Beginning of the end for Office for Mac? Microsoft drops Visual Basic support in Mac version

“Microsoft Office isn’t among the apps that will run natively on Intel-based Macs—and it won’t be until the latter half of 2007, according to media reports. But when it does ship, Office will apparently be missing a feature so vital to cross-platform compatibility that I believe it will be the beginning of the end for the Mac version of the productivity suite,” Rob Griffiths writes for Macworld.

Microsoft also indicates that it is discontinuing support of Visual Basic (VB) scripting in the next version of Office for Mac, but on the flip side, the company said it’s going to increase support for standard Mac scripting methods like AppleScript and Automator. – Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit (MacBU)

“For those who don’t know, Visual Basic scripting (also known as Visual Basic for Applications, or VBA) is the technology behind macros in the Office applications. Basically, VB makes it relatively easy to add automation and customization to Office documents,” Griffiths explains.

Griffiths writes, “While the automation features are nice to have, it’s the fact that macros are portable across platforms that has helped the Mac versions of Office succeed in the market. With today’s versions of Office for Windows and OS X, macros written on the Windows version will work on the Mac version, and vice versa. (There are some exceptions for very complex macros, but most macros work the same on both platforms.) In any sort of mixed-platform environment, this is a very important capability—calling it mission critical for many wouldn’t be an understatement.”

Griffiths writes, “As a typical user, you might not think discontinuing support of Visual Basic in Office is that big a deal—’I don’t use macros, and they say they’re going to add in AppleScript and Automator support, so that should help replace Visual Basic, right?’ But it is—I think this move marks the beginning of the end of Office on the Mac.”

“To put it succinctly: Anyone who works in a multi-platform office environment where Office macros are used will actually lose functionality if they upgrade to the newest Mac Office next year. In most companies today, Windows is the dominant platform, and the loss of VB support will take away a compelling justification for the existence of the few corporate Macs out there,” Griffiths writes.

Griffiths writes, “I think we’re going to see a lot of sales of both Parallels and the Windows version of Office to Intel-based Mac users. After all, if you use Parallels and Office for Windows, you will have absolute, guaranteed, 100-percent compatibility with your Windows-using fellow employees and client base—because you’re using the exact same application.”

Full article with much more here.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Unpatched Microsoft Word flaw affects Macs too – December 06, 2006
Microsoft says Office 2007 XML support coming to Macs eventually – December 06, 2006
Microsoft’s Office 2007 for Windows saves documents in Mac-incompatible format – December 05, 2006
CodeWeavers releases CrossOver Mac 6.0 Beta 3 – November 14, 2006
RUMOR: Apple to take on Microsoft Office, add ‘Lasso’ spreadsheet app to iWork ‘07 – October 11, 2006
Free NeoOffice 2.0 Aqua Beta 3 now available – August 28, 2006
CodeWeavers brings low-cost way of running Windows apps on Mac OS X sans Windows – August 14, 2006
Mac users should not buy Microsoft software (or hardware) – May 16, 2003

71 Comments

  1. He’s right, global corporations using Excel workbooks and macros that tap into enterprise data warehouses will no longer be supported cross-platform. Either very smart or very dumb move by MS; could polarize further and cut down revenues. After all, an Office sale WAS an Office sale, no matter which platform. Now it may be the trigger to move people more to open source and away from the market monopolizer.

  2. If this wasn’t necessary for some, I’d say good riddance. There are more security issues with this kind of thing. It is one of the few ways that security problems bleed over from the dark side.

    MS is looking for ways to screw us and this may be one.

  3. No, MS should NOT remove VBA from Office! As much as I hate Microsoft, this is actually a defining feature for many businesses. I use it all the time to create applications that would be much more difficult and time-consuming to re-make in some other language (and wouldn’t be nearly as useful since VBA apps, by definition, integrate seamlessly with our Office documents.) This is mission-critical for me and many others in the business world, and is a major blow for Office on the Mac, and for the Mac in general. Maybe not for 99.9% of home users, but for business users, this is a huge deal.

    Don’t underestimate this. And don’t underestimate MS. My hatred for MS has just grown even greater.

    But keeping this in context, since Apple is going largely for the home users, not the business users, this probably won’t affect Mac sales too much in the long run. Just inconvenient for those of us who will be forced to use the Windows version in Parallels on our Macs in the future.

  4. I think this is more a defensive move than an offensive one. Most people who are that reliant on complex macros and communication with their company mainframe are using a company computer and that is not a Mac.

    Macs are currently targeted to a smaller, more profitable market segement. This is an attempt to prevent in-roads, not shrink the ones already made by Mac.

    I think Microsoft wants to make sure any Mac user that might use it gets their own copy of Windows and Office to run along side their OSX.

  5. Well I for one want to see Apple add a decent Spreadsheet to the iWork suite. Maybe one that uses models like Flexisheet.

    And then beef the whole package up. Then we can all scrap using MS Office.

    The biggest issue with getting into the enterprise market for Apple is the reliance on MS Office.

    If there can be an app suite that is just as powerful but really easy to use then MS can be relied upon less.

    I would love Apple to then make Office importers for the scripting etc. Then finally to put the nail in the coffin for Office htey need to make a Windows version.

    Make it really cheap to purchase in volume too.

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