Okay, so we're not exactly as rabidly up to speed on every little detail in the Mac universe as we once were. As it turns out, though, that's not necessarily a major handicap, because at least one plot thread has picked up almost exactly where we left off roughly a week and a half ago when we vanished from the public eye to tackle the daunting task of organizing our communal sock drawer. Remember back when Microsoft was bellyaching about low Office v.X sales and blaming Apple's crummy marketing of Mac OS X for the shortfall? At the time, we made the blindingly obvious observation (hey, that's what we're here for) that maybe, just maybe, more people would buy copies of Office v.X if they didn't cost five hundred frickin' dollars apiece. As if Office is so great, it's worth half a grand for the average iMac owner to trade up from AppleWorks? Yeesh. Personally, if we're talking about needing to part with that sort of level of cash, we'd almost rather restrict ourselves to SimpleText/TextEdit and Calculator, and blow the dough on pizzas instead. But that's just us. (Or is it?)
Fast-forward a week and a half, though, and suddenly we've got Think Secret reporting that Microsoft is, indeed, investigating the possibility of offering some new pricing schemes in hopes of attracting more Mac Office customers-- ones without trust funds, winning lottery tickets, or solid gold cars. Apparently Redmond is considering selling a "home edition" of Office sans PowerPoint for somewhere between $199 and $349, a "standard edition" like the one offered now for between $299 and $499, and a "professional version"-- which bundles in a couple of free downloadable apps and boasts a price of $449 to $599 just for giggles, since, as we all know, those professionals just love to part with the cabbage. Also under consideration are special crossgrade pricing for AppleWorks users and a wicked discount on Office for new Mac buyers: just $149, which actually strikes us as an actual bargain. (From Microsoft. Whodathunkit?) We'll see if any of this actually comes to pass.
In the meantime, though, we can't help wondering whether Microsoft's apparent openness to the concept of lower Office pricing has anything to do with the reports that Apple is now working with Sun on a Mac OS X port of StarOffice. Faithful viewer rhodiad tipped us off to the collaboration, recently described in a CNET article; both companies have reportedly confirmed that they're working towards getting a Java version of OpenOffice running on Mac OS X in six months' time, followed by a full-fledged commercial release of StarOffice sometime next year. For those unfamiliar with the name, StarOffice is an office suite that runs on Windows, Linux, and Solaris, boasts pretty decent compatibility with Office file formats, and bears the Sun name-- which carries a lot more weight in the world of Big Business than Apple's for the time being. Certain enterprise types who would no sooner consider a switch to AppleWorks than a voluntary poke in the eye might migrate to StarOffice because it's from Sun. So at least a few pundits seem to think that StarOffice-- and thusly an Apple-collaborative port of StarOffice for Mac OS X-- might actually be a threat to Microsoft's lock on the productivity software market. But then, that's what pundits are for.
Regardless of whether or not Uncle Bill is quaking in his boots over any of this, the prospect of a Mac OS X-native StarOffice is still pretty exciting-- especially to those of us Mac users who feel dirty all over at the very thought not just of using Microsoft products, but of paying through the nose for the degradation. (Great. Now we need a shower.) And if you're not pumped enough already, just chew on this comment made by Sun's senior director of desktop marketing solutions: "I don't want to sell StarOffice for OS X. I want Apple to bundle it. I'll give them the code. I'd love it if I could get the team at Apple to do joint development and they distribute it at no cost-- that it's their product. Nobody makes a product more beautiful on Apple than Apple." Holy toledo... an Apple-augmented StarOffice shipping free on each Mac? Maybe Microsoft is getting a little edgy about future Office sales. Jinkies.