Great Expectations

(Sorry, Charles.)

Hiya folks!  I'm Erik Schwiebert, one of the development leads here in the MacBU.  I wanted to jump in here quickly to set some expectations based on some of the comments I've seen here about our team blog.

A number of people have said that the content they really want is stuff like "When will MacBU release a universal binary of Office?" or "Where's feature X and why don't you have it NOW?"  These are great questions and we always appreciate the feedback, but I think you are unlikely to see answers to them here.  Feature announcements (both new items and removals, such as Windows Office 2007 file format support and the removal of Visual Basic) will generally always come out first as a true press release or official statement.  Once things have been formally announced, we are able to discuss them both here and on our personal blogs.

So, if that's the case, then why are we here?  Well, as Chris noted in our inaugural post, "We are developers, testers, user assistance managers, product managers, usability engineers, product marketers and executives who offer different perspectives but share the same passion for Office and the Mac. We hope this blog provides you with a deeper insight into our work and who we are, and we’re very excited to be out here talking to you!"  At the risk of committing a faux pas by linking to myself twice within one post, I personally want to show you that we really are human.  Whether you actually trust us or not (hopefully you do), I believe we're here simply to show you who we are, what we do, and why we like it.

I think you'll find over time that this blog really is not about marketing fluff.  Brad's post on debugging through VPC gave me an idea for my first real post with content, and neither of us is likely to write an official press release any time soon.  So, stay tuned for the harrowing tale of the newbie developer and the heisenbug! (Sometimes I kid myself that it might have been worthy of Kon and Bal...)

Comments (24)

  1. Olivesoft says:

    Ooh, Kon and Bal’s Puzzle Page. The fond memories!



  2. JMTee says:

    To have this kind of a blog is great. To be given faces and of real persons behind the corporate wall is absolutely fantastic. I think you are doing better than Apple in that respect.


    At the end of the day it’s questions like ‘Why can’t I have video in Messenger – no REALLY’ (regardless of who developed it in the first place, or who’s doing it now) or ‘How will you ensure cross-platform compatibility in Office after removing VB’ that people want to know and are now puzzled when not given a proper explanation. Hiding behind ‘Sorry, we can’t comment on that’ leaves people always thinking that there is some <i>inconvenient truth</i> behind your actions. And even if there was no conspiracy, instead of giving an impression that you know something you can’t talk about but which would otherwise shed light to the issue; i.e. that there is a agood explanation to all this and that all will turn out fine in the end – which I doubt – I wish you could simply sayt that you DON’T KNOW, if that is the case or even admit that your company has made a ‘faux pas’ if you personally think so. But of course I don’t really expect that to happen in a corporate blog.

    Thanks anyways for giving a forum to air my views – and to vent my frustration. I’ll go and post feedback on Excel macro issue, Project Centre quirks, Entourage mail and calendar problems and hope that doing so makes some difference in the future. And of course I continue to read your blogs hoping to eventually find some explanations to the things that now seem inexplicable.

  3. The Hater says:

    No offense, Eric, but that reads an awful lot like,"We provide the same interaction between users and developers that the IE Blog provides, except without any of the usefulness."

    Posts about debugging VPC definitely interest me on a certain level (I sure as hell wouldn’t want to do it), but from the standpoint of developing using your technologies, or even just from the standpoint of a user trying to get by, clutching my trusty Mac, shouting in my office,"FROM MY COLD, DEAD FINGERS!" …I just wonder how open this team will get in relation to the level of conversation the IE dev team has opened. They could certainly do better, but they seem to have made a bigger step forward than MacBU from what I’ve seen so far.

  4. When will Entourage be able to share/sync with Address Book entries?

  5. I applaud you for creating this blog. Many people will read it with cynicism and see it as an opportunity to complain publicly. Don’t let this discourage you. A blog like this puts a "human face" on MacBU, and that is great. Keep up the good work!

  6. kirabug says:

    Hi Erik!

    Don’t worry, you folks keep writing and those of us who are interested will keep reading, and we’ll just dodge around the "but when will X happen?" posts…

    I think your messages got through this time — there were four whole posts before somebody asked when a feature would be available.

  7. kirabug says:

    Oh, and, uh, where’s that IE blog everyone keeps mentioning?

