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Tom Gibbons, Microsoft VP, is leading Microsoft's charge to support the iPhone, heading a team of engineers who are working to develop third-party apps for the iPhone.  (Source: Microsoft)
Microsoft may look to launch an Office suite on iPhone

Microsoft and Apple may be rivals, but that doesn't stop Microsoft from being very excited about developing possible applications for the iPhone, according to recent reports.  

Soon after the release of Apple's third party software developer kit (SDK) for the iPhone, Microsoft set an entire team of engineers to work analyzing it.  Tom Gibbons, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Specialized Devices and Applications Group, states, "It’s really important for us to understand what we can bring to the iPhone.  To the extent that Mac Office customers have functionality that they need in that environment, we’re actually in the process of trying to understand that now."

The move is not an entirely new one either.  Microsoft has long maintained a group of engineers tasked with porting Microsoft software to Apple's operating systems.  Microsoft's Mac Business Unit is based in Mountain View, Calif., cozily close to Apple's headquarters, which is just miles away.  The Mac Business Unit has been extremely successful in marketing the Microsoft Office Suite to Mac users.  Though Microsoft refuses to release figures on the unit, one of its most lucrative, Fortune magazine estimates that it did around $350M USD in business last year, and may have made as much as $200M USD in profit.

Microsoft has taken a strange sense of pride in being the best Apple developer other than Apple.  Microsoft's extensive experience with OS X and its inside knowledge of the Microsoft Exchange protocols the iPhone is adopting for business email means that Microsoft should be primed to deliver some powerful iPhone applications.

Gibbons states, "We do have experience with that environment, and that gives us confidence to be able to do something.  The key question is, what is the value that we need to bring? We’re still getting comfortable with the SDK, right? It’s just come out. So we had a guess as to what feasibility would be like, now we’ll really get our head wrapped around that."

Microsoft's voice recognition unit TellMe, a recent acquisition, is also eyeing the iPhone.  TellMe's primary focus is in developing for the Windows Mobile operating system.  While the situation may be slightly ironic, it is pure business and general manager Mike McCue says that as long as the iPhone SDK supports voice recording and location based technology, TellMe will be all over it.  McCue states, "If the SDK supports these things we’re absolutely going to get a version out there as soon as we can, get TellMe out there on the iPhone."

In June, Apple will release an update which will allow third-party SDK-based software.  Until then Microsoft will be busy coding, coming up with new products for the iPhone.  Business certainly makes strange bedfellows.

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Microsoft is NOT the 2nd best
By jnn4v on 3/26/2008 4:03:32 PM , Rating: 2
Microsoft has taken a strange sense of pride in being the best Apple developer other than Apple.

I'd take issue with that quote. I've been using Microsoft products on a series of four different macs for about 6 years now and I've found their software to be marginal at best. Office X was an improvement over the previous version, but it has usability issues, crashes, compatibility problems, etc that were many times worse than their Windows contemporaries. Office Mac 2004 and even the current Office Mac 2008, while they do have some unique advantages over their Windows counterparts, really don't match up and never have.

On the other hand, let's look at Adobe for example. Dating back to before OSX was even launched, Adobe's Mac versions always were on-part with their Windows software. Their releases have never seemed buggy, feature-restricted, or crash-prone at the initial release (unlike some MS programs that needed a couple rounds of patching before they worked properly). I would state pretty strongly that Adobe is much closer to Apple than Microsoft is.

RE: Microsoft is NOT the 2nd best
By TomZ on 3/26/2008 4:14:18 PM , Rating: 5
LOL, I had a good laugh at your assertion that Adobe products have not been buggy. That has been the complete opposite of my experience. Not to mention how quirky most of Adobe's apps are.

RE: Microsoft is NOT the 2nd best
By jnn4v on 3/26/2008 4:20:50 PM , Rating: 2
Fair enough. But have they given you the bomb, sad-faced Mac or Apple's multi-lingual BSoD? I've never had Photoshop or Lightroom do that for me. I rarely even see them have a critical error or unrecoverable crash. On the other hand, I've had all of the above problems with Microsoft apps.

By otispunkmeyer on 3/27/2008 9:32:10 AM , Rating: 2
yep Office Mac 2008 = flawless (thus far)

Adobe lightroom = wont even install. apparently there is nothing too install. which is odd. im hoping an upgrade to leopard will sort it.

RE: Microsoft is NOT the 2nd best
By eman7613 on 3/28/2008 1:15:08 AM , Rating: 2
Apple is the reason Adobe got big, adobe came out with their version of WYSIWYG and apple picked it up on the spot, before adobe ever had products on windows or dos they were on apple. part of why their not lagging their feet as much with maintinging code for macs like many other companies do.

RE: Microsoft is NOT the 2nd best
By Nekrik on 3/26/2008 7:23:31 PM , Rating: 2
"On the other hand, let's look at Adobe for example."

Remember all those claims Jobs always made about his PPC based machines being the fastest in the World, and then he'd go and show some Adobe benchmark? That was because Adobe always developed specifically for the PPC processors and then ported to the x86 platform. Back then Photoshop and other adobe apps were very buggy on PCs, not to mention the Mac's transition from PPC to Intel being less than spectacular when their apps were run under Rosetta. Then there's Adobe Reader which I won't elaborate on here, but there's a reason Foxit and a number of other apps have appeared.

RE: Microsoft is NOT the 2nd best
By melgross on 3/27/2008 12:41:23 AM , Rating: 2
That's actually not true. Once Adobe moved to windows as well, it had two development tracks. They were very careful not to implement an Apple technology that wasn't available either in x86 machines (other than Altivec, which handily beat any SSE) or in Windows.

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