New Leopard Build Supports Office 2007 Formats – Office:mac coming 6-8 months later

The folks over at MacShrine are reporting that Apple has seeded a new build of Leopard (Mac OS 10.5) internally. What really caught my eye was the last statement:

“TextEdit also features support to export and open new Word 2007 documents”

What’s interesting here is that there is no mention of the OpenDocument format supported by the OpenOffice suite. Oh well. (UPDATE: it would appear that OpenDocument is supported as well according to this post at Uneasy Silence). However, if TextEdit can read and write OpenXML documents and Leopard ships within the first half of 2007, Apple will be supporting the new Office format before Microsoft. I still fully expect that the next version of iWork will support the Office OpenXML (now ECMA-376) and OpenDocument file formats in its next release, which probably will be announced at MacWorld 2007.

But what I find even more interesting are the recent claims put out by Microsoft’s Mac BU who say they will have Office 2007 converters ready by Spring and that Office:mac 2007 will ship 6 to 8 months after the Windows version. What I find difficult to understand is why it’ll take so long? For starters, they all work at the same company that also happens to make the Windows version of Office 2007. Second, this is the same company that drafted the Office OpenXML format, so you’d think there’d be few folks with expert knowledge on the subject. And finally, this new format is now an EMCA standard, of which anyone who can read a spec could implement the format. And even though the spec only became a standard on 12/7/2006, the spec had been published well in advance.

It blows my mind that a group of folks who work at the same company, can’t get it together with other internal teams to make compatibility with the new file format a top priority. After reading some of the Mac Mojo post, it sounds like they even wrote their own XML parser to read the format. Why? I guess this gives some insight was to why Vista was a few years late.

It’ll be interesting to see what Apple has in store for iWork in 2007. My gut is starting to say that this is the beginning of the end for Office:mac. This could be Microsoft giving Apple a head start into the office market on the Mac. Eventually, Office:mac will be cede to iWork much in the same was as Internet Explorer did to Safari, even while Safari was a beta. The good thing is that with the Office OpenXML format, we now have an established standard so file incompatibilities should not be as problematic as they have been in the past.

Update #2: It appears I’m not the only who thinks that Office:mac is on its way out; Rob Griffiths of MacOSXHints.com has a piece over at MacWorld.com which points out that Office:mac will not have VB support for things like macros and other goodies. Of interest, the folks over at OpenOffice.org are working on VBA support. It’ll be interesting to see if Apple is able to leverage any of that code base.

New Leopard Build Supports Office 2007 Formats – Office:mac coming 6-8 months later