Office for the Apple OSX

By Graham K. Rogers

By the perverse laws of synchronicity that surroound this column, I had just sent Part One of a two-part look at Fonts and OSX, when -- before the column was even printed -- Microsoft released Office 2004 for OSX: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage. This, therefore, is Fonts 1.5 because you can use Thai in this latest version of Office.

Microsoft made this Unicode-ready. All the obscure languages, with all their fonts can be displayed in Office. There is a caveat: although you can use Thai in Office, it is not supported. A fine distinction, but the problem comes down to the difficulties in displaying certain Thai characters.

Microsoft is not anti-Mac. If so, there would not be OSX versions of the Media Player, Remote Deskop or this Office 2004. This argument fails a little when one compares Internet Explorer with alternatives for OSX, but life isn't perfect. I initially tried to download the Office demo from the Mactopia website but local problems intervened.

I had been in touch with Somphop Krittayaworagul, the webmaster of the Thai PDA Users' Group site who was first to post screen shots of Thai in Office. He gave me a demo version. As I have an almost totally Microsoft-free environment at home, this went onto the office G4 (without a hitch): as eye-candy, it looks the part.

I tried a full version at Siam Discovery Center including newer features, particularly a way to view and time slides on a presenter's screen in PowerPoint. There have been several reviews already, for example by David Pogue at the New York Times, in which Office has been examined. Suffice it to say, if you live and breathe in a Microsoft environment, this latest version will suit you well.

Up until this week, I had no information on local availability or pricing. I had sent e-mail to the Bangkok office via Redmond's website, but had no reply. I telephoned. After 20 minutes or more of listening to the same Chinese opera song, I gave up. Long gone are the days -- for example the introduction of MSDOS 5.0, under the stewardship of Aporn Sribbabidh -- when Microsoft touched customers.

Fortunately, when I collected my eMac this week, I saw that there were retail copies of the Office update on sale. The street prices I was quoted were: 11,900 for the upgrade; 7,900 for the education version; and 19,000 for the full version. In an article on OpenSource software in First Monday some months ago, a comparison of Windows plus Office XP was made using an equivalent calculation of GDP/capita in US$.

In Thailand, the equivalent price was $10,540 (3.59 months GDP). If you think that is bad, a scan shows the equivalent to be $198,864 (67.65 months GDP) for Burundi, $199394 (DR Congo) and $208,612 (Ehiopia). On the other hand the Japanese equivalent is $606, Luxembourg $470 and Norway $537. The US figure was shown as $560 (0.19 months GDP). It is small wonder that Phantip Plaza is so vibrant and downloads of Office are available online.

I use OSX with alternatives to Office, such as the Thai-ready ThinkFree Office, Apple Office, which comes ready loaded on home-user machines such as the eMac (version 6.2.9 came on mine this week), and the still-developing Open Office (now 1.1.2) from. One can also open a document file in Text Edit and save it as a Rich Text Format (rtf) file: a French-Thai-English writer/user of OSX gave me that one.

Microsoft has an extensive (514MB) installation here that will do tons of stuff, and looks highly polished. Try to run the demo version first, or find someone with a legitimate Office installation to try. This will certainly suit larger corporations or organisations, and will go part-way to silencing the myth-mongers who still insist that the Mac has no software.

As I write, the Apple World Wide Developers' Conference is on in San Francisco. Tiger will have a new (controversial) user-centric Finder; a massive 30" cinema display was announced; other displays are now finished in G5-style aluminium. More details can be seen at the Apple site.

Apple watchers will wait keenly for Steve Jobs' sentence which begins, "Oh, just one more thing. . . . "

Bangkok Post cartoon readers may have noticed that Pixel ofen uses the angle-poise iMac G4; but if you look closely at Shoe, you will see an identifiable G5 with a Cinema Display: even the cartoons are switching.

My eMac arrived yesterday: I am busy transferring data and otherwise setting it up. At over 20Kgs and with the iMac alongside, a prioriy would seem to be a new table.

Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

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