SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 5, 1999 — When desktop publishing teacher Sandee Cohen began using Microsoft Word for the Macintosh in 1986, merely mentioning the software drew sneers from her colleagues in the word processing community. Despite its unpopularity at the time, Cohen immediately liked the program, finding it sophisticated, yet simpler to use than competing word processing applications.
Thirteen years later, Cohen is using Word 98, and considers it the standard word processing application for the Mac platform. "Word is a fantastic program," said Cohen, who also writes computer books for the Mac. "I can remember, not too long ago, when Microsoft Word got a lot of bashing from within the Macintosh community, so I am very impressed at how Word 98 has earned its way to the top."
Cohen is one of 10 million customers using Microsoft products on their Macs. In a renewed effort to serve their customers, Microsoft and Apple have been working more closely to develop products for Mac customers. For example, Microsoft created a separate Macintosh business unit in January 1997 to focus exclusively on developing products for Mac customers. The two companies also signed an agreement in August 1997 to jointly develop products and technologies.
The relationship between Microsoft and Apple blossomed even further this week as Microsoft launched new versions of Internet Explorer and Outlook Express for the Mac and announced a new MacTopia Web site designed to serve as a comprehensive resource for Mac customers.
"Every one of Microsoft's Macintosh customers is really also an Apple customer," said Ben Waldman, general manager of Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit. "To the extent that Microsoft and Apple come together, the people who really benefit are customers. And that's the goal of both companies-to do the right thing for their customers."
Although many believe that Microsoft and Apple began working together as a result of the August 1997 agreement, the relationship actually extends all the way back to 1977, when Microsoft licensed the 6502 Basic Interpreter to Apple. Although the two companies have competed fiercely in the operating system market, they have cooperated on applications market, working together throughout the years to develop products that benefit Mac customers.
For example, Microsoft introduced MultiPlan, File and Chart when Apple launched the Macintosh in 1984, then launched Excel and Word for the Mac a year later. The company introduced its Office productivity suite for the Mac in 1989, before the product was introduced on the Windows platform. In 1991, Microsoft Excel 3.0 became the first application to support Apple's Operating System 7, and in 1992, Excel 4.0 became the first application to support AppleScript programming technology. Microsoft has also been developing versions of Internet Explorer and Outlook Express for the Mac since 1996.
"I think the thing to remember is that Microsoft and Apple have been working together for over 20 years," Waldman said. "We were never enemies. There were parts of the companies that were in competition, but throughout all that we still worked together to bring good products to our customers."
Tailoring Products for Mac Customers
In January 1997, Microsoft developed a separate Macintosh Business Unit aimed at developing products specifically designed for Mac customers. The group started with 130 people who focused exclusively on Office, and then increased to 200 people last spring after integrating staff from its Internet client group.
Before the creation of the Mac unit, the same programmers were required to write computer code for both the Windows and Macintosh platforms. As a result, Mac versions were typically launched much later than their Windows equivalent, and these versions did not cater to the specific needs of Macintosh customers. By creating a separate business unit, Microsoft has been able to research the specific needs of Mac customers, develop products exclusively for Mac customers, and incorporate successful features into other Mac products.
"The formation of this group enabled a set of people to focus exclusively on creating great Macintosh products for our customers," Waldman said. "It's been really important to our customers that we've consolidated our efforts because we can share the best ideas and make them available throughout our entire Macintosh product line."
The creation of the Mac business unit "really has helped the relationship, " according to Clent Richardson, vice president of worldwide developer relations at Apple. "Can you imagine being a Mac programmer in an organization of 4000 or 5000 Windows developers?" said Richardson, whom Apple hired in 1995 to manage Apple's relationship with Microsoft. "That doesn't feel good. Now we've got all these great craftspeople in one organization under one leader. They're united in a team, and the result is they're developing better products that exploit the hardware and software platform that we have."
Solidifying the Relationship
Microsoft and Apple announced a broad product and technology development agreement in August 1997, which called for Microsoft to develop future versions of Office, Internet Explorer and other tools for the Mac platform, and for Apple to bundle Internet Explorer with the Mac operating system. It specified that the two companies work more closely on developing leading-edge technologies for the Mac platform, and on ensuring compatibility between their Java virtual machines used to run Java applications. As part of the agreement, Microsoft invested $150 million in non-voting Apple stock.
