So Microsoft's Mac Business Unit (MBU) released Office 2008 without support for Visual Basic for Applications, commonly abbreviated VBA. VBA lets power users program Office applications to do things that Microsoft doesn't support out-of-the-box. The technology is heavily used by companies to support their unique business processes and is a standard feature in Office 2004 for Mac, as well as Office for Windows.
VBA on Windows was a little different than VBA on OS X, but developers could usually work around the differences and make a single program work well on both operating systems. This interoperability was a key enabler for Mac fans in corporate America, since it meant that they could use all the custom tools their company had developed for Windows, yet enjoy the advantages of OS X.
Microsoft announced in advance that they wouldn't be supporting VBA in Office 2008 and trotted out a long list of reasons why they simply couldn't do so. There was a loud uproar from developers, corporate America that supports OS X, and users, yet Microsoft said that some new, limited support for AppleScript functionality would have to suffice. So, developers either translated their VBA to AppleScript (in the limited instances where AppleScript could suffice), declined to upgrade to Office 2008, or cast around for alternatives. One alternative is NeoOffice, which provides file compatibility and limited support for VBA on OS X.
Now, Microsoft has announced that they will support VBA on OS X in the next release of Office for Mac. The next release should be out in 2010 or 2011, which leaves users without VBA support for 2-3 years. This brings up a number of questions:
1) Microsoft swore up-and-down that VBA on the Mac just couldn't be done. Folks went through a lot of effort to identify alternatives. Now Microsoft says it can be done after all. Why should we ever believe Microsoft in the future? They've just shot their credibility all to hell and put a huge number of supporters through considerable stress.
2) Now folks have a 2-3 year wait for VBA support again, meaning many of them will sit out of the upgrade game and skip Office 2008 entirely. In fact, a very low adoption rate is probably one of the things that pushed Microsoft to again include VBA support. Microsoft's not going to make much money on Office 2008.
3) With 2-3 years to wait, and distaste fairly strong in their mouths, users will cast around for less-expensive alternatives that actually listen to what they want. Contenders include NeoOffice (free, and with continually improving support for VBA), and Apple's iWork (if companies decide that VBA isn't critical after all).
This entire incident really highlights how insulated Microsoft has become from its customers, and thus how poor it is at responding to the market.