Last year's rise in Mac sales made plenty of money for Apple, but the renaissance also was profitable for Microsoft.
At Macworld Expo on Tuesday, Microsoft's top Mac exec declared that 2005 was the "best year ever" for the unit. Macintosh Business Unit general manager Roz Ho then announced that Microsoft was formalizing its commitment to the Mac with a new five-year agreement to keep making Office for the Mac.
An earlier agreement expired in 2002, though Microsoft has said that it would keep up its Mac business as long as it made financial sense. However, until now, Microsoft had only been committing to Office updates one version at a time.
Along with the new pact, Microsoft said it is hard at work with Apple trying to make sure that Office 2004 for Mac works cleanly in Rosetta, the translation mode that lets Intel-based Macs run code designed for PowerPC chips. Microsoft also said it will come out with a set of translators to make sure that users of the current version of Mac Office can read and write the new Open XML formats that Microsoft will use with Office 12, the next Windows version of Office.
In all its news, Microsoft didn't say when the next version of Office for Mac is coming out. In an interview, MacBU group product manager Scott Erickson did say that the company has a typical schedule of releasing new versions every two to three years.
The last version was finished in April 2004.
Microsoft does have some work to do, thanks to Apple's Intel switch and the need to be compatible with both Intel-based and non-Intel Macs.
All that means is that a new version of Office could come this year, but it's most likely going to be a 2007 release.
In the meantime, the 180-person Mac team at Microsoft is working on a March update to Messenger for Mac as well as improvements to Entourage, including taking advantage of Apple's Sync Services for connecting to devices, better handling of smart cards and support of Spotlight, Mac OS X's Tiger search feature.