Office for Mac 2011 To Arrive in Late October

Microsoft today disclosed retail pricing and release plans for Office for Mac 2011.

Office for Mac 2011 is the seemingly neglected cousin to the Windows-based Microsoft Office productivity suite. The Apple Mac-based version has a dedicated Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit development team operating on a production cycle that varies from the Windows team. For instance, the latest Windows-based suite, Office 2010, was released earlier to consumer users, back in June.

Office for Mac 2008 is the current Mac version, but Microsoft announced today that it plans to release its newest productivity suite for the Mac platform, Office for Mac 2011, "at the end of October."

For those currently buying Office for Mac 2008, Microsoft has a technology guarantee program that allows for a no cost upgrade to Office for Mac 2011 if users meet the program's criteria. The offer is good "between Aug. 1, 2010 and Nov. 30, 2010, at Microsoft or an authorized reseller," according to the company's announcement. Office for Mac 2008 licensees have to register here by Dec. 31, 2010 and send in their product keys and sales receipts to qualify.

Office for Mac 2011 will be offered in two commercial retail editions: a Home and Student edition and a Home and Business edition. The Home and Student edition's estimated retail price will be $119 for a single installation or $149 for a Family Pack that allows three installs. The Home and Business Edition will cost an estimated $199 for a single installation or $279 for two installs (Multi-Pack version).

There also will be a Microsoft Office for Mac Academic 2011 edition that will have features equivalent to the Business edition. It will be sold by Microsoft and "authorized academic stores" for an estimated $99 for a single installation.

Apparently, the only difference between the Student and Business editions is that the Student edition lacks the Outlook for Mac e-mail client application. All three productivity suite editions include Mac versions of Excel, PowerPoint and Word. Microsoft also included support for Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) in Office for Mac 2011. However, the familiar OneNote program used in Windows versions of Office is notably lacking in this Mac release.

"OneNote will not be a part of Office for Mac 2011," a Microsoft spokesperson said via e-mail. "For this release, the team focused on Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, in addition to VBA support for the new version."

Microsoft's plans for Entourage weren't announced, but Microsoft has said in the recent past that it plans to replace Entourage with Outlook for Mac when it releases Office for Mac 2011. Students who don't want to use a Web-based e-mail client application might have to consider upgrading to the Business edition, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

"Entourage 2008 for Mac will continue to be supported in the current Office 2008 for Mac suite," the spokesperson explained. "However, Entourage for Mac will not be a part of Office 2011 and students do receive Outlook through the Academic edition, however for the Home and Student Edition they would need to step up to the Business Edition or purchase Outlook separately."

Microsoft does offer a free Outlook Express client for the Mac, but it currently seems to support Mac OS 9.x instead of OS X, as needed for Office for Mac 2011.

Entourage was always conceived as a separate program from Outlook, according to an explanation by Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Michel Bintener, so the two programs don't have equivalent features. Microsoft also has a Web-based version of Entourage called "Entourage 2008 Web Services Edition," which is supposed to be a bridge application to Outlook for Mac.

Currently, Entourage 2008 works with Exchange 2007, Exchange 2003 and Exchange 2000, although not all features are supported, according to this chart. Presumably, Outlook for Mac will offer a more robust e-mail client for IT shops to manage, but Microsoft provided few details in its announcement. Microsoft's forum on Entourage and Exchange is a catalog of confusion with few answers. So far, Microsoft has said that Outlook for Mac will uses a file-based database and support information rights management, but that's about it.

Office for Mac 2011 will be available in 13 languages, including two new languages (Polish and Russian). Microsoft plans to announce more details about language support in late October.

Office for Mac 2011 will feature the "ribbon" user interface menu system. However, it will continue to support the "elements gallery," which is a floating pallet of tools. It will support Office Web Apps and enable coauthoring on documents. IT pros will be able to import .PST files from the Windows version of Outlook to Outlook for Mac 2011.

Volume licensing for Office for Mac 2011 is similar to that of the Windows version, with options such as Open, Open Value, Select and Enterprise Agreements. "Volume licensing starts at 5 licenses and above," according to the Microsoft spokesperson.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.