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What To Do About Office

by Derrick Story
12/07/2001

Dear Reader,

Now that Microsoft has shipped Office X, I've been thinking about how we (as a Mac community) can get an affordable version of Office into the hands of new users attracted to Mac OS X.

You might think that I have better things to wonder about, and quite honestly, I probably do. But if you'll bear with me for a few paragraphs, I'll explain why this issue keeps nagging me.

Let me start by stating that I'm one of those people who think that MS Office is important to the success of the Mac platform. Even though I'm a Web guy, I couldn't make the fulltime switch to Mac OS X until I had the beta version of Office. It's a fact in the business world, whether we like it or not.

I also know, through the mail I've received, that lots of former Windows people are trying Mac OS X. If I were Microsoft, I could care less about this because I'm going to get their money either way. If they upgrade to Windows XP, I get them for a $99 home edition upgrade, and up to $299 for the Pro edition.

But if those users buy an iBook or an iMac, they get Mac OS X for free (in the same way they get Windows XP for "free" by buying a new WinTel computer). The problem is, most of those people are going to want MS Office, and they can't upgrade to the "X" version using their current Windows registration number.

So guess what ugly surprise is waiting for them? A $469 price tag for MS Office X. If I were Microsoft, I'd be saying, "Yeah, go ahead, give that Mac thing a try!"

Now I've had more than one Windows user say to me (hide your eyes Microsoft), "Buy Office? Are you kidding? I've never paid a penny for MS Office in my life." I think it's safe to say that lots of Windows users are getting their Office applications for next to nothing.

So how do you think they're going to feel about shelling out more than half the price of an iMac for the "X" version? (That was a rhetorical question.)

In the past, Microsoft has offered entry-level packages (such as MS Word and Entourage) at prices around $149. But they usually don't do this until they're ready to announce a new version of the same product. We need something affordable now.

I think Apple and Microsoft have to find a way to get Office into the hands of anyone who wants to try Mac OS X -- even if it's a "lite" version. Because if they don't, this could be a deal-breaker for many people thinking about adding a Mac to their family of computers.

I bought the full version (upgrade) of Office X for $149 through Mactopia. I've purchased every Office upgrade since '98, so I guess I'm a user for life. Brand loyality is the name of the game for both Apple and Microsoft.

So my request to those companies is: Find a way to get Office X into people's hands for less, especially those experimenting with Mac OS X and those in education. In the long run, it's in everyone's best interest.

Until next time,

Derrick

A Couple of Side Notes ...

If you are one of the 500+ readers who responded to my questions in the last newsletter, "The New Mac User," thank you! The letters were great. I'm working on an article that will incorporate those insights, and I hope to have it published before Christmas.

Second, and this note illustrates how simple-minded I actually am, of all the cool things that come with Mac OS X, one of my favorites is the Clock application. Don't know if you've discovered it yet in your Applications folder, but if you haven't, take a look. It's the number one thing people comment about when the walk by my Mac OS X desktop.

--
Derrick Story
O'Reilly Network Managing Editor
derrick@oreilly.com

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