Entourage ’08 and Something About How You Should Eat Your Own Dog Food

Last summer I asked if the MacBU was getting unfairly pounded I gave the MacBU the benefit of the doubt. Back in August we just didn’t know what we do now.

With the release of Office 2008, I think it now shows just how out of touch the MacBU is with the needs of Mac users. And the thing about it is that most of this has nothing to do with new releases of Word, Excel, or Powerpoint.

Mistakenly, the Mac team believes that the most important Office application is Word. But walk into a Windows-based office today and Word is likely minimized in a task bar, if open at all. Full attention is on Outlook. Outlook is what tells you whether you need to even use Word. Outlook, when used properly, determines if you’ll spend most of your work day in Excel or Word. Plus, it manages most of your office communications. Outlook is the star on the Office stage.

So, for Mac users, the most important application is Entourage. I’m not sure the MacBU realizes this.

Entourage and Exchange = The Elephant In The Room

Since about this time last year, Microsoft started letting details about Mac Office 2008 drip out. Screenshots of Word, Excel and Powerpoint began to circulate. Not a peep was made about Entourage 2008 – almost nobody even knew what Entourage 2008 would look like until late summer 2007.

So when the first screenshots started coming out for Entourage 2008 it felt like a drop of water in the desert. Finally some news, a cleaned up interface that looks like it belongs on a Mac.

But what about Exchange support?

Throughout the summer, and earlier, comments on Mac Mojo asked this question. Office looks all pretty now, but is there feature parity with Outlook? Will my tasks sync? How about my categories?

Nobody on Mac Mojo would even acknowledge Exchange improvements in Entourage ’08. Today we know that’s because there really weren’t any. Besides a (much-needed) facelift, Entourage ’08 may as well be Entourage ’05 (yes, a single year) to Exchange users. And at this rate it’s going to take until 2012 to even hope that Exchange support like Outlook’s is added.

Eating The Entourage Dog Food

Browse around on the microsoft.public.mac.office.entourage newsgroup and you’ll likely see a few threads of complaints about Entourage ’08’s lack of Exchange support. Replies from Microsoft representatives and employees usually hover around the idea that these users should file feedback right in the software.

Which they should. Microsoft will have no idea what Exchange features take priority unless users submit feedback.

But I think what upsets people about this is 2 things:

  1. Feedback about this kind of stuff has been filed for the past 4 years
  2. The fact that the Mac Office team needs to be told precisely what users want is a slap in the face

I think the first part is self-explanatory, but I’ll gladly explain the 2nd part.

The corporate offices at Microsoft are likely completely Exchange based when it comes to email and other office communications. Surely the Mac Office team must have to work with Outlook or Outlook Web Access at some point. The fact that the MacBU doesn’t already know what’s important for Exchange users implies that they don’t actually use Entourage or care much about it.

If you don’t know how bad the dog food tastes it might be you haven’t had any.

Let’s Remove Features

To add insult to injury, Exchange support isn’t even in Entourage ’08 across the board.

In previous versions of Office, the Student and Teacher edition included the same Exchange support as the regular edition.

But in somekind of boardroom decision from Hell, they decided to take Exchange support out of the Student and Teacher Edition and only put it in editions of Office that cost $400 or more.

That’s more than twice the cost of the Student and Teacher Edition. Why should a user have to pay that much more for Exchange support when there’s really not that much Exchange support to begin with?

So all the Mac-using students who go to colleges with Exchange – guess what? You’re SOL.

Microsoft also declined to put Automator Actions into the Student and Teacher edition. WTF? That’s just plain rude.

Jumping Ship

It’s no mystery that Mac users are jumping from Mac Office to Apple solutions and Open Standards. Despite the MacBU’s efforts to have transparency with their users through their blog, their actions show that they don’t really listen. Without full Exchange support in Entourage you might as well be using Mail.app. iWork already did MSOffice XML before Mac Office did, and Keynote presentations are almost ALWAYS better than Powerpoint (ok, I just like the transitions).

The bummer is that the fundamental problem isn’t solved. There’s still an Exchange hole in iWork’s ship – it’s just that the captain shows that he might actually fix the hole.

5 thoughts on “Entourage ’08 and Something About How You Should Eat Your Own Dog Food”

  1. Hey Dan, Lead Program Manager for Entourage here. I think you’re misconstruing the direction Entourage has taken. When 2004 was released, we only supported synchronizing you mail, calendar, and contacts. Barely public folders, no sharing, no mulitples of each, no delegation, poor permissions, and generally low reliability at all of this.<br/><br/>SInce 2004 was first released, we’ve regularly released more and more Exchange features in Entourage in free updates. While the year of the prior version was 2004, there was really also an Entourage 2005 and 2006.<br/><br/>We know what’s important to customers. We do read the forums, the blogs, and do countless meetings with customers. Our focus in 2008 was on reliability.. making all those features we’ve added since 2004 work as you;d expect. A lot had been added to the app in very quick manner and we needed to step back and make sure these features worked across the many many variations of Exchange deployments.<br/><br/>We do dogfood, we do want more Exchange features in Entourage. They’ll come… just 2008 was not the time and place for those features yet. You may disagree with this approach for delivering the product, but my aim is to deliver a solid, reliable Exchange client–not a software product that checks a bunch of features off in a list but doesn’t work like you’d expect.

  2. Andy,<br/><br/>I do want to make it clear that I don’t mean to ignore all the improvements that Entourage has gone through between 2004 and 2008. I also don’t mean to discourage you in making Entourage (or the rest of MacOffice) all it can be.<br/><br/>Thank you for taking the time to comment and correct me on some points.

  3. I must say as a longtime Mac and Entourage user, I feel the decision to screw over the customers who have Student and Teacher Edition is really, really bad business. The difference between the editions speaks to supporting an Exchange server, but it really sounds like it offers you the opportunity to set up an Exchange server, thus the massive uptick in price. To make the Entourage client unusable to previous S&T users is a nightmare! You go through the whole upgrade process, migrate your settings, TRASH your old Entourage and then find out you are screwed. You have to dig through your old dusty software to reinstall 2004 or pay a HUGE price for one feature: Exchange support. I am so unhappy and disappointed with MSFT on this…it is so discouraging.

  4. I must say as a longtime Mac and Entourage user, I feel the decision to screw over the customers who have Student and Teacher Edition is really, really bad business. The difference between the editions speaks to supporting an Exchange server, but it really sounds like it offers you the opportunity to set up an Exchange server, thus the massive uptick in price. To make the Entourage client unusable to previous S&T users is a nightmare! You go through the whole upgrade process, migrate your settings, TRASH your old Entourage and then find out you are screwed. You have to dig through your old dusty software to reinstall 2004 or pay a HUGE price for one feature: Exchange support. I am so unhappy and disappointed with MSFT on this…it is so discouraging.

  5. This is UNBELIEVABLE! I can’t believe that Microsoft would screw over the Mac Office 2004 student and teacher edition users so badly, and then try to explain it with a bunch of BS. The bottom line is that Entourage 2004 Student and Teacher edition supported Exchange integration. And now, the Entourage 2008 Student and Teacher edition doesn’t. Plain and Simple … Period … End of discussion. In my 20 years of software development and IT … I have NEVER even heard of a situation where an upgrade actually REMOVED a FREE standard feature of the previous version, and then has the audacity to try to charge you (in this case $400) to feature back.

    The question at this point is … when is MS going to put that feature back into 2008 Home and Student edition!!! Hopefully, someone at MS will realize the ridiculousness of this decision, and provide an answer back to this community.

Comments are closed.