Microsoft’s reaction to the Apple-Next synthesis is seen as crucial to its chances of success – not only because Windows is the immovable object Apple must meet with irresistable force with any new object-oriented OS, but also because Redmond is still the largest Apple software developer. A hint at Microsoft’s feelings about Steve Jobs semi-return to his roots may be gleaned by the announcement that MSFT has created a new Macintosh product unit, with a substantial 100 members. The move is demurely hailed by Microsoft as a reaffirmation of commitment to the Macintosh platform. The unit is part of the company’s desktop applications division, and is the first time in that arm’s history that it has had an entire product unit focused directly on the Mac. The team is tasked with ongoing design and development of the Apple version of Microsoft Office, a new version of which has just been released, containing Word 6.0.1, Excel 5.0 and PowerPoint 4.0. However, given that whatever happens to Apple there will remain an awful lot of Macs out there as a remainder market, indicating there is still money to be made in the Mac market, and the move smacks more of internal rationalization than selfless altruism for a brother computer company, Apple CEO Gil Amelio probably won’t be taking a vacation as a result.