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Microsoft upgrades its Office for Mac upgrade offer

New version of Office for Mac isn't set to ship until January, but software maker is trying to entice Apple users now with a free upgrade to Special Media Edition later.

Correction 2:10 p.m. PDT: This blog initially misstated the savings for buyers of Office 2004 for Mac Student and Teacher edition if they choose to upgrade to the 2008 Special Media Edition. The savings would be $350.

Microsoft has improved on an earlier offer to those who buy Office 2004 for Mac before the new version of Office is released in January.

In September, the company said it would offer buyers of Office 2004 an upgrade to the comparable version of Office 2008 for the cost of shipping and handling.

Now, those who purchase Office 2004 for Mac Student and Teacher edition ($149), the Standard version ($399), or the Standard upgrade ($239) are eligible to receive the new Office 2008 for Mac Special Media Edition for $6.99, the cost of shipping and handling. The Special Media Edition will retail for $499.

The Standard flavor includes a single license, while three licenses are included with the less expensive Student and Teacher edition. Microsoft does not verify whether those who buy this education edition really attend or work at a school or university. However, consumers must pledge in the End User License Agreement that they bought the edition for use in a school.

The Special Media Edition includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Expression Media, an image file management application.

The discount offer lasts until January 14. Office 2008 for Mac is set to ship the next day. Customers' licenses from the 2004 and 2008 versions will remain valid.

The potential savings would be $350 for buying Office 2004 for Mac Student and Teacher and receiving the 2008 Special Media Edition for free.

Office 2008 for Mac is also available in other flavors. For $399, the Standard edition swaps Expression Media for the Entourage scheduling application. Office 2008 for Mac Home and Student, equivalent to 2004 Student and Teacher, includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for $149.

Microsoft provided an early look at the Office 2008 for Mac 11 months ago, and has been gradually rolling out details about other new features, such as a bigger selection of templates and enhanced Exchange support, and the capability to configure out-of-office settings in Exchange. No public beta tests have been made available.

At full price, Office 2008 for Mac costs at least twice as much as its competitors. Other Mac productivity software options include the $79 Apple iWork, the free OpenOffice, and the $49 ThinkFree desktop and online bundle. Additional free competitors to Office include browser-based suites such as Google Docs & Spreadsheets and Zoho Office. All options offer a word processor, and presentations and spreadsheet programs that can read Microsoft Office documents.