Excel 2008 and MacBook Air debut at MacWorld

If all that comes to mind when you think of a MacWorld is a burger-based theme park, then you're lagging in the fast-moving world of technology.

Following hard on the heels of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, last week's Apple's own MacWorld conference and expo in San Francisco was the biggest yet with 485 exhibitors and marked a shift of emphasis for Apple.

Apple's recent strategy has concentrated on the groundbreaking iPod, iPhone, and AppleTV, leaving the world of business to Microsoft. On the back of this strategy Apple has collected a 6 percent (and rising) share of the U.S. PC market.

In spite of the growing strength of its rival, Microsoft dispatched some of their lead programmers down from Redmond to show off the new Microsoft Office for Mac 2008 to Apple users.

Like the PC version, Excel 2008 has been expanded to handle 10,000 times more data than its previous Mac release. In addition to the 16,384 columns and 1 million-plus row capacity, the new release includes a new Formula Builder.

"Formulas are the language of Excel. Formula builder does the math for you. All you need to do is make sure the numbers are in the right place," said Stuart deSpain, lead Excel program manager in Microsoft Mac business unit.

Han-Yi Shaw, lead program manager for Word in Microsoft's Mac business unit added it was also important for Microsoft to create a product that would be Mac-like in its touch and feel, but allow compatibility with non-Mac applications.

Many users think the opposite. Office for Mac has the touch and feel of Mac applications, but rather than focusing more on functionality of Excel, the new version is a mash-up hidden behind a sleek, new interface.

The main drawback is that on a mixed Mac and Windows network, spreadsheets with Excel VBA macros will not work on a Mac. Microsoft has introduced Automator (Macspeak for macro) support for Excel Mac, but this does not solve the problem, as Mac macros won't work on a Windows machine.

As a tit-for-tat, Apple's own spreadsheet Numbers is not compatible with Excel VBA macros.

Open Source Neo Office for Macs appears a better bet for accountants than Office 2008 for Mac because the developers boast Neo can handle Excel VBA macros, making spreadsheets fully interchangeable on a hybrid network – and it's free. The Windows equivalent to Neo - OpenOffice - also lacks Excel VBA compatability.

The other big Apple event at MacWorld was the unveiling by CEO Steve Jobs of the MacBook Air - described as the world's thinnest laptop at 1.9 cm thick. Features include a full-size illuminated keyboard and a 13.3 inch widescreen LED monitor.

With a fast 1.86 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2Gbb of RAM and a 80Gb hard drive, even the slowest model zips along. MacBook Air comes in a standard and pro version – ranging in price from $1,799 to $3,098.

So what's the fuss over running a Mac network?

Well, the new Leopard operating system is cheaper, faster, less prone to bugs, and more stable than Vista. Macs also suffer from fewer virus attacks and hacks because the operating system is more secure. With its dominance of the marketplace, Windows offers a fatter target…

And, have you ever worked in the silence of a Mac office without all those whirring PC fans?

Reprinted from our sister site,

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