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Microsoft delays release of Office for Mac 2008

"Product quality" concerns push back the new Office for Mac release until January, with an expected release at Macworld.

Mac users must wait until next year for fresh versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint: Microsoft has moved its intended launch of Office for Mac 2008 to January from the second half of this year.

"We had hoped to hit the Christmas selling season, but now we hope to target Macworld" in January, said Craig Eisler, who became general manager of the Mac business unit at Microsoft six weeks ago. "We, as a group, were not satisfied with product quality."

Details about any software development snags, as well as final pricing, were unavailable. Office for Mac 2004 is sold in three versions for $150 to $500.

The company demonstrated early previews of Office for Mac 2008 at the Macworld 2007 convention in January.

Microsoft will not open beta testing to the public as it did for more than six months while building Office 2007 for Windows.

The 2008 release will be the first built for Intel-based Macs. The features and visual style of Office for Mac software differ from their Windows counterparts. Microsoft is introducing XML-based file formats, which require a converter to be opened in older Office software. A time-management, task-launching widget joins Office for Mac 2008 in addition to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and the Entourage e-mail application.

Among the controversial anticipated changes is the removal of Visual Basic scripting, which enables macros that automate commonly used software functions.

Microsoft also postponed its initial shipment deadlines for Windows Vista and Office 2007, which arrived in stores on January 30 amid a marketing blitz following the holiday shopping season.

Microsoft aims to unveil its next operating system, internally code named "Windows 7," within three years.

Meanwhile, Apple remains mum about the timing and features of its next iWork office suite, a competitor to Microsoft Office. The MacRumors blog speculates that Apple may skip a 2007 version, instead releasing iWork '08 in October in tandem with the Leopard Mac OS X operating system.

Further competition to Microsoft Office and iWork looms in the form of free, Web-based productivity software, such as Google Docs & Spreadsheets.