Microsoft has moved to stress its good relationship with Apple in a damage-control move driven by rumours that the Cupertino-based company may release an office productivity suite of its own, dubbed iWork.

Microsoft's Mac Business Unit group product manager Scott Erickson told CNet "Our relationship with Apple remains productive and strong".

Erickson also stressed his unit's commitment to ensuring Microsoft's Office applications remain compatible across platforms, a move he called "critical".

Rumourmonger paradise

A deluge of rumours are emerging in the prelude to next week's Macworld Expo, with a plethora of posited products and product upgrades reputedly in the frame.

Among the cavalcade of mooted Mac products, one long-standing rumour has finally reappeared: that of an Apple-branded productivity suite.

While news of iLife 05 seems likely, the new product - iWork - is also reputed to launch next week. This purported product is said to include a new version of Keynote along with a word processor.

Apple's existing word processor, AppleWorks, has seen scant attention in recent years.

The trademark case

Many sites claim the release of iWork to be provable by the decision of small software company, IGG Software, to change the name of its product from iWork to iBiz, having applied to trademark the name in March 2003.

Some current Apple-product rumours in circulation at present include: a flash-based iPod, a higher-capacity iPod mini; a 'headless' iMac at a bargain price; an audio breakout box for GarageBand; and iLife 05.

Any truth in this plethora of possibility will be revealed by Apple CEO Steve Jobs during his keynote speech at Macworld Expo next week, beginning at 9am (5pm UK time) Tuesday January 11.