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Monday, August 07, 2006, 04:00 pm PT (07:00 pm ET)

Microsoft axes Virtual PC for Mac, Office still planned

Microsoft Corp. on Monday said it will not proceed with plans for an Intel-native version of Virtual PC for the Mac, but said its Mac Business Unit is continuing work on several other products, including a Universal version of Office.

In a statement obtained by MacNN, the Redmond, Wash.-based software developer said it has made great strides in gradually transitioning its software applications to Apple's new Intel-based platform, but has also made several product roadmap decisions along the way.

As a first order of business, Microsoft said it has decided not to move forward with a Universal version of Virtual PC at this time. However, it will continue to provide support to existing Virtual PC customers.

Microsoft's decision to indefinitely retire Virtual PC comes just as other software developers have announced their own solutions for running Windows on a Mac.

Apple introduced its Boot Camp dual-boot software in April. Parallels followed with its self-titled virtualization software in June. And just today, VMware said it also plans to offer a beta of its own virtualization software later this year.

"Developing a high-quality virtualization solution, such as Virtual PC, for the Intel-based Mac is similar to creating a version 1.0 release due to how closely the product integrates with Mac hardware," Microsoft said. "[Microsoft] still recognizes that customers continue to need access to Windows applications from their Intel-based Macs, and feels confident that alternative solutions offered by Apple and other vendors, combined with a fully packaged retail copy of Windows, will satisfy this need."

Similarly, Microsoft said it will be discontinuing support of Visual Basic scripting in the next version of Office for Mac, but is working hard to increase support for standard Mac scripting methods such as AppleScript and Automator.

"As always, cross-platform compatibility remains a top priority. As we develop the next version of Office for Mac, the files will continue to be compatible across platforms, including 2007 Microsoft Office system for Windows," the company said. "Although VB macros within files will not be accessible and cannot be viewed or modified, the files themselves can be edited without affecting or changing the macros."

On the other hand, Microsoft said it has updated "tens of millions of lines of code" in its quest to deliver a Universal version of Office. However, it did not provide a timeframe for release. What the company did say, is that it would provide free converters to allow users of current versions of Office for Mac to read the new Microsoft Office Open XML formats following the availability of Office 2007 for Windows next year.

Sometime later this year, Microsoft said it will release its first Universal application, Messenger for Mac 6.0. The new version of the instant messaging software will add such features as "federation for Messenger," customized emoticons and spell check.

Microsoft also plans to release a free Universal update to Remote Desktop Connection software, which allows Mac users to access Windows-based computers on their network. However, the company said it will not offer customers support in using the software. Details of Remote Desktop Connection are due at a later date.