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Microsoft cuts price for Mac Office

The software giant is cutting the price of the standard version of Office for the Mac by $100, to $399 and introducing a "professional" version of Mac Office v. X that sells for $499.

Microsoft is making it cheaper for Mac customers to have an Office.

The software company is cutting the price of the standard version of Office for the Mac by $100, to $399. In addition, the company is introducing a "professional" version of Mac Office v. X that sells for $499 and includes the company's Virtual PC software for running Windows programs as well as the needed license for Windows XP professional. Microsoft acquired Virtual PC when it bought the assets of Connectix earlier this year.

Education customers will get an even better deal, as Microsoft is introducing a student and teacher version of Mac Office for $149, which includes all the standard Office programs: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage. The deal applies to college students, teachers and parents of school-age children and can be used on up to three Macs. As with its Windows counterpart, Microsoft is not requiring customers to show proof to obtain the education version.

"We do have an end-user license agreement," said Roz Ho, general manager of Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU). "We trust that our customers will honor that."

Ho said that Microsoft is also working on a new version of Office for the Mac, although she would not offer details on timing or pricing, and gave no information on features. Microsoft is expected to release Office 2003 for Windows in September or October.

The moves come at an uncertain time for Microsoft and the Mac.

Last year, Microsoft executives complained that Mac Office sales were lagging behind expectations and blamed Apple for not doing enough to promote Mac OS X. In recent months, the company has offered a more positive assessment.

"It's fully met our expectations," Ho said Monday, but Microsoft would not say how many copies of the OS X version of Office it has sold.

A five-year agreement between Apple and Microsoft that required the software company to develop new versions of IE and Office has ended, although Microsoft has pledged to continue its Mac support as long as the business sustains itself.

Since the agreement ended, Apple has developed programs that directly compete with Microsoft's Mac offerings, including its Safari browser and Keynote, a presentation program that competes with PowerPoint. In June, Microsoft said it would not develop future versions of Internet Explorer for the Macintosh, a move it said was prompted by Apple's creation of Safari.

However, Ho said that Microsoft will develop future Mac versions of Office.

"We're committed to being here on the Mac platform providing compatibility for our customers," she said.

Most recently, Microsoft added a feature to Office allowing access to e-mail, calendar and contact information stored on a Microsoft Exchange server, fulfilling a long-held wish of Mac OS X users. Ho declined to comment on reports that Apple is building similar support into the Mac operating system.

In general, Ho said that there is room for both Apple and Microsoft to offer similar programs for the Mac market, provided they are meeting different needs. Microsoft's focus, she said, is on providing compatibility with its Windows programs.

"With our customers, compatibility is important," Ho said. "We're talking about 100 percent file compatibility."