reading. However, if you paid any attention to what Apple has been working on and what the word is around the Mac community then you know that Apple IS working on their own version of Office. It started with Keynote, the presentation software. Now, apparently, they are also working on a spreadsheet and word processing application. This, coupled with their own mail app, iCal, and all the other robust applications they develop will certainly suffice for all Mac users. Further, Keynote has full compatibility with PowerPoint despite being a version 1.0 application for Apple. Most certainly when Apple does release their other �Office� applications they will have full compatibility with their MS Office counterparts.

    The problem Apple will have if MS drops Office for the Mac is that the perception will be that Apple is dead in the water. That will not be the case at all. Many in the Mac community are trying to educate their PC counterparts to the benefits of switching to a Mac but articles such as yours, while, as always, leaning to the right a little bit, give the average Joe Reader the perception that Apple is merely a �hobbyist� platform. I know you stated you use a Mac but you are doing a disservice to many readers but not providing enough data or adequate background on what Apple is working on for them to make a solid, informed decision about the issue.

    Just so you know, I don�t own a Mac. I will be purchasing one after the 970�s are released within the next few weeks. I do follow Apple very closely and have numerous friends that could qualify for �Genius� status if they worked in an Apple store. I use a PC at work and home and am really looking forward to switching.

    Thank you for taking the time to read my response.

  3. Apple can’t take any risk with MS, since MS should have given Entourage access to MS-Exchange server already a long time ago. This makes MS-Office for OSX a really crippled version already and therefore no good alternative for any Wintel system. I am really conviced that Apple can and should come with its own Office suite.

  4. Microsoft owns Virtual PC now correct? I predict Microsoft will stop development of a Mac version of Office and just require all Mac users to purchase Virtual PC to run any Microsoft or PC software. Is it not less expensive to develop one software, Virtual PC, than to continue to develop all of Microsoft’s software line?

  5. MS has said very clearly that they are still hard at work on a new version of Office X. And they’ve just said very clearly, in response to the IE thing, that they ALSO plan more versions AFTER the next one.

    IE is its own decision, not to be compared with Office.

  6. Nobody will accept running VPC for primary apps. It’s useful but slow, unacceptable on most Macs, and Mac users want the Mac UI. Plus its extra cost. Such a move would never sell. I do look forward to MS updating VPC, though.

  7. Updates to IE will continue – mostly bug fixes and security fixes, according to Apple and Microsoft. There will be no other updating of the IE feature set. (An update just came yesterday). No matter, Safari goes GM “soon” according to Apple and that will do just fine.

  8. Since writing for this column, substituting for Haddad, Salkever has repeatedly shown that he has little grasp of the facts. He says “Long maligned as a desktop nonstarter, Linux should pass Apple in market share for desktop operating systems on computers sold in the coming year.”

    Where does he get this info? No source is offered, and I’ve read nothing else that predicts this.

    He also claims “Safari is an open-source program.” That’s just plain wrong, wrong, wrong. Webcore, which Safari is built on, is open source.

  9. Again, Salkever is jumping to conclusions before really checking things out. It’s a weekly occurence. It makes sense that they would kill IE because it costs money to develop and they’re not making anything off it. However, MacOffice is, and always has been, extremely profitable for them. For that reason alone I don’t think they’d kill it. He also said, “Should he let the open-source community peek at his proprietary code to build Office clones that work more effectively on Macs and have the same smooth feel that Mac users expect?”. Ummm, sorry, but there’s a lot of software that I use every day developed by third parties, both commercial, and shareware/freeware, that works and looks great. Why should the open source community have any difficulty here? Apple makes it’s developing tools available free to anyone who wants them. This is just another article where Salkever reiterates that he’s just filling in for Charles Haddad (where are you Charles? Please come back!).

  10. I got a response from Mr. Salkever to my email about his article. His responses are in quotes under each of my original paragraphs. You should all get a kick out of this:

    Alex,

    I’m sure you did some research when you wrote your article for Business Week, which I just finished reading. However, if you paid any attention to what Apple has been working on and what the word is around the Mac community then you know that Apple IS working on their own version of Office. It started with Keynote, the presentation software. Now, apparently, they are also working on a spreadsheet and word processing application. This, coupled with their own mail app, iCal, and all the other robust applications they develop will certainly suffice for all Mac users. Further, Keynote has full compatibility with PowerPoint despite being a version 1.0 application for Apple. Most certainly when Apple does release their other “Office” applications they will have full compatibility with their MS Office counterparts.

    “I wouldn’t bet on it. Compatibility is more about what Microsoft decides than what Apple tries to build. Once Microsoft stops worrying about full compatibility with Macs then it probably will cease to exist. Also, Keynote is definitely not a PPT replacement. Mail still has some big flaws. And iCal is definitely a work in progress. If they rolled them up with an enhanced spread sheet and word processing app I still would feel ripped off paying for them. “

    The problem Apple will have if MS drops Office for the Mac is that the perception will be that Apple is dead in the water. That will not be the case at all. Many in the Mac community are trying to educate their PC counterparts to the benefits of switching to a Mac but articles such as yours, while, as always, leaning to the right a little bit, give the average Joe Reader the perception that Apple is merely a “hobbyist” platform. I know you stated you use a Mac but you are doing a disservice to many readers but not providing enough data or adequate background on what Apple is working on for them to make a solid, informed decision about the issue.

    “Apple won’t talk about this. I asked them. They don’t talk about future developments. Real evidence of Switchers has been scant. And Apple’s marketshare of new computers sold doesn’t appear to be going up.”

    Part 2 Next

  11. Part 2

    Just so you know, I don’t own a Mac. I will be purchasing one after the 970’s are released within the next few weeks. I do follow Apple very closely and have numerous friends that could qualify for “Genius” status if they worked in an Apple store. I use a PC at work and home and am really looking forward to switching.

    “It’s a nice platform but to be honest it’s not that much better. Only if you consider the digital lifestyle apps, which are far superior. For basic productivity, am not convinced its better than XP.”

    Thank you for taking the time to read my response.

  12. “For basic productivity, am not convinced its better than XP”

    This is such an enormous problem to try and explain to some PC users the benefits of Macs, because in a general sense this statement is true. Basically, you can do everything on a PC and a Mac. It’s THE WAY in which these things are done that separates the two.

    I find macs to be much more efficient and far less time consuming. There is just so much less garbage in your way when doing things on the Mac. It stays out of your way for the most part, while XP has always seemed like an in-your-face “look at how great I am” cartoonish UI to me.

  13. I think that it is absolutely critical that MS Office exist natively on OS X. In the business, engineering and corporate world MS Office is a PRIMARY tool. In my engineering organisation, Excel and Powerpoint are quite useful tools. We do LOTS of analysis in Excel and often map results as overlays on engineering sketches and drawings in Powerpoint. You have to see how these tools are being used before you dismiss them as unnecessary on OS X.

  14. DP, I work in the financial sector and I can tell you that I use Office, especially Excel, extensively. My point is not that Office is unnecessary but rather there is other software out there, and will be out there soon, that can do the same things on the Mac. I just find it incredible that people actually believe Apple is symbiotically linked to Microsoft for its own existance. That’s garbage and you know it.

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