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Testers get Office 2000 beta

The latest update will be available to an unprecedented 700,000 testers beginning Wednesday, Microsoft says.

Microsoft will this week launch the second beta of its latest desktop productivity suite, as expected.

Office 2000 will be available to an unprecedented 700,000 testers beginning Wednesday, said Office product manager John Duncan.

"It will also be the first time they will have Office 2000 Premium in their hands," said Duncan.

In all, Microsoft will be offering five suite options when Office 2000 ships in 1999. As previously reported, Office 2000 Premium offers corporate users and software enthusiasts a high-end suite of Web tools, desktop applications, document management software, and graphic design technology.

Office 2000 Professional is targeted specifically to corporate users and features the basic desktop applications absent any graphic design technology, while Office 2000 Small Business and Standard, as in Office 97, offers users with basic computer needs a core collection of the Office applications and software.

The announcement of the second beta for the product comes just days after the company provided a later date for general availability than had orginally been expected .

Instead of being on the shelves in the first quarter of 1999, the product will be in customers' hands the next quarter, the company said. Rather than calling it a delay, the company couched the new release time as being a "more secure estimate" than what was provided before.

The second beta of Office 2000 will be going out to two distinct user groups, thus the company will release the beta in two different programs-the Corporate Preview Program and the Consumer Preview Program.

The difference between the two will mainly be in the evaluation and installation paperwork provided with the betas. The corporate program will also include trial versions of the NT WorkStation 4.0, the company said.

Together these programs will involve customers in 43 countries. Customers in both programs will receive Office 2000 Premium Beta 2 as well as evaluation materials, support, and ongoing information on the specific needs of each group. Customers will be charged $19.95 to cover the costs of the CDs, shipping, and support.

To register for the second beta, the company said customers can go tothe Office 2000 beta Web site, which goes live on Wednesday.