Microsoft is readying the next -- and seemingly final public -- beta builds of its Office 2007 client and SharePoint Server 2007 server products, according to bloggers inside and outside the company.
Last week, Microsoft notified Office testers officially of its plans for the next build, known as Office 2007 Beta 2 Technical Refresh (TR). According to a note posted to the Office 2007 beta site:
"The B2TR (Beta 2 Technical Refresh) build will be releasing in the not too distant future and we're starting to outline plans for that release. Over the next weeks we'll be providing more information about what TAP (Technology Adoption Program) members can expect in the way of deployment planning, Vista interoperability and support from our product development teams for B2TR deployments."
When asked for more specifics on Beta 2 TR timing, a Microsoft spokeswoman said the build would go live sometime soon "in the months to come."
Microsoft is expected by beta testers to release a new test build of Windows Vista – dubbed "Release Candidate 1" – by the end of August. It's not clear if the Office team is working to release the Beta 2 TR around the same time.
Officials declined to discuss new features or functionality that will be part of the pending Office test builds.
But Microsoft bloggers have been sharing bits of information about what's ahead for Office 2007 and SharePoint Server 2007 as they roll toward completion.
One blogger reminded testers who have installed SharePoint Server 2007 Beta 2 that they should treat the Beta 2 TR like a patch and expect to need install it.
"Beta 2 TR will be released as a patch to beta 2. Therefore, for those 2 or 3 folks that haven't installed beta 2 because you are waiting for beta 2 TR, well guess what, you'll need to install beta 2 anyway and then apply the beta 2 TR patch," blogged Microsoft employee Steve Caravajal.
In order to install the final SharePoint 2007 bits, users will need to uninstall Beta 2 TR and obtain a modified registry key, Caravajal added.
On the client side of the Office equation, Microsoft is likely to make available some user-interface tweaks as part of the Beta 2 TR, based on hints dropped by Jensen Harris, a lead program manager on the Office user experience team.
Harris recently posted screen shots of a new, silver-themed Office 2007 user interface Harris also showed off work that the Office team has done to make working with a "collapsed" version of the new Office Ribbon interface easier and more intuitive. A previously cut user-interface feature, known as Menu Tabs, also sounds likely to be part of the next Office 2007 test build, according to another Jensen blog post.
Microsoft released Beta 2 of Office 2007 to more than two million testers, starting on May 23, 2006. The company is expected to release one or more final, private release-candidate builds of Office 2007, following the delivery of the Beta 2 TR.
The company is still aiming to release to manufacturing the final Office 2007 client and SharePoint Server 2007 server bits before the end of calendar 2006. Microsoft is planning to make the Office 2007 code available to volume licensees at that time, officials reiterated recently. Microsoft is still shooting to launch Office 2007 and Windows Vista in tandem in January 2007.
Office 2007 is running slightly behind the updated internal timetable that the Office team set for itself. In June, Microsoft officials announced that the company would not be able to get final Office 2007 into business users' hands by October, 2006, as previously promised.