Microsoft Outlook for Mac to combat new Apple OS

Despite this week’s court ruling that could force Microsoft alter parts of its flagship Office suite, the company is charging ahead with a plan to add its Outlook e-mail client to next year’s version of Office for Mac.

Currently, Apple Inc. users are offered Entourage instead of Outlook, a program that could also be used to send e-mail, manage appointments and organize contacts. But for enterprises who have increasingly invested in iMacs and Macbooks, the need for better support of Microsoft Exchange environments has become a growing issue.

The new version of Outlook for Mac, which will be available in late 2010, is being built entirely from scratch with Apple’s Cocoa API, according to Microsoft’s Macintosh Business Unit.

In addition to the functionality found in the Windows version, the company said it has listened to its enterprise users and will add Apple-specific features to the product.

These include a new high-speed database with support for Time Machine archiving and Spotlight searching, and improved information rights management tools to prevent sensitive information from being distributed or accessed without permission.

“They should have done this from Day 1, but at least they are now doing it,” said Tim Bajarin, a principal analyst with Campbell, Calif.-based Creative Strategies Inc.

Microsoft stressed that the move was “more than just a name change” and driven by the demand for Outlook from Mac-using enterprise shops. It even notes in the company’s press materials that the announcement was being made over a year early to meet the planning needs of enterprise customers.

But according to Bajarin, the move was made more out of necessity than anything.

“The real reason that they are doing this is that in Snow Leopard, Active Sync is now built into it so that Apple’s own Mac Mail, iContacts and iCal now sync with Exchange servers,” he said, referring to the latest version of Mac OS X scheduled for release next month.

In theory, this would make Entourage less important for users, Bajarin said, adding that Apple’s own word processing and spreadsheet tool, iWorks, has started to catch up to the rest of the Office suite in terms of capabilities and functionality.

“To keep Mac Office competitive, they needed to add Outlook and give users all of the real virtues of an Exchange server experience,” he added.

In addition to unveiling its future Office roadmap, the company’s Mac business division also announced Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Business Edition, which retails for US$400.

It will include the Web Services Edition of Entourage, Microsoft Document Connection for Mac, more clip art and templates, and hours of tutorial videos from

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