Mac Office 2008 Slips to 2008. Should We Care?

2004 seems so long ago.
That was the year of the last version of Microsoft Office for Mac users. In Microsoft-speak, 4 years is about right. After all, Microsoft went from Office 2003 to Office 2007 for Windows. This time, Mac users have more at stake. Along the way in those 4 years Apple switched their hardware, so Mac users running later machines with Intel chips are forced to suffer as older software runs in PowerPC emulation mode. For most of us, the Office applications are the last non Intel-native software we have left. A fact that we’re painfully reminded every time we watch that blue “W” bounce. And bounce. And bounce, before the application finally launches.
Office 2008 in all its universal binary glory has been planned and only teased to this point, leaving some to wonder how on earth Microsoft was going to pull off a full beta cycle and release by the end of the year as originally promised? The answer? They won’t. Office 2008 has slipped to a release date of early 2008 at best.
Does it matter? Do we have a choice?

The good news is that Mac-based web workers have some alternatives. Many of us are not forced to pick a word processor based on what’s dictated to us. We have choices, yet compatibility is a high priority. We can think different with iWork. We can go full featured (and save some money in the process) with OpenOffice, NeoOffice or ThinkFree. We can try online editors (and collaborate in the process) with Google Docs, Zoho or Coventi. All of these applications have some measure of interoperability with Word .doc files. We can even go minimalist.
However, I’m sure I’m not the only web worker who has simply been unable to make a complete break from Microsoft Office, even on the Mac platform. Feature-wise, Word 2004 is a good application. I have no complaints. It’s simply slow on my MacBook Pro.
It’s not that I haven’t tried to find a new suitor. I’ve tried most of the alternatives. Sure, I have a good first date and I see all of Mr. Write’s advantages. I can picture long term love and commitment. This is it. This is the application that’s going to make me forget ole whatshisname…Word? But ultimately, it’s the little things that destroy the relationship. The fonts that are wrong and throw the page count off. The tracked changes that don’t track. The headers and footers that I’m sure look perfect when viewed in Word 2003 and now look ghastly when converted. Inevitably, my colleagues ask “What did you use to write this?” not at all fooled by the .doc extension on the file. I have to admit to them that I’m trying the new flavor of the month…then it’s back to the safety and endless bouncing icon of Word 2004.
Sure, we can sit here and curse Microsoft, and compare this slip to Vista slips. Or we can make excuses for why we’re not getting an update this year. We’re hearing that the reason is the change in coding environment due to the Intel switch. Microsoft is a huge company, but the resources they have devoted to Mac development are well, not so huge.
In the end, we have work to do, so we suffer on. Fellow OS X web workers, have you given up on Word…or are you like me, and feel you have no choice but to roll with the punches for a few more months?