Microsoft, Apple Strengthen Partnership

Microsoft Tuesday reaffirmed its commitment to the Mac platform, announcing an agreement with Apple to produce Office for Mac for a minimum of five years. The company also said it plans to make improvements to Entourage 2004 for Mac, as well as build converters to read Microsoft's Open XML format.

"The Mac platform has never been stronger, and we're pleased that Microsoft is committed to delivering great Mac products for many years to come," Apple's vice president of marketing Philip Schiller said in a statement.

The Macintosh Business Unit has been a part of Microsoft for the past two decades. While some may view the two as bitter rivals, it was Microsoft that saved Apple upon Steve Jobs' return in the late 1990s after the company nearly collapsed due to mismanagement and slow computer sales.

Several Entourage 2004 enhancements are on tap to be released in March, including Sync Services integration and support for Spotlight searching. Plans are also in the works for enhancements involving Smart Card technology.

Messenger for Mac will also receive an upgrade in the near future, with 5.1 allowing for the secure transfer of files to external contacts. Also, the new version will interact better with Office Live Communications Server and feature improved saving of chats.

Finally, the Mac BU has committed itself to cross-platform compatibility of its products. A converter will be made available that would allow users to read Microsoft's upcoming Office Open XML format after version 12 of Office for Windows is released.

"Microsoft has a history of successful collaboration with Apple, and this agreement underscores our commitment to the Mac platform," Microsoft consumer productivity experience vice president Tom Gibbons said. "We've had many years of success with Office for Mac, and this formal commitment confirms that we're in the Mac business for the long haul."

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