Microsoft: Mac Consumers Important

Microsoft reiterated its commitment to the Macintosh platform on Friday, telling BetaNews that it was not exiting the consumer side of the Mac market. However, the company did acknowledge that corporate enhancements to its products were taking precedence at the current time.

Scott Erickson, director of product management and marketing for the Macintosh Business Unit at Microsoft, says that the division spends an equal amount of resources on both the business and consumer side.

"What you've been seeing recently are the updates for our corporate customers," he said, adding the timetable for updates was more a function of scheduling.

Many of the updates to Office for Mac, specifically Entourage, were dependent on Exchange Service Pack 2, Erickson said. These updates, as well as the upgrade to the Mac OS X version of its MSN Messenger client, took considerably less time to implement.

Erickson admitted that this gave the impression that the client was forgetting about consumers. "We took the angle for Messenger 5 to release mostly corporate functionality," he said, adding that the most commonly requested features were on the corporate end rather than the consumer side.

A goal for the Mac BU in coming months is to put the Messenger client on more even footing by adding features that have so far been exclusive to the Windows version. Erickson said the top two requests are for video and audio functionality, and that would come soon.

"Were halfway there," he said, referring to the fact that the client now equals the Windows client in terms of corporate functionality.

Preliminary research into adding multimedia to Messenger Mac showed that it would be a rather large project, and Erickson was unable to share a specific date as to when those features would be released. However, he added that updates to the IM client would come frequently.

Finally, Erickson disputed claims that the Mac BU is suffering from a "brain drain" of sorts, with various developers leaving the unit for positions elsewhere in the company. He added that Microsoft allows its employees to "design their own careers," and will not prevent a developer from moving to another division or team.

"Mac BU is actually growing," he said. "We have over 180 people who work on Mac BU products in the US alone and even more internationally. That's grown over the past three to four years."

"Microsoft and Apple are in this business together," Erickson added.

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