Mac Office sales soar on Apple's gains

Microsoft's Mac unit is set to announce the new version of Office is selling three times as many copies as its predecessor.

While Apple's market share gains are cause for consternation for many in Redmond, one unit is clearly benefiting.

Microsoft's Mac unit is set to disclose on Tuesday that copies of the new Office for Mac 2008 are flying off the shelves at three times the rate of its predecessor. The company wouldn't disclose sales numbers, but said the sales are the highest in the 19-year history of the unit. That continues a trend that has been going on for some time .

Senior marketing manager Amanda Lefebvre declined to give all of the credit to Apple, but said of the increased number of Macs, "Of course that's one of the components that is helping us."

The company also said it was ready with the first "service pack" update for Mac Office 2008, adding things like reliability and performance tweaks, as well as some changes aimed at boosting security. The update will be available Tuesday for download and will also be pushed out through Microsoft's AutoUpdate system, Lefebvre said.

Finally, the company announced that, for the next full release of Office for Mac, it is bringing back support for Visual Basic scripts. That feature was in Office 2004 but was pulled in the current version as Microsoft worked to add support for Intel processors and new file formats.

Lefebvre wouldn't say what any of the other features planned for the next Mac Office will be, but said the company is looking to get back on a cycle that would have it releasing new products every two to three years. (Office for Mac 2008 took four years.)

For those still using the last release of Office, Lefebvre said that, after several delays , Microsoft is on track to release by the end of June the converters that let that product work with the XML file formats that are part of Office 2007 for Windows and Office 2008 for Mac.

"We're on track for that," she said. "We're happy to be getting those off our plate and developing for the future."

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    During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina.

     

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