2015-03-09

2015.03 News: Microsoft Office 2016 Debuts (sort of)

Macworld reports that Microsoft seems to have reconciled itself to the continued existence of Apple and won't simply try to outwait it any more. In token whereof, it has updated its productivity-software suite for Macs under the rubric Office for Mac 2016 and is now offering a free Preview of it. (The term "Preview" refers to what everyone has heretofore thot of as a beta test; that is, it looks generally OK to the software developers [the alpha testers], but they'd like you, the users, to run it thru its paces and see what breaks, so they can fix it before they're ready to officially release it and charge you for a workable product.)

Apple, of course, has its own productivity software, which it used to bundle under the umbrella title of iWork. However, with the advent of the App Store, it no longer made sense to sell Pages, Numbers, and Keynote as Siamese triplets, and so for the past year or 2 you've been able to buy each of them individually. And for a reasonable price, too: $20 each at the App Store.

The (former) iWork apps are distinctively Maccish, and they only work on Apple hardware. But, with Office 2016, Microsoft is banking on the desire (if not outright need) for many Mac users to deal with software that's readily understandable to the far more numerous Windows users — not only file compatibility but also the user interface. And Microsoft pledges that, whatever Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook look like on a Windows machine, they'll look and feel almost exactly the same on your Mac.

This seems to be a new corporate philosophy at Microsoft, perhaps traceable to their new CEO Satya Nadella, mentioned by Holly McEntee in her previous post on this blog.

Microsoft is yet quite ready to abandon the concept of the software-combo suite for stand-alone products, however. It does want you to pay a subscription fee (rather than an outright-purchase price) for the whole 5-program shebang.

You probably know what the Big 3 matchups are:
  • word processing / page layout: Microsoft Word → Apple Pages
  • spreadsheet: Microsoft Excel → Apple Numbers
  • presentation: Microsoft PowerPoint → Apple Keynote
but the other 2 may be less familiar to you, because Apple doesn't think of its equivalents as sellable programs per se but rather as distinct utilities which it prefers to provide for free with your Mac OS:
  • mail processing / calendaring / address book: Microsoft Outlook → Apple Mail, Calendar, and Contacts
  • note-taking: Microsoft OneNote → Apple Notes, Reminders, and TextEdit
Now, "free" is a damn good price, but sometimes you get what you pay for. For example, Microsoft used to throw its piece-of-crap database manager, Microsoft Access, into each copy of Office for Windows for free (because nobody would ever want to pay for it on its own merits), but they never even bothered wasting their time trying to interest Mac users in it, because those of us who needed a good database manager were all perfectly willing to pay good money to get FileMaker Pro and thank our lucky stars that we weren't forced to deal with Access day in and day out. And, still recognizing this state of affairs, Microsoft has sensibly continued to omit Access from its Office for Mac 2016 bundle.

If anybody gives the new Office for Mac 2016 Preview a shot, please come back here and report on your experience.

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