As of Thursday midnight, Microsoft will open the floodgates and allow the 10,000 pre-approved technical beta testers to start downloading the Office 12 Beta 1 bits. In addition to the usual suspects, the testing kit includes new server "functionality" and charting/graphics capabilities
Microsoft is calling the next version of Office "the most significant release in more than 10 years," according to a corporate statement.
Last week, Microsoft sent e-mail notices to Beta 1 testers, telling them to expect Beta 1 code some time within the next two or three weeks.
The first Office 12 beta is closed and testers are covered by non-disclosure agreements. Hence, Microsoft is providing little public information about what to expect.
Company officials said they will offer Beta 1 versions of Word 12, Excel 12, PowerPoint 12, Outlook 12, Access 12, InfoPath 12, OneNote 12, Publisher 12, Project 12, Visio 12, and Groove Virtual Office 12.
A new charting/graphics engine, plus a new Outlook 12 "To Do" bar will be part of the Beta 1 release, as well, company officials said.
Microsoft also will make available to Beta 1 testers a new version (called 3.0, by some) of SharePoint Services, as well as versions of some indeterminate number of new Office 12 servers.
A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to say which servers or how many will be made available to testers.
When asked if the Excel Server 12 and InfoPath Server 12 products, shown at various keynotes earlier this year, would be part of the Beta 1 round, the spokeswoman declined to comment, noting that packaging decisions are still not final. But she did say that testers will be able to try out new "server functionality" as part of Beta 1.