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Microsoft's Office ribbon hits Mac fans

The ties that bind

Office 2011 for Mac hit retailers Tuesday with more crossover between the Apple and Windows editions than ever before — and that might not be a good thing for Microsoft.

Microsoft's productivity suite for Mac fans dumps Entourage for Outlook and includes integration with the Office Web apps — the browser-based edition of Office that lets you work with online versions of Microsoft's popular Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote applications.

Office 2011 for Mac also exposes Apple fans to Office's notorious ribbon interface that was introduced in Office 2007 and also adds support for Visual Basic for Applications.

Both "features" presented problems for business customers using Windows, prompting IT departments to postpone their upgrades to Office 2007. The problems posed by the ribbon interface and VBA are now poised to haunt Office 2010, which was released by Microsoft in May.

Concerns about the ribbon and the work it might require to retrain end users is the single biggest concern for IT departments rolling out Office 2010, according to an international study released Tuesday. That poll of 953 IT professionals in North America, Europe, and Asia, conducted by desktop management specialist Dell KACE, found that forty-five per cent of respondents are worried about retraining needs.

Office 2010's inability to work with existing Office add-in applications and macros, and non-XML file formats in older versions of Office documents, concerned 33 per cent.

The Reg reported this January about how IT departments in major businesses running Office 2003 were delaying the move to Office 2007 because they had to rewrite and test old VBA Office macros and deal with file incompatibilities, in addition to worrying about the new interface.

Almost a year later it seems that the old concerns have transferred to moving from Office 2007 to Office 2010. KACE found that 20 per cent of respondents had deployed Office 2010 outside a test environment, with 52 per cent not having deployed it in any way. Just four per cent have fully moved to Office 2010 five months after its release.

Dell KACE did find that enthusiasm for Office 2010 is high, with 85 per cent planning to move "eventually", but they also found that organizations are typically upgrading to Office 2007 before Office 2010.

Clearly, the kind of customers KACE surveyed are unlikely to mirror the average Office for Mac user. Despite its sales successes, the Mac still has a relatively tiny percentage of the PC market — around seven per cent.

If the lessons of the ribbon interface and the VBA move experienced in the Windows world are true for Mac users, though, Office 2010 for Mac could see a tough time getting adopted as businesses and individuals wrestle with an unfamiliar interface and broken apps.

Bootnote

Dell KACE found that upgrades to Office 2010 do not necessarily mirror the move to Windows 7. IT is split on installing Office 2010 on Windows 7 or other operating systems, and whether to upgrade from Windows XP.

Forty-nine per cent will deploy Office 2010 on a version of Windows other than Windows 7, released a year ago by Microsoft. Users are split on whether to upgrade from Windows XP: 47 per cent said they'd upgrade to Office 2010 when Windows XP's support is discontinued — in April 2014 — while 48 per cent said they'd soldier on using Windows XP even without support.

The survey, meanwhile, found that 6 per cent of organizations have now fully deployed Windows 7 — up a single percentage point from January when Dell KACE last spoke to customers. Thirty-eight percent have a partial rollout, compared to 15 per cent at the start of 2010. ®

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