Office 12 moves closer to beta

Microsoft tells testers to expect the first version in the next few weeks.

Microsoft has notified potential testers that it expects to release the first beta version of Office 12 in the next few weeks.

"You will be provided with access to the Office '12' Beta software, documentation, and support within the next two to three weeks," Microsoft wrote in a letter to those accepted to take part in the technical beta testing. "But we wanted to let you know now that you have been accepted, so that you can make any preparations that you need."

The letter, sent this week, also outlined system requirements for the beta version, though Microsoft cautioned that the final requirements might vary. The software calls for a machine with Windows XP Service Pack 1 or Windows Server 2003, as well as a 512MHz processor, 256MB of memory and an 800-by-600-pixel screen or better.

Microsoft has said that the first Office 12 beta version would come this month. The final version is planned for the second half of next year.

While Microsoft is still not giving out details of price or final features, it has talked about a number of changes that are coming with Office 12. These changes include a sweeping revamp of the program's user interface, improvements in business intelligence, enhanced collaboration and improved individual productivity, it has said. In addition to the core desktop product, a variety of server-based capabilities are in the works, though Microsoft has been fuzzy on the details.

A Microsoft representative said the letters to testers are a standard part of the beta process.

"We're really excited that beta 1 will be available soon," a Microsoft representative said in an e-mailed statement. "Securing technical feedback from select customers and partners is a key goal of beta 1."

The arrival of the beta invites prompted a flurry of discussion at a variety of Microsoft enthusiast sites including Neowin.

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