Microsoft's Mac Business Unit (MacBU) is halfway through building the next version of Office for the Mac.

The software is scheduled to ship in the second half of 2007, a report on APC Magazine declares.

Mary Starman, group product manager for the MacBU said: "Typically we release about 6-8 months after Windows Office, and they've announced general availability in the January timeframe, so we would be 6-8 months after that."

The productivity suite will be a Universal application, so will run natively on both Intel and PowerPC Macs.

Microsoft's Mac development team promise that they are working on a new user interface, but only within Apple's interface guidelines. The team also confessed that an early development upgrade to the user interface had to be dumped following tests.

The new versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint will use the same native XML file format as their Windows equivalents.

The development team last month completed the transition to Apple's own development environment Xcode.