  8. Abster2core says:


    Did you not read the first two sentences in the second paragraph?

  9. nadyne says:

    Scott — If you’re using Tiger and Entourage version 11.2.3 or later, you can do that right now.  (That update also provided Spotlight support, and also requires Tiger.)  In Entourage, open the Preferences Pane.  There are two new entries in the Preferences Pane: one for Sync Services, one for Spotlight.  Click on the Sync Services entry, then click the checkbox next to ‘Synchronize contacts with Address Book and .Mac’.  There’s a couple of other syncs in there that you might be interested in: events/tasks with iCal, and notes with .Mac.  

  10. Mike says:

    I am hoping that in future blog entries, you can touch on why product X might make it to the Mac and product Y doesn’t?  Basically the decision making process on what your team decides to take on or pass on and why?

    I’m also hoping this type of discussion can not only include the major players:  Office, Visio, Project, Access  — but also include such technologies like DirectPlay, VBScript.

    Last, maybe some discussion on why some things are developed by the MacBU while other Mac software is not, such as Windows Media Player & Expressions (though this appears to be now dead)

  11. Walafrid says:

    It’s been really great to hear from the MacBU on this blog – giving an insight into what goes on down there.

    Just one question – now that Office 2007 is in the beta stage, is there any hint of when the Mac version will be released?

    Some discussion of upcoming products would be greatly appreciated, if not just to keep us looking forward to something.

  12. Schwieb says:

    I think this is the IE blog people have referred to:

    The IE team has been blogging for over 2 years now.  If you go back and look at their first few months of posts, it looks a lot like MacMojo currently does — introductions, references to external helpful links, and perhaps a few tips and tricks.  Their content has grown and ours will too.  Just give us a little time to explore our own writing styles and individual comfort levels, as well as community response.  

    For example, Mike has some questions and ideas for blog posts that sound really interesting to me.  Hopefully some of the other MacBU folks that will be blogging here will have some posts on these items.

    We’re just starting out.  Thanks so much for reading!

  13. Ishan Bhattacharya says:

    I enjoyed reading all the blog entries so far, particularly the historical details about how folks ended up in the MacBU. But (and you know there had to be a "but")…

    I am a Mac user for 25+ years. I am thoroughly indoctrinated in the dogma that the Macintosh UI is "better, easier to use","just works", etc. and to some extent I believe it. I do not like using Windows XP because of the GUI.

    Nevertheless, I have been using the beta of Office for 2007–the Windows version–ever since it became available. I used to use Microsoft Word for Mac 2004 many times daily, writing not only papers and such, but newsletters, etc. It’s the only WP for the Macintosh, for all practical purposes (and I’m including Pages and the rest). However, from a strictly usabilitiy perspective, in the few weeks I’ve been using Microsoft Word 2007 for Windows, I have been totally converted from Word 2004 for Mac. The UI for Word 2007 Windows "just makes sense"–as far as anything can be intuitive regarding computers, that piece of software is not only pretty, but has been assembled with a great deal of thought about how users at many different levels will interact with its features. I use a MacBook and end up booting up in Windows for most of the day simply because I want to use Microsoft 2007 on Windows–despite the fact that I dislike the underlying OS.

    From a financial standpoint, Microsoft wins either way. However, IMHO, the MacBU would gain instant credibility (i.e., that it is not simply an afterthought meant to placate those worried about monopolistic trade practices) if you guys (in the generic sense, I’m not being sexist) would let devoted Macintosh users like me have some input into the UI of the upcoming new version of Microsoft Word for the Macintosh. What have you decided upon for the UI? Is it going to be similar to the Windows version? How will it take advantage of some of the features of 10.4/10.5 that are unique to the OS? If NDAs are signed–and upheld–why not have thousands of seasoned Macintosh veterans who rely on Word take an active role in trying alphas and betas of the product?

    The same argument applies to PowerPoint and to a lesser extent, Excel (there’s only some much you can do with a spreadsheet). I am very much against Apple’s emphasis on secrecy and the snide remarks by Jobs & Co. at the recent WWDC; their smugness and hubris is a bit much, even for me. I would like Microsoft, through the MacBU show how software UI/features development and testing can be done right, in an environment in which one person does not dictate and micromanage each and every aspect of a major software upgrade.

