Microsoft has agreed a formal 5-year agreement with Apple to continue to develop its Office for Mac software for both PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs.

On the back of the announcement, the company outlined several improvements to Entourage 2004 for Mac and said it plans to build converters to read the new Microsoft Office Open XML Formats.

“Microsoft has a history of successful collaboration with Apple, and this agreement underscores our commitment to the Mac platform”, said Tom Gibbons, vice president of the Consumer Productivity eXperiences Business at Microsoft. “We've had many years of success with Office for Mac, and this formal commitment confirms that we're in the Mac business for the long haul”.

Microsoft is putting the final touches on a number of Entourage 2004 enhancements scheduled for delivery in March 2006.

Customers will soon be able to sync their Entourage calendar, address book, notes and tasks with handheld devices that also work with Sync Services. Support for Spotlight, another Tiger feature will also be included.

Microsoft has also promised updates for Messenger for Mac. Version 5.1 will allow users to send files more securely to external contacts. It will also be able to determine a user's location and where to send the message if the user is logged into Microsoft Office Live Communications Server on more than one machine.

However, while the company is keen to promote its continued support of its core applications, Microsoft plans to halt further development of its Media Player for the Mac. The announcement follows news that it will be shipping Flip4Mac, a plugin that will allow QuickTime to play .wmv and .wma files, earlier this week for free to all Mac users who want it.