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. OpenOffice.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.