Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU) has announced the shipping date, pricing, and upgrade path for the next major revision of Office for Mac. The now appropriately named Office 2008 will ship 15-Jan-08 for prices ranging from $149.95 to $499.95, depending on version. The standard package of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage - including Exchange Server support - will list for $399.95, with an upgrade costing $239.95.
The Home and Student Edition includes just the four core applications and runs $149.95; there is no upgrade pricing. This is the first time Microsoft has advertised a plain version of Office intended for the home, too, as opposed to a student edition that educators, academic staff, students, and parents of students could purchase.
The Home and Student Edition may be intended to put Office up against Apple's $79 iWork suite, which now competes head-to-head with Office in word processing (Pages versus Word), presentation (Keynote versus PowerPoint), and spreadsheet capabilities (Numbers versus Excel). Although Office also comes with Entourage for email, contacts, and calendaring, those functions are built into Mac OS X in the form of Mail, Address Book, and iCal.
A Special Media Edition ($499.95 full version, $299.95 for the upgrade) adds the digital asset management tool Expression Media, Microsoft's rebranding of iView MediaPro, acquired last year (see "Microsoft Buys iView Multimedia," 2006-07-03).
If you purchase any edition of Office 2004 for Mac starting 25-Sep-07, you qualify for a $10-plus-tax upgrade to Office 2008's comparable version. This is an attempt by the MacBU to avoid sales being cannibalized by the announcement of the next release's shipping date.
The press release that accompanied the announcements says that upgrade pricing is available for any "legally licensed users of previous versions," which we have confirmed includes owners of versions of Office before Office 2004.
Office 2008 will look and work in a manner that's somewhat different from Office 2004, much in the way that Office 2007 for Windows broke the previous mold. Reviews of Office for Windows said that while the new approach wasn't necessarily worse, it wasn't better, either, and required relearning everything one ever did in Office for Windows. The revision to Office for Mac seems less severe, but we'll see if the release version still induces learning-curve vertigo.