Microsoft Releases Office for Mac 2011
Microsoft today released Office for Mac 2011, the seemingly neglected Apple Mac OS X-based version of the company's productivity suite.
This release may seem like a time warp for current users of the Windows-based Office 2010, or even earlier versions. The big news is the reappearance of Outlook, which Microsoft first bundled as a native app with the Office 97 Windows-based product. Microsoft is rolling out two Mac-based editions at the retail level, plus and an "Academic" edition. The retail editions of Office for Mac 2011 are called "Home and Student" and "Home and Business."
Outlook for Mac 2011 (code-named "Outlook 14.0") is now available with the Home and Business and the Academic editions of Office for Mac 2011. Outlook 2011 is not available with the Home and Student edition of that product. Home and Student users either have to rely on a Web-based e-mail client or purchase Outlook 2011 separately.
The Entourage e-mail client isn't part of Office for Mac 2011 and is only supported as part of the preceding product, Office for Mac 2008.
According to a Wikipedia history, Outlook for Mac 2001 was the last Mac version released by Microsoft, but it was exclusively tied to the use of Microsoft Exchange Server. Outlook 2011 will be "the first native version of Outlook for Mac OS X," according to that account.
Outlook 2011 works with premises-installed Exchange, as well as Office 365, Microsoft's latest suite of cloud-based services that will replace its Business Productivity Online Suite offerings. Office 365 -- which includes online versions of Exchange, Lync (formerly Communications Server), SharePoint, and both Office Web Apps and the Office Pro Plus desktop client -- was released as a beta earlier this month. Microsoft plans to start offering Office 365 services sometime next year.
Contacts in Outlook 2011 can be synchronized using Microsoft's Sync Services. However, synchronizing calendars in Outlook 2011 will have to wait for now, at least for those not using Exchange. Microsoft plans to enable calendar synchronization for the native Outlook 2011 client later in a free download, according to this blog post.
Those buying Office for Mac 2011 through Microsoft's volume licensing get the following components: Excel, Communicator, Outlook, PowerPoint and Word; information rights management; remote desktop connection; support for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 or later; and an Office Web Apps license. Office for Mac 2011 lacks the OneNote application, which is a kind of scrapbook and note-taking application found in the Windows-based Office 2010 and Office 2007 products.
Enterprises wanting to use the Communicator for Mac 2011 instant messaging application will need to have access to Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2. Alternatively, they could use Microsoft's BPOS or Office 365 services.
The integration of Office Web Apps for the Mac represent another time-warp moment for Windows-based Office users. Office Web Apps have been integrated with Office 2010 for Windows since June in the United States and Canada. Office for Mac 2011 now integrates these lightweight versions of Excel, Word and PowerPoint. Office Web Apps run via a Web browser and work offline through the installed Office productivity suite. Office Web Apps can be run on Firefox 3.5, Internet Explorer 7 and Safari 4 browsers, or later versions, and are supported on Linux, Mac or Windows operating systems, according to Microsoft's description.
The coauthoring capability of Office Web Apps, which lets teams work on documents simultaneously in different locations, is limited to Word and PowerPoint. According to a Directions on Microsoft description, coauthoring on Excel is not supported on the Office desktop client. Instead, SharePoint 2010 can alert users when a document is modified by e-mail. Clicking on a link in that e-mail opens the shared document using the Excel Web App. Microsoft seems to prefer the term, "collaborative editing," when describing collaborative efforts using the Excel Web App.
One catch for enterprises using Office Web Apps with Office for Mac 2011 is that they may be faced with using SharePoint Foundation Server 2010, which requires Windows Servers 2008 Service Pack 2 or Windows Server 2008 R2. Microsoft offers 25 GB of free storage space for personal use through its Windows Live SkyDrive service, which can be used to store Office Web Apps documents, but businesses likely will need SharePoint for document storage, according to Microsoft's overview chart. Office for Mac 2011 has "built-in integration with Windows Live SkyDrive as well as connections to SharePoint," according to Microsoft's announcement.
Office for Mac 2011 is currently available worldwide in 13 languages. Microsoft plans to make it available to 45 or more countries sometime next month. For more on its requirements, see this Microsoft support page.
Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.