Microsoft gets cosier with Mac OS X

Microsoft is taking more aggressive steps to promote its desktop office productivity software to users of Apple Computer's Mac OS X.

          Microsoft is taking more aggressive steps to promote its desktop office productivity software to users of Apple Computer's Mac OS X.

          The company announced at the Macworld Conference and Expo two promotional offers intended to make Office v. X for Mac appealing to Apple customers.

          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. That 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 tires of Office," says Scott Erickson, product manager with Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU). He says 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. "It's been really helpful for customers," he adds.

          Apple and Microsoft have also introduced a $US300 instant rebate for customers around the world who purchase Office v. X for Mac when they also buy a new Mac computer. 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. The deal runs through April 7 in North America, Japan and Australia.

          These efforts to introduce the software to Mac users is the latest sign that Microsoft may be struggling to spur sales of the Mac productivity software, which has had lackluster success, according to Rob Enderle, research fellow with Giga Information Group.

          "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 says. "The volume of (Office v. X for Mac) 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 says Microsoft remains "extremely committed" to the Mac platform.

          Microsoft also announced it will sell Entourage, its email and personal information management software for Mac OS X, as a standalone product. It previously was available only as part of Office v. X for Mac, along with Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Microsoft currently sells standalone versions of those three Office applications.

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