Office 2008 is the first application from Microsoft that is released as a Universal binary meaning people don't have to worry about waiting to convert to all Intel Macs. It will work on G4s, G5s and Intel CPUs. Another big deal about this release is the official support of OpenXML as a document format. Support for OpenXML will allow people to finally interface with their Windows counterparts using Office 2007.
*taken with my 2MP phone and panoramic stitch done by Windows Live Photogallery*
The first thing people will notice is a revamped UI. The fundamental design focus of the UI was to improve productivity in Office but also to make it more like modern Mac applications. Key design decisions were made so that the UI looks good in both Leopard and Tiger.
A key theme throughout the suite is the "get out of the way" concept. This important because a key criticism of the previous version of Office and many old products by Microsoft was that the user had to fight the UI. The exact word used was, "heavy." The old interface would force the user to jump through hoops to get the job done. No more.
Teamed with the toolbar, a big emphasis has been placed on contextual menus similar to the Ribbon in Office 2007 on Windows. The 'formatting palette' and 'elements' ribbon are intelligent in the sense that it reveals new functionality as the user does different things in the document. For example, let us say the user is dropping in a photo in the document. The moment the user drops the photo in the document and selects it for manipulation, Office 2008 shows new functions and options to the user.
A key strength of OS X is the rich integration with the iLife suite. Almost every Apple user exclusively uses these lifestyle applications for their music, photo and video management. Office 2008 now integrates and exposes this integration right in the application with a simple click.
In my travels, I've found that people hate to use the help files on both OS X and Windows. Microsoft has charged the way to recreate help files so they are visual, engaging and useful. Almost every help article in the help files have a picture of a UI or a step by step guide. How much impact this will have in uptake of help file usage, who knows...people tend to be lazy; nonetheless, this is a welcome improvement that carries over from Office 2007.
...more to come.