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Microsoft Office 15 Begins Technical Preview


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As Microsoft readies its Office 15 suite (expected late 2012 or 2013) many wonder if the launch timeline hints to the arrival of Windows 8 tablets.

A handful of tight-lipped customers are getting their eyes on Microsoft Office 15 for the first time, as the software enters its Technical Preview phrase.

During the Technical Preview, Microsoft gets feedback from a select group of customers, who are bound to non-disclosure agreements. That allows Microsoft to test the software without revealing features or other details to the public.

A public beta for Microsoft Office 15--a codename for what will likely become Office 2012 or Office 2013--is scheduled for this summer. No word yet on a release date.

Microsoft hasn't said much about what to expect in the new version, but PJ Hough, vice president of development for Office, wrote in a blog post that it will be “the most ambitious undertaking yet for the Office Division.”

“With Office 15, for the first time ever, we will simultaneously update our cloud services, servers, and mobile and PC clients for Office, Office 365, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project, and Visio,” Hough wrote. “Quite simply, Office 15 will help people work, collaborate, and communicate smarter and faster than ever before.”

Office 15 is also expected to have some Metro-style enhancements for Windows 8 tablets, but Microsoft hasn't commented on that, nor has the company said whether Office 15 will support Windows 8 on ARM devices.

Even if Office 15 includes tablet support, timing could be an issue, as Business Insider's Matt Rosoff points out. Device makers want to launch Windows 8 tablets in the second half of 2012, but Office 15 may not be ready until very late in the year or early next year, judging by the timing of Technical Previews for earlier versions of office. ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley backs up this notion, with her unnamed sources saying that Microsoft is trying to release Office 15 by year-end.

Of course, all that speculation assumes Microsoft isn't developing a separate version of Office just for tablets, or some kind of light, Metro-style version akin to the mobile Office included with Windows Phones. Though I don't have any inside information, given the importance of Windows 8 for Microsoft as it tries to enter the tablet market, I wouldn't rule out Microsoft having a backup plan for tablet document editing.

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Office 15 enters technical preview, public beta this summer

Office 15 just hit a major milestone: it has entered the technical preview stage and been given to a select group of users; a public beta is expected to land this summer.

For fans of Microsoft’s Office products, the next major update, Office 15, has just entered technical preview; the public beta for this version of Office will land sometime this summer.

The technical preview is being shared with a “select group of customers under non-discourse agreements”. That means that yes, the technical preview is outside the walls of Microsoft, but the NDA should keep all of Office 15’s secrets secured.

This morning, we reached an important development milestone: the beginning of the "Office 15" Technical Preview Program. Office 15 is the codename for the next generation of the Microsoft Office products and services, and the Technical Preview is the first time we share our work with a select group of customers under non-disclosure agreements. These customers play a key role in our development process by testing early builds and providing feedback, which we incorporate into the final release.

The technical preview is a big step towards getting the product closer to public release. With Office being the corner stone for many businesses, any enhancements to productivity will surely be welcomed by the consumer.

Office 15 will also be a big release, according to the blog post. Microsoft states that “Office 15 is the most ambitious undertaking yet for the Office Division. With Office 15, for the first time ever, we will simultaneously update our cloud services, servers, and mobile and PC clients for Office, Office 365, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project, and Visio.”

While the last major revision brought ribbon back with the 2007 and 2010 products, there is a high probability that Microsoft could blend in some of the Metro UI in to its products.

Microsoft has been baking in Metro to nearly all of its products including the Xbox 360, Windows Phone and of course Windows 8.

While we all wait anxiously for Office 15 details to surface, you should take comfort in knowing that the product is moving along and the beta will be here in the near future.

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