Try typing it into the search box in the toolbar in Word/Excel/PowerPoint. The document fields of the Office apps aren't "standard" OS controls (whereas the document body of TextEdit is), so they're not susceptible to the bug. But the search field, which appears to be a standard system search field, is.
My mom is the very definition of computer illiterate -- my sister and I have been trying to teach her to use a computer (first a PC, later a Mac) since the mid '90s, and she simply cannot grasp the basic concepts. She can sort of work a keyboard (it looks like a typewriter), but mice constantly thwart her. Add to that the fact that she has trouble discerning "windows" on a desktop as being discrete items, and you can see why we finally gave up trying to teach her once we had both gone away to college.
About a year ago I managed to acquire an unneeded iPad, and made the decision to gift it to my mother. For a woman who has literally never used a computer without assistance, never mind owned one, she took to it immediately. She's now able to browse the internet, send and receive emails, and even navigate the app store when she wants additional functionality. And after a full year, I haven't received a single "oh no, I think I broke it" call.
That being said, my mother is not your mother (AFAIK), so your mileage may vary. If you think her needs can be satisfied by an iPad (web browsing, shopping, email, media consumption, and no more than light content editing), I highly recommend it. There's just no beating its ease of use. An external bluetooth keyboard would be nice for longer writing sessions, however.
Additionally, any site that renders text will look better. Firefox 17 doesn't render text at the higher DPI supported by new MacBook Pros, causing every site to look blurrier than it would in Chrome or Safari.
For the record, the same is true in Windows: change the scaling factor of the OS, and Firefox simply scales the same low-res text. It's unclear whether the change I mentioned in nightlies will fix Windows as well; I simply haven't tried it yet.
I'm not sure that you understand the point he was making. Yes, the web browser is the one that ultimately displays the image, but you can't magically make a small image look clear when stretched to be larger. The only way to fix that problem is for the web designer to serve higher resolution images. Or better yet, avoid static PNGs and JPGs whenever possible, especially for text.
ActiveSync is available for Outlook 2010 and older as a plugin (called, in traditional MS fashion, the Microsoft Office Outlook Hotmail Connector), and I believe will be built into Outlook 2013 when it comes out. No clue about Mac Outlook though (AFAIK it's not currently supported).
My sister opened a computer store in Hawaii. She sells C shells down by the seashore.