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.