    Sorry for the length of this comment. Whatever I may think of Microsoft’s corporate philosophy or its OS, I want the new version of Microsoft Office for the Macintosh to be so good that my 10 year old (who’s plenty computer savvy) can sit down and create a two page newsletter for her school and have the layout and formatting exactly the way she wants it, without relying on a prefab template. I think the MacBU is up to the challenge. If I had the opportunity to work as an "UI consultant," I would take the job in a second…but in this life, I think Ed Tufte already has that title.

    Thanks for listening.

  14. David says:

    Salu2 desde Chile!!

  15. nadyne says:

    Ishan – One way for you to have some say in what the next version of Office:Mac will look like is to participate in our usability tests.  Most of them are conducted in the Seattle and San Francisco Bay Areas.  We also travel around the US and the rest of the world to meet our users.

    We’re not quite at a point where we’re ready to talk about the beta programme.  One thing to keep in mind is that a beta programme with thousands of users is a huge amount of overhead for us.  We have to keep our beta programme to a managable level so that we can handle the feedback that we get from it.  

  16. Schwieb says:

    JMTee — in some cases there’s a lot going on internally that I or others *do* know about, but aren’t free to tell the world yet.  In other cases, there are questions to which I certainly don’t know the answer.  In either case, I do not comment on any aspects of upcoming software releases that have not yet been made public through any official channels.  If I or anyone else were to jump the gun, I could screw up plans for other groups within Microsoft, or possibly plans made with external partners, or even plans within MacBU that I don’t know about.  While I am a lead, I am certainly not privy to each and every aspect of the MacBU (that’s Roz’s domain!)

    Anyone remember Apple’s displeasure with ATI a number of years ago, when ATI announced that their new video card would be featured in the upcoming Mac, yet the new Mac had not yet been announced by Apple?  Beyond spilling the beans about a product many people had already assumed was coming soon, what if they had accidentally revealed some project within Apple that they had no legal right to discuss?

    In order to ensure I don’t make such a colossal mistake, even by simple accident, I try to follow a simple rule — don’t talk about internal plans until they are announced.  I think that most of us here do the same.

    I’m sorry that gives an impression of ‘inconvenient truth’.  There really is good news and neat features that we can’t talk about, and that’s probably more inconvenient for us bloggers than any scandalous conspiracy we might or might not be trying to hide.  (BTW, I’m joking about scandalous conspiracies… 🙂

  17. JMTee says:

    Thanks for the reply, Schwieb.

    As you said, it’s probably you MS bloggers who are in the most inconvenient spot in this whole situation: not being able to tell everything you know, and at the same time being plagued by inquisitive users through these blogs.

    Anyway, I hope that this blog evolves into a truly useful forum for interaction and feedback. Maybe Mac users get their voices heard a little bit better this way. It’s a good start, at least.

  18. Richard York says:

    Why aren’t Microsoft’s beta Mac products available through Microsoft’s Connect program?  Couldn’t the MacBU utilize that resource?

  19. Asam Bashir says:

    Talking of Great Expectations I’m in the mood for moaning, but luckily not about Microsoft for once but my University and Apple. I’ve had a problem with the hard drive of my PowerBook since Friday and Apple Disk Utility won’t fix it – why not? Then I’ve been trying to get Mac support here at Cambridge University and it is almost non exisitent. I know exactly what the problem is and it is something that can be fixed in 5 min with the right program which in this case is Disk Warrior. I’ve been to my department Mac support and they’re all a bunch of idiots that gave me a bootable version of Norton Tools 8, which my machine won’t even boot from, just goes into panic mode.

    The University Mac software support, had never heard of Disk Warrior and referred me to the hardware support guys, they in turn refused to do anything since my machine is still under AppleCare. Next I turned to the local Apple reseller who told me it was a software problem so they couldn’t do anything under AppleCare.

    Now I’m stuck back using my College computers, dumb Dell machine’s running XP or Linux which I’m using now. They’ve cutomizsed the linux desktop to copy the look and feel of a Mac. There is not a single Mac available for students in Wolfson College Cambridge. This place should be familiar with you guys at Microsoft, it’s the place where Prof. Needham setup the Microsoft-Cambridge collaboration which lead to the development of the Microsoft Research Centre in the west side of Cambridge, and it’s also the place where all the Gates fellowships are adminstered from since our President in the provost.

