Microsoft revealed this week that it won't be creating a version of Microsoft Virtual PC 2004 for Intel-based Mac computers. The software maker said that a variety of factors led to its decision to cancel development of the product.

Virtual PC would have provided Mac users with a way to run Windows and Windows applications inside virtualized PC environments. Although Microsoft has a Virtual PC product for PCs, and a server version called Microsoft Virtual Server 2005, the company ran into problems while porting the code to new Intel-based Macs.

"Developing a high-quality virtualization solution such as Virtual PC for the Intel-based Mac is similar to creating a version 1.0 release, due to how closely the product integrates with Mac hardware," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in a message released to the press. The spokesperson noted that Mac users can choose from a variety of alternatives, such as Parallels Desktop and an upcoming version of VMware Workstation. Apple Computer also provides a beta version of its Boot Camp software, which lets Mac users dual boot Windows XP and Mac OS X.

Although this week's bad news was expected, Microsoft did have one bit of good news for Mac users: It's Intel-based version of Microsoft Office for Mac OS X has come along faster than expected. Microsoft has now completely transitioned the Office code base from PowerPC to the Universal binary format, which will run on both PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs. "Tens of millions of lines of code have been 100 percent transitioned to \[Apple's developer environment\] Xcode on the road to a Universal version of Office for Mac," a Microsoft spokesperson claimed.

Unlike Virtual PC, Office has no viable competition on the Mac, and a native Intel version of Office for Mac is one of the two most eagerly awaited Universal applications (the other is Adobe Photoshop). The next version of Office for Mac is due by 2007. Microsoft also plans an updated IM client for Mac users, dubbed Microsoft Messenger for Mac 6.0.