Microsoft has announced its latest software offering for the Apple Mac, dubbed Office:mac 2001.
The company is hoping the new Office program suite will emulate the success of its last Mac Office offering - Office 98, which sold around three million copies worldwide.
More than 200 people are involved in the software giant's Mac business unit, making it the largest Mac development team outside of Apple. Office 2001 features a host of "Mac first" innovations aimed at bringing the programs more in line with Apple products.
"It is a continuation of the good relationship built up between the two companies in the past few years," said Apple's national computer sales manager, Martin Perrins.
"This product incorporates new features that are still to come on Windows versions and features that are exclusive to Apple."
Microsoft based its new software on three major design goals - organising and communicating information, simplifying difficult tasks and making the software more "Mac-like" and compatible. To that end, Office:mac 2001 features a new mail application: Entourage 2001.
"It is really the hub of Office 2001," said marketing manager for Microsoft Australia, Drew Sharp.
Entourage features a preview panel, and users can tag Window's file extensions along with attachments sent via e-mail to overcome compatibility problems. The program also includes a spelling wizard, drop down menus and a customs view facility, as well as a Mac first, and can synchronise with Palm handhelds and MSN Hotmail.
Microsoft also claims Office:mac 2001 makes previously difficult tasks such as mail merging relatively simple. There is increased compatibility between 2001 and existing Mac applications. For example, users can now use a database from Filemaker Pro in a Word mail merge. Similarly, PowerPoint now supports Quicktime transitions.
Office 2001 includes around 400 templates, compared to around 150 in the 98 version. These feature more colour elements and can be customised by the user.
Microsoft's point-of-sale strategy for the product follows Apple branding. For the first time, the software is presented in a round, clear case rather than the traditional carton.
"Even the packaging looks very iMac," Sharp said. "It is very radical for Microsoft. It is not in a box, it is not white, it is not cardboard - we are trying to loosen up a bit more."
Microsoft has been busy taking its new office suite on the road to key Apple centres and retailers across the country. Compatible with Office 2000 for Windows, the software requires 160MB hard disk space and 32MB of RAM with a Mac operating system of 8.1 or later.
Microsoft will create another version of Office for the upcoming Mac OS 10. Apple hopes the new suite will help boost hardware sales for the company, Perrins said.