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Next Mac Office, due by 2010's end, gets Outlook

The software maker says it is working on a new version of its Mac Office product, which will include a Mac version of Outlook, replacing Entourage.

Microsoft on Thursday said the next version of Office for Mac will arrive by the 2010 holiday buying season, and it added that the new version will include a version of Outlook.

Outlook for Mac will replace Entourage, the current e-mail and calendar program in the Mac Office suite. Although it will still differ from the Windows version of Outlook, it will add support for more Exchange features, such as public folders and rights management features.

Office for Mac had a version of Outlook in its pre-Mac OS X days, but Microsoft switched to the Entourage program with Office for Mac version X because that version lacked a good connection with Exchange.

The software maker has worked over the past several years to add better Exchange capabilities to the e-mail software.

Apple, too, has worked to support Exchange within its own mail program and has said it will add improved Exchange capabilities from within Mail as part of its forthcoming Snow Leopard operating system. Eric Wilfrid, general manager of Microsoft's Macintosh business unit, said on a conference call that he couldn't really talk about how Outlook for Mac will compare to Snow Leopard, in terms of Exchange support, since Apple hasn't yet released the new operating system or detailed how the Exchange support will work.

Wilfrid also said he had nothing to say about rumors that Microsoft might be working on mobile versions of Office for the iPhone.

"That's been a popular question," he said. "No, there is no news today about any iPhone work."

On Wednesday, Microsoft announced a partnership with Nokia that will see it creating mobile versions of the Office applications for Symbian phones.

Microsoft also plans to bring Visual Basic support back in the next version of Office for Mac, but it didn't share more about the features that will be part of Office for Mac. In addition, it said it will launch a new "business edition" of its Office for Mac product that adds improved connections to SharePoint and Exchange Server.

The new product is slated to join the existing Home and Student edition on retail shelves on September 15, reducing the number of versions Microsoft sells from three to two. The new business edition, which will sell for the same $399 as the standard edition of Office.