Both companies agree that working together better serves their mutual customers. "It's really when the tent pole went up, and we decided that Apple doesn't have to lose for Microsoft to win, and Microsoft doesn't have to lose if Apple wins," Richardson said.
Since the agreement was signed, more than 3 million Macintosh computers have shipped with Internet Explorer 4.0 as the default browser. Microsoft has sold more than 1 million copies of Office 98, and Microsoft and Apple have worked together to provide a unified Java Virtual Machine for Macintosh customers. Apple's new iMac computer, which includes Internet Explorer as the default browser, has been selling like hotcakes, and nearly one-third of its purchasers are new Mac users.
Microsoft's relationship with Apple strengthened further this week with the launch of Internet Explorer 4.5 and Outlook Express 4.5 at MacWorld Expo in San Francisco. Designed for the Mac from the ground up, these products include new features not yet incorporated into the Windows versions. For example, Internet Explorer 4.5 includes an "adjustable print preview" feature that enables users to print Web pages to a single page, and enables them to see how the Web page will appear before actually printing it. It also includes a "form autofill" feature that allows users to automatically enter common information requested when filling out forms on the Web, such as their name, address and telephone number.
Microsoft also reaffirmed its commitment to Mac customers by launching the MacTopia Web site, which will provide information about Microsoft products for the Mac as well as news and information affecting the Mac community. It will also serve as an interactive forum where Mac customers can chat, interact with industry leaders, sign up for a quarterly newsletter and provide feedback on Microsoft products.
"We love it," Richardson said. "I think it's an example of the tremendous, next generation relationship between the two companies."
Focusing on Productivity and the Internet During the past few years, Microsoft has concentrated its efforts on five Macintosh products-the Internet Explorer Web browser, the Outlook Express e-mail client and Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, which make up the Office productivity suite. Waldman said Microsoft decided to focus on these products after learning from customer research that Internet products and core productivity applications were among the greatest needs of Mac customers.
Microsoft's biggest success on the Mac platform since the creation of the Macintosh Business Unit two years ago, according to Waldman, has been Office 98 for the Mac, which was launched last January. "I think delivering Office 98 has been really an astounding thing," Waldman said. "Before that, Macintosh users didn't like Microsoft or our applications. And now Office 98 is viewed as perhaps one of the best pieces of software for the Macintosh and any platform in existence."
Richardson agreed, adding that Macintosh customers' attitudes toward Microsoft is improving. "When we first announced the deal with Microsoft, there were some jeers in the audience. But in the last year and a half, those jeers have turned to cheers. I think the Macintosh community has taken a more mature attitude toward the two companies' relationship in the last 18 months, and that's really good for our mutual customers."
Microsoft plans to launch the next version of Office within the next 18 to 24 months. In addition, it will continue to develop innovative products for the Mac based on the needs of its customers. "As the Apple segmentation shifts to become more centered on the consumer market, we need to make sure our products meet the needs of this market," Waldman said. "So those are the kinds of areas we are working on with Apple."
Growing Spirit of Cooperation
Customers who use Microsoft products for the Mac say this growing spirit of cooperation increases their confidence in both companies and their products.
"It assures the Mac community that software will be available and that files will transfer seamlessly between the two platforms," said Paul Borchert, a librarian at Edmonds Elementary School in Edmonds, Wash., which offers Internet Explorer for the Mac to students as a research tool. "It also gives consumers confidence in the long-term viability of the Mac platform."
Cohen, the desktop publishing teacher, agreed, adding that she has noticed a difference in Microsoft products for the Mac since the company formed a separate Macintosh Business Unit and announced the August 1997 agreement. "Office 98 was proof positive that there was a change," she said. "The difference in the software was remarkable. Technologically, it was obvious that this was a piece of Mac software, so I think the agreement helped tremendously."
Richardson said the closer alliance has been good for both customers and business. "What Microsoft has been experiencing is very brisk sales as a result of Office 98 and tremendous penetration of Internet Explorer. And what we're experiencing is a number of customers who are saying, 'Gosh, this is great, and we're going to buy more Macintoshes, and we're going to upgrade to Operating System 8.5.' Those are the results of a great relationship-that's how you keep score.