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Outlook for Mac Due with 2010 Office Release

Entourage, the email client in Microsoft Office for Mac, will see the end of its 10-year run late in 2010, when the next version of Microsoft Office will replace it with a completely new version of Outlook for the Mac (for our introduction to Entourage, see “Entourage: The Grand Tour,” 2000-10-09).

Entourage is far more than an email client, of course, also including a Usenet newsreader, contact manager, calendar, task manager, and other features. Outlook for Windows offers all those features and more, and works particularly fluidly in large organization environments that use Microsoft Exchange Server for shared messaging and collaboration.

We suspect the change from Entourage to Outlook for the Mac serves three purposes:

  • It helps Microsoft emphasize the cross-platform compatibility between Office for the Mac and Office for Windows. The differences between Entourage and Outlook have long been a sore point in mixed platform networks.
  • It makes for a clean break from previous limitations in Entourage. Microsoft plans to write Outlook for Mac from the ground up as a Cocoa-based application, giving it an entirely new content database. Entourage was originally written using Carbon (since it predates Mac OS X), which would prevent it from taking full advantage of Snow Leopard’s features. Also, Entourage’s reliance on a single-file database made it a non-starter for some people, who would go around muttering about putting too many eggs in one basket that was troublesome from a backup perspective. And, to be fair, catastrophic corruption of the Entourage database, while extremely uncommon, is not unknown.
  • It may, by virtue of being a clean code base, make it easier to add new features, such as Microsoft’s Information Rights Management, which helps restrict sensitive information for those who are authorized to see it.

All this said, Microsoft said that Outlook for Mac won’t just be a clone of Outlook for Windows. Aside from being written from the ground up using Cocoa, it will offer integration with Time Machine and Spotlight.

Entourage, Then and Now — This won’t be the first version of Outlook for the Mac. Office 98 for Mac came with Outlook Express 4.0 (related to Outlook mostly in name), and the Exchange Server group within Microsoft developed Outlook 98 and Outlook 2001 for Mac to provide Exchange Server compatibility on the Mac.

Entourage replaced Outlook Express in Office 2001 for Mac, but it initially had no support for Exchange. Starting with Entourage X 10.1.4, Microsoft dropped Outlook for Mac and started adding Exchange support to Entourage, continuing that through Entourage 2004, Entourage 2008, and the just-released Entourage 2008, Web Services Edition.

Entourage 2008, Web Services Edition has been in beta since January 2009, and offers the highest level of support for Exchange Server so far, including:

  • Enhanced Autodiscover service for setting up accounts automatically and keeping them up to date
  • Synchronization of Entourage 2008 Notes, Tasks, and Categories with Exchange Server
  • Use of attachments in Entourage for Exchange calendar events
  • Name resolution when composing mail and invites while out of the office without requiring a VPN connection
  • Improved logging for troubleshooting purposes

Entourage 2008, Web Services Edition is a free download for anyone using Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac SP2, with all updates applied. On the Exchange side, it can connect only to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1 RU4 or later. It runs on Intel-based Macs as well as PowerPC-based Macs (G4s at 500 MHz or faster, and G5s), and is a 64 MB download.

Office Editions Simplified — Microsoft also announced that, as of 15-Sep-09, it is simplifying the number of editions of Office for the Mac available for sale. Currently, there are three versions of Office, and after the change, there will be only two:

  • Office 2008 for Mac Home & Student: This $149.95 version exists now and will remain. It includes just Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage.
  • Office 2008 for Mac Business Edition: The $399.95 Business Edition replaces both the $399.95 Standard Edition and the $499.95 Special Media Edition. Along with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, it will include Entourage 2008, Web Services Edition and Microsoft Document Connection for Mac, plus additional professional templates and clip art, and more than 8 hours of training videos. It will not include Microsoft Expression Media 2, which was part of the Special Media Edition; I’m checking on the overall status of Expression Media.

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