    Now, I could solve my problem in 5 min by finding a suitable torrent file, but I’m trying to do the right thing here, but it’s not easy. I see this as a huge loss for Apple and Mac OS X developers. Cambridge was heavily into Mac’s in the 80’s with almost all departments full of Macs and knowledgeable people, now it’s almost impossible to get any reasonable help.

    Obviously both Cambridge and Microsoft have gained much by this collaboration and exchange of both research and personel, but my question is where is Apple. This is an important question for Microsoft as well, if it is true to it’s ideals then some of this Cambridge collaboration should involve MacBU as well.

    I’ve been banging at Apple to come here and re-equilibrate the balance, with no luck and resistance from all the techie types. But look to the distant future, if Apple can’t make it here, in the rapidly coming future where the Markets of Asia are going to make the home US market look like pocket money, how will it surive. It is certainly aware that education markets are expanding more rapidly then other sectors, and that these represent people who are the movers and shapers of this coming shift in world economy.

    I’d like to see both Apple and the MacBU have a stronger presence here, but right now I just don’t know how to make it happen, there is too much resistance and blocks put in the way, but just imagine all the possibilites if Cambridge University, Apple, and the MacBU could collaborate in some way, that would really be thinking different.

    Miss my PowerBook :(( Managed to get a copy of Disk Warrior through a friend on a Mac user Group, now I’ll have to find a Mac tommorrow to burn it on.

    :((( missing MarVin :(((

  20. Dr.T says:

    Erik, you wrote "We hope this blog provides you with a deeper insight into our work". Well the only thing i read is really only about marketing fluff. I don’t speak about specs bevor they are public throug press releases and stuff. Ok. We all know the gap between official press releases and the reality, comparing to Microsoft Vista. You also won’t speak about issues, whishes and bugs the users report to you. So in the end, some faceless people are writing about a faceless BU saying nothing. And this should give me a deeper look into your work? Come on Erik.

    Let us know, on wich big are you working at the moment? What about some pictures? Let us take a look into your labs. How about some realy interaction? I give you a detailed plan of ma infrastructure and all of my Office Issues and you rebuild it. Thats what i call a deeper look into your work.

    Everything here is about marketing fluff!

  21. sandman says:

    When you work for a big corperation like Microsoft or Apple, you will realise what you CAN and CANNOT talk about. Ignorance is not an option or you find yourself another job.

  22. chuckbo says:

    What, did I miss something, or did you just put in that comment about dropping VBA from Office just to get my attention?

    If you’d like an idea for a topic to talk about to kill off the myths once and for all, how about writing about Access and the Mac. Originally, I always heard that it couldn’t run on the Mac because it relied on some Intel-specific assembler code. Years later, I heard it was a business decision not to provide it (to keep the Mac from appearing too business-friendly by providing a database — kind of the opposite of Apple originally downplaying games to support the idea that the Mac was a professional’s machine). So are either of those the truth? I even asked my friend who’s the topselling author of Access books, and she didn’t even know the real story.

    But whatever you decide to write about, thanks for starting the blog.

  23. Schwieb says:

    chuckbo —

    Neither of those two statements is really correct.  Access relies (or relied, the last time I know we looked into it) extensively on the JET database engine on Windows, which was itself tied *very* tightly to the Windows OS.  Porting Access to the Mac would mean either porting a very large chunk of the Windows OS to the Mac or rewriting the entire database engine from scratch.  We have to weigh that work in comparison to the data we collect periodically on which people want Access, how much they would use it, whether they would be more likely to buy Mac Office if it had Access, and how much they might pay for it.  I don’t know any of the specifics of the latter assessment (I just know about the development requirements) but I believe the actual predicted gain from having Access has always been lower than the predicted cost of doing it (cost being dev time not spent on the rest of Mac Office or on Messenger, etc).

    I’ve posted quite a bit on my own blog about the decision to drop Visual Basic, if you haven’t already seen it.

  24. Chad Simpson says:

    If the Mac version doesn’t support VB, then Excel is worthless. The file formats might as well be considered non-compatable.

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