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Entourage for the chop

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Microsoft is to bring back a Mac version of Outlook, a move that will see the end of its current Mac OS X email, PIM and collaboration offering, Entourage.

This app will be canned when the next major release of Mac Office ships in late 2010.

Entourage was released in 2000, part of Office 2001. Entourage nominally replaced email package Outlook Express, but delivered a more Outlook-like array of functionality. That was back in the Mac OS 8.5 era, and Entourage has since evolved to support OS X. The most recent version was released in January 2008.

For a while, MS offered a crude version of Outlook for the Mac, though it removed the email features - present in Outlook Express - when Office 98 was released.

Outlook, despite being compatible only with Mac OS 9, was available to download - as Outlook 2001 - long after the release of OS X and Mac users' shift away from Classic apps.

Entourage could, of course, have been Outlook, but at the time MS was facing criticism from Office users who increasingly saw the Mac version of the suite as a rough knock-off of the Windows version, especially given the un-Mac like nature of the product's UI. Entourage was intended to show that MS was serious about the needs of its Mac customers, who generated a tidy income for the software giant.

MS said the new Outlook has been built from scratch using Mac OS X's Cocoa API with full integration with Apple's Spotlight data search technology and Time Machine back-ups. It'll incorporate a new, fast database and support information access rights management.

MS said it was announcing Outlook's arrival so soon - more than 18 months from its release - "to meet the planning needs of enterprise customers". Clearly, big businesses want Outlook support on Macs in a way they never appear to have done before. Entourage's ousting implies they want full parity with the Windows version. All of which suggests Apple is doing better at selling Mac into business than it has traditionally been perceived as doing. ®

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