Microsoft Corp. is moving closer to the release of the first beta for Office 11, the next version of its Office XP productivity suite.
Sources told eWEEK on Wednesday that the Redmond, Wash., software firm this week notified those testers who have been accepted into the Office 11 Individual Evaluation Program for the upcoming Office 11 beta.
The testers were told that they would "be hearing more about the beta soon" and that the Microsoft Office team was "very excited about this next version of Office and think you will be also," sources said.
A Microsoft spokesman on Wednesday would only confirm that the beta would be released later in the fall.
But, as first reported by eWEEK in June, Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president for Office, confirmed the beta would be released this year.
He also said it would feature far greater use of XML and Web services for reporting, analyzing, importing and exporting information—particularly in Outlook and Excel.
Last month Microsoft also released the second service pack for Office XP, combining previously released and new updates into a single, integrated package.
That standard service pack is a collection of all the bug fixes that Microsoft has released and has been working on since it issued the first service pack last December.
Microsoft this week also released the next version of its all-in-one, low-cost consumer productivity package, Works Suite 2003.
The announcement of the new suite comes as several PC makers—including Hewlett-Packard Co., the worlds largest PC manufacturer, and Dell Computer Corp., the second-largest—are choosing alternatives to Microsoft Works to cut costs.
Dell and HP have each expanded their relationships with Canadian software developer Corel Corp. in recent weeks to offer that companys word processing package, WordPerfect 10, and spreadsheet application, Quattro Pro 10, with some of their computer lines starting this month.
Earlier this year, Sony Corp. agreed to ship WordPerfect on a range of its PCs, from budget to high-end machines.
Works Suite 2003, which Microsoft is selling on its Web site for $109 before a $15 rebate, includes the expanded productivity templates of Microsoft Works 7.0, word processing ability of Microsoft Word 2002, interactive reference resources of Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Standard 2003, financial management resources of Microsoft Money 2003 Standard, photo editing and digital imaging capabilities of Microsoft Picture It Photo 7.0 and mapping and directory resources of Microsoft Streets & Trips 2002.