The shame of Microsoft's Mac Business Unit

Many credit Microsoft’s Mac support for saving the platform in the late 90’s. This is very true, but while they did this it’s important to keep hold of the more objective view of their Mac support. It’s whitewash. Microsoft’s motivation to support Apple in its hour of need was clear. Antitrust proceedings forced Microsoft into a corner, and the destruction of Apple would have only proven Microsoft’s nature as a monopoly force that was eradicating its competition. While Microsoft maintains a set of apps for the Mac which appear reasonable and complete, these are designed only to exhibit lack of support for crucial items.

  1. Microsoft’s current Office product for Mac does not open or save Office 2007 formatted documents, and will not until 2008, over a year after the release of the Windows version. This makes the Mac more difficult to use in workplaces and even homes where individual users are beginning to adopt Office 2007. Even Apple itself has introduced Office 2007 document support into its own applications, and indeed integrated it with its latest version of the operating system. Are we to believe Microsoft’s engineering team are incapable of doing this? Clearly one must assume this is by design.
  2. Microsoft’s Entourage mail client, part of Office for Mac, lacks crucial Exchange support such as MAPI and Global Address List, which makes it nearly useless in the corporate environment. Further, its device synchronization support with devices such as PalmOS or Windows Mobile is non-existent. One has to use third-party applications to accomplish this.
  3. Microsoft’s Entourage client also purports to synchronize its calendar and contacts with the Macintosh ‘iCal’ and ‘Address Book’ applications - however in so doing it removes all categories and other important data from the synced items, throwing a well organized calendar or address book into total disarray. Implementing this is not difficult, and has also been developed by third parties - but having to add third party apps makes no case for corporate or home use.
  4. Microsoft’s upcoming Office 2008:mac will do away with support for VBscript and Excel macros, which are crucial for use in the business environment. Many businesses now using Office for Mac in these situations will be forced to either not upgrade and face document format incompatibilities, or switch to the Windows version of Office.
  5. Microsoft Messenger, the Mac MSN client, lacks audio and video chat support. These items are so trivial to implement that 2 developers could do so in a day of work. Even Yahoo! messenger supports audio/visual chat, and one can’t say Yahoo’s Mac engineering team is as large as Microsoft’s. This is by design. Many users employ video chat to speak with friends and acquaintances, and the lack of this support in MSN on the Mac makes it highly undesirable.

Microsoft has claimed that their next version of MSN Messenger for Mac will support video, but has included the crucial detail that this will be for ‘corporate users’. I take this to mean that home users, the principal users of audio/visual chat on MSN, will still be left without. Given Microsoft Office:mac’s nonviability in the corporate environment for other reasons, this would be a highly cynical act. This is only a short list. Microsoft kneecaps their Macintosh product line in order to keep people interested in Windows, and I’m annoyed with the tech press for ignoring this issue. Back in the late 80’s and through to the mid-90’s, document format compatibility was key to getting computers to work together and getting them adopted for use, and it was very difficult. This is 2007. In a world where computers of all kinds speak to each other freely using international standards, why are we still dealing with this?