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Office delayed. Who cares?

Other than Microsoft.

Macworld editor Philip Michaels has a piece up about the implications of Microsoft's delay of the first universal version of Office for the Mac and wonders if it isn't bad news for Microsoft rather than for Mac users.

In fact, other than for the symbolic purpose of having such a major suite of applications run universally on all Macs, I don?t recall hearing much of a popular demand for an Intel-native Office.

And if I were Microsoft, that would worry me a bit. Sure, it?s never pleasant to get grief from your customers about a product delay. But isn?t that better than a shrug?

Chez Macalope, we used to use an older version of Office for the Mac, but now our Intel-based machines are running NeoOffice, which has an Intel version. Yes, yes, the horned one hears you cry out in pain "AAAGH! MY EYES!" It isn't the prettiest or the fastest solution when compared to native applications, but the 2.2.1 release is really very acceptable on both fronts. It's free, highly compatible and, frankly, we just don't have that much need to create word processing documents, presentations or spreadsheets (hey, kids! Saturday night is spreadsheet night!).

And the pointy one has to think that that's how it is for the bulk of Mac users. The data you spend most of your time with is your email, your pictures, your movies, your music and maybe your web site. If the Macalope has to deal with an awkward interface, it would be a problem if it were iTunes, but it's not if it's his spreadsheet application, which he uses for 20 minutes.

He of the brown fur was about to say that isn't true if it's a business environment, but having toiled for The Man in the world of Windows and Terminal Services, he's been subjected to some pretty god-awful interfaces before -- ones that make NeoOffice look like Quicksilver.

But even so, most business uses for Macs are in the design fields where there's less reliance on an office suite. So other than to Microsoft, the only possible harm this delay could cause is to Apple's oblique efforts to gain more of a foothold in the enterprise. But the barriers there are so ingrained and cultural that even if there were a brand-spanking new universal version of Office available today it wouldn't make much of a difference in getting units in the door.

So who cares?