Microsoft woos Mac OS X users with Office offers

Microsoft took aggressive steps at the Macworld Conference and Expo yesterday to promote Office to users of Apple Computer's Mac...

Microsoft took aggressive steps at the Macworld Conference and Expo yesterday to promote Office to users of Apple Computer's Mac OS X.

The company announced two promotional offers intended to make Office v. X for Mac appealing to Apple customers. Microsoft said it has signed a deal with Apple to install a 30-day trial version of Office v. X for Mac on all new Macintosh computers.

The trial software, known as Office Test Drive, is a full-function version of Microsoft's productivity software but lacks the ability to print documents.

"It gives users a chance to kick the tyres of Office," said Scott Erickson, product manager with Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU). He claimed hundreds of thousands of users have downloaded the test drive kit or received a free copy of the software since it first became available a year ago.

Apple and Microsoft have also introduced a $300 (£187) instant rebate for customers worldwide who purchase Office v. X for Mac when they also buy a new Macintosh.

Microsoft has branded its latest marketing effort "Office Romance", but is, essentially, duplicating a similar deal to purchase Office v. X for Mac for $199 with the purchase of new hardware.

These efforts to introduce the software to Mac users is the latest sign that Microsoft may be struggling to spur sluggish sales of Office v. X for Mac, according to Giga Information Group research fellow Rob Enderle.

"I do think that Microsoft is starting to say, 'If we don't build a bigger market for this, then we're going to have to exit the market'," Enderle said. "The volume of sales has been well below expectations."

Microsoft and Apple have shared a development relationship for five years, with Microsoft committing an entire business unit to creating Mac software. However, some have questioned that relationship because the two companies decided not to renew a contract that bound Microsoft to produce software for Apple's operating system.

Erickson insisted Microsoft remains "extremely committed" to the Mac platform.

Microsoft also announced that it would sell Entourage, its e-mail and personal information management software for Mac OS X, as a standalone product. For $99, Mac users will be able to purchase the e-mail management software, which is equivalent to Microsoft's Outlook software for Windows users.

The move to pull Entourage apart from the Office bundle comes just as Apple has begun to promote its own e-mail software as well as iCal, a calendaring application.

Microsoft also previewed its MSN for Mac, a hybrid Internet access application that brings together Web browsing, e-mail, digital media and other Internet features into a single interface.

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