Microsoft Corp. today announced the technical beta release of the new Office system, code-named Office “12.” The technical beta is available only to nominated customers and partners worldwide and is an important step toward general availability scheduled for the second half of 2006.
Microsoft® Office “12” is designed to help improve information workers’ productivity through a new results-oriented user interface, powerful graphics and diagramming engines, and advanced task and information management tools. In addition, through broader investments in enhancing business intelligence, collaboration and enterprise content management capabilities within Office “12,” there are new solutions to help customers control content, streamline business processes, collaborate across organizational boundaries and make more-informed decisions.
“Office ‘12’ will redefine the Office experience,” said Chris Capossela, corporate vice president of the Information Worker Product Management Group at Microsoft. “The next version of Office is the most significant release in more than 10 years and includes new technologies designed to allow information workers to drive greater business success.
Microsoft Office “12” will expand on the benefits Office 2003 delivered nearly two years ago, but will remain an integrated set of programs, servers and services designed to empower people to get better results more quickly. It will include new functionality across the core applications, such as Microsoft Office Word, Excel®, PowerPoint®, Outlook®, Access, InfoPath®, OneNote®, Publisher, Project, Visio® and Groove Virtual Office, as well as new server-based functionality to help amplify customers’ ability to successfully manage the creation, consumption and flow of information.
“Most significant release in more then 10 years” seems a trifle extreme, but Office 12 is important, if not necessarily for itself, then for the delivery of a Vista exploitive application. Per Ina Fried at CNET:
The company said it is offering up the Beta 1 code to about 10,000 pre-approved testers, with a broader test release slated for the spring. Microsoft is promising a final version of Office 12 for the second half of next year, around the same time as the company releases the Vista upgrade to its Windows operating system.
So far with Office 12, Microsoft has showed off a revamp of the user interface and talked about other broad areas of improvement. But the company has not released a full set of new features or said how it will price and package up the new software.
At a financial analyst meeting in July, CEO Steve Ballmer did say there would be a “premium” version of Office, but the company has not elaborated on its plans there. The company has also pledged there will be some new server-based capabilities for Office, but has not given complete details.
Update: Jensen Harris blogs the “beta launch” party and provides a list of “the top 30 articles you should read if you want to familiarize yourself with the user interface changes in Office 12.”
Update: Bink.nu has a list of exactly what downloads are available to beta testers.