Microsoft postpones Mac Office file converters

Office 2004 for Mac users will have to wait four more months to work with documents produced by Office 2007 on Windows and Office 2008 on the Mac, a Microsoft Corp. manager said Thursday.

The delay-plagued Open XML converters were slated to show up six to eight weeks after the debut of Office 2008, a schedule that would have put their release by the end of February at the earliest and mid-March at the latest. As recently as last month, Microsoft had confirmed that the converters were on track.

Today, however, Microsoft said they would not appear for months.

"We are pushing back the release of the final Open XML File Format Converter Update to Office 2004 for Mac," said Geoff Price, who heads development at Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit, in a post to the group's blog. "The final converter will be available to customers by late June 2008 as a download from Mactopia and also via Microsoft AutoUpdate."

Both Office 2007 on Windows and Office 2008 for Mac use the new Open XML formats as the defaults for Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Office 2004, however, cannot open those documents, or save existing files as Open XML, without special converters. Last May, Microsoft missed its deadline for betas of the file converters by at least a month, then in August again delayed the tools when it postponed Office 2008 itself. While it has issued beta converters for Word and PowerPoint, it has not produced a tool to convert Excel 2008's new native file format.

Price said that the release was shoved back because priority had been given to Office 2008's first update, which he said would show -- schedule permitting -- March 11. "The team is mobilized to get Office 2008 updates out as soon as possible," he said. Price acknowledged that the update, which will be tagged 12.0.1, would include fixes for "high-priority issues" the group has identified. He didn't elaborate on what those issues were.

Last month a Chicago-area Mac consultant reported multiple Office 2008 bugs that could let unauthorized users delete application files or Office's folders. Microsoft confirmed the flaws, but did not say when they would be fixed.

A beta file converter that handles Word and PowerPoint files can be downloaded from Microsoft's site. It was last updated in December 2007.

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