In Janu­ary, dur­ing Steve Jobs’ Mac­world key­note speech announ­cing the new Intel Macin­toshes, Microsoft made a “com­mit­ment” to con­tin­ue to devel­op for and sup­port the Apple Macin­tosh plat­form. In true Microsoft style, they con­veni­ently didn’t explain how deeply that com­mit­ment went. Now we know.

Microsoft have decided to kill their Vir­tu­al PC product, remov­ing a vir­tu­al­isa­tion option from Mac OS at the same time that sim­il­ar func­tion­al­ity is being fol­ded into Win­dows Vista. They are aware that vir­tu­al­isa­tion is quickly becom­ing a killer fea­ture, and they’ll be damned if they allow any­one else to have it. For­tu­nately (and prob­ably prefer­ably), VMware will be made avail­able for the Apple Intel plat­form. There’s also Par­al­lels, but they still do not have any serv­er-ori­ented products.

In addi­tion, Microsoft will also be remov­ing Visu­al Basic sup­port from Office for Mac. If you can’t stop sup­port­ing some­thing, why not cripple it instead? Many busi­nesses are depend­ent upon VB script­ing, or exchange files with people/​organisations that make use of it, so this is a major blow indeed for Apple. Such a defi­ciency will be subtle: people will pur­chase Office for Mac expect­ing it to work with files cre­ated in its Win­dows coun­ter­part (or vice versa), and will be sorely dis­ap­poin­ted. This has already been occur­ring for a num­ber of years, but the prob­lem is becom­ing increas­ingly acute.

Ulti­mately, the best solu­tion is to remove our depend­ency on pro­pri­et­ary formats and lan­guages, for they are the root cause of this mess. Open​Of​fice​.org already does what most people require, and in some cases it does it bet­ter. It even has grow­ing sup­port for Visu­al Basic for Applic­a­tions. Open­Of­fice is truly look­ing like a bet­ter Office than MS Office. The Open­Of­fice file fil­ter­ing sup­port developers work hard to sup­port all the MS Office formats they can find (people have coun­ted over 20 dif­fer­ent ver­sions of the Word .DOC format alone), which is more than I can say about the MS Office pro­gram­mers, who are notori­ous for break­ing com­pat­ib­ilty with older ver­sions. Using the Open­Doc­u­ment formats (which are now an ISO stand­ard) assures that your data will be access­ible on many dif­fer­ent plat­forms for many years to come.

The main stum­bling block to Open­Of­fice adop­tion on Mac OS is the Win­dows-like inter­face and its reli­ance on X11 for dis­play. There is work being done on a nat­ive Aqua ver­sion, but in the mean­while there is NeoOf­fice.

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