I don't think it'd be too far from the truth if I said that Microsoft Office is one of the big pillars supporting the Mac platform. You'd be hard pressed to find a Mac user who doesn't have a copy of the venerable Office suite no matter how slow and carbonated (no offense to Carbon of course, which has its pros and cons). Make no mistake that if Microsoft stopped making Office for Mac, the Macintosh platform would be seriously shaken. Fanatical Mac users may tell you that you can use stuff like OpenOffice.org, NeoOffice and what-not but the truth is that only fanatics will do that; regular people will just be plain unhappy.
Microsoft Office 2001 was released in August 2000 and it was followed by Microsoft Office v. X in September 2002. Microsoft Office 2004 was released in March 2004. It is now more than two years since then. Yet, Microsoft does not seem to be keeping with this 24-month development cycle anymore. In fact, a Microsoft employee has said in an interview that they intend to ship their Office for Mac about 6-8 months after Office for Windows and that would point to a July to September release date. Considering the March 2004 release date for the current version of Office, this will mean a gap of three and a half years between two consecutive Office releases. And yes, I'm aware of the service packs and the updates that were released for Office 2004 adding some nifty features like Spotlight integration.
I do understand that they have a lot of work to do to get Microsoft Office ported over to the Intel platform after spending about 10 years on the PowerPC platform, but, seriously, isn't Microsoft always so insanely slow with releases? Look at Microsoft Messenger for Mac. It's shitty and there are huge gaps between releases. And, the latest version of Messenger (five) did very little to bring it in feature parity with the Windows counterpart - in fact, it added almost nothing to the featureset of the previous version. Video and Audio chat (features being requested since 2001!) are still not supported. I can understand that Microsoft doesn't care about the Mac platform that much, but when they claim to have the largest all-Mac development team outside Apple, one expects them to be better than this. Skype certainly doesn't have the largest Mac development team out there, but look at the slick Mac OS X client they've made and they've even got it at feature parity with the Windows version. In comparison, Microsoft just feels lethargic. It's not even as if the number of products they've been working on has increased. They've cancelled future development of Internet Explorer for Mac two or three years ago, the future development of Windows Media Player for Mac earlier this year (with Flip4Mac WMV being made available for free) and the future development of Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac last month (citing pre-existing solutions such as Parallels, Boot Camp and upcoming ones such as VMWare).
And is Microsoft the only company with age-old software that's being moved over to Intel? Absolutely not! It's not even alone in the field of "large suites of really old and heavy applications". Adobe satisfies that criterion and it promises its next Creative Suite as a Universal Binary in Spring 2007. Not only is that release timeline much earlier than Microsoft's, but we must also consider the fact that Adobe's Creative Suite 2 is one year younger than Office 2004, having been released in April 2005, that Adobe's Creative Suite actually has more components than Microsoft's Office (probably even more since the Macromedia acquisition), and also that Adobe doesn't even claim to have the largest Mac development team outside Apple.
I would certainly enjoy the UI refresh, speed boost and new Dock icons when they arrive in the next Office for Mac, but honestly, I really don't need anymore features in Microsoft Office. I barely even use 1% of all the features that are there already. So, I would be more than happy with just a Universal version of Microsoft Office 2004. Of course, that isn't happening and anyway, Microsoft is going to be obliged to add new features to its latest Office suite. Sometimes, I just wish they'd stop adding new features, just pause to think about what they already have and to refine those existing features. There are a ton of features in Office that simply get "carried over" from one version to another - decrepit and dated - and just don't fit in with the other features. I wish they'd go take care of that first.
All in all, I'm going to have to say that I'm severely disappointed with Microsoft with regard to their attitude and the amount of effort they're putting into their Mac products. But, if they're going to take one more year from now to release Office, all I'm asking for is that it better be goddamn good.