Outlook for the Mac: Suddenly Everyone Loves Exchange

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on August 13, 2009

Microsoft’s announcement today that it was bringing Outlook to the Mac, reported by my colleague Arik Hesseldahl, was a very curious one. The product is not due for more than a year, when it will hit the market as part of a new version of Office for the Mac, and the announcement was, unsurprisingly considering the lead time involved, very short on details.

I suspect that Microsoft’s decision to pop the news now is related to the fact that Snow Leopard, Apple’s upcoming new version of the Mac OS X operating system, includes comprehensive support for Exchange, Microsoft’s heavy-duty corporate mail, contact management, and calendaring system.

Exchange support has long been a sore point for Mac users in enterprise environments. Entourage, the mail client that is part of Office:mac 2008 lacks support for key Exchange features and is, at best, a sluggish clunker of a program. The best way to get full Exchange support on a Mac has been to run Outlook in a virtual Windows system, using Parallels or VMware Fusion software. It works fine, but its expensive and time-consuming to set up, since it requires a full copy of Windows.

The Exchange support in Snow Leopard should address this problem,and Microsoft is announcing that they intend to stay in the game with client software for the Mac. There's one big catch, however, to both the Apple and Microsoft solutions: They will only work work if the corporate mail system runs on the latest version om Exchange, Exchange 2007. Today, that is probably less than half of all enterprise systems.

The new offering from Microsoft will actually be the second coming of Outlook for the Mac. A version existed back in the late 90s. It was actually a product of Microsoft's Exchange group, not the Office team or the Mac Business Unit, and it was a sorry thing. Hardly anyone mourned when it failed to make the transition from the old Mac OS to OS X.

Reader Comments

bob dole

August 14, 2009 7:22 AM

Type in 4th paragraph, 2nd to last sentence.

bmk

August 14, 2009 12:10 PM

As someone who has recently transitioned from a PC to a Mac environment, the biggest downside has been using Entourage -- a weak sister to MS OUtlook for the PC. MS Office for the MAC isn't so hot either.

Chris

August 14, 2009 2:16 PM

I'm a Win -> Mac transitioner as well (2 yrs now). Agree that the OFfice product just isnt as good.

This is partly due to the anti-trust regulations set out by the government a few years back. The Mac Office group has not historically worked in combination with the Win Office group which is why Exchange support and other things have been less than ideal. The Mac Office group (i've heard) works more closely w/ the guys in Cupertino than the guys in Redmond...

Fernando

August 16, 2009 11:04 PM

Interesting. This might bring the mac closer to something that can be used in the enterprise. One big hurdle still remains: Systems management. The Mac OS is not an easily centrally managed system -yet-
A Win->Mac->Win convert here.

ChuckO

August 17, 2009 8:25 AM

I don't think anyone loves Exchange but it IS what the majority of enterprises run so it's important to have if you wanted run Mac's at work. The other point is if you buy Office for Mac why would you want an email client that's inferior to Outlook.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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