On the heels of showing off a preview of Office 2001 for the Macintosh, Microsoft has begun soliciting beta testers for Office 10, the next release of the Windows version of its flagship desktop office suite.
Microsoft is telling testers the first beta of Office 10 will debut in July. In the interim, the company is fixing and patching Office 2000 and its individual components, such as Outlook 2000.
Company officials declined to provide a tentative commercial ship date for Office 10, but Microsoft has been revving the product approximately every 18 to 24 months. Office 2000 shipped in June of 1999, which would make summer of 2001 the approximate time when a new version of Office for Windows could be expected.
Microsoft is expected to make some fairly major revisions to Office with Version 10. It's unclear if Microsoft will rearchitect the base Office 10 product to be more readily hostable, or if the company will use the Office Online product, which is in pilot test, as a separate platform for developing future hosted versions of Office.
Company officials declined to comment on Office 10.
Office 10 is expected to be the first version of Microsoft's desktop suite to include speech technologies, a top priority of none other than Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates.
In addition to incorporating voice recognition of common Office application commands, Office 10 also is expected to include text-to-speech and speech-to-text functions, like dictation and email reading capabilities.
Office 10 also potentially could include a component that Microsoft demonstrated in the alpha version of Office 2001 for the Mac: an integrated email, scheduling and personal information manager (PIM) application, code-named Alpaca.
In the nearer term Well before Office 10 ships -- in fact, as early as next week -- Microsoft will post to its Web site a "set of updates" to Outlook 2000, one of Office 2000's components, aimed to stave off worms and email-attachment viruses, company officials said. The patches will apply to Outlook 2000, as well Outlook 98. In order to load the patch, Outlook 2000 users first will need to load the Office 2000 Service Release 1 update, which Microsoft made available in March.
Late last week, Microsoft patched SR1 itself. The company posted to the Office Update Web site the SR-1a fix to the SR1 update. The 1a update supercedes the SR1 release. But Microsoft is telling customers who already have installed SR1 that they don't need to move to 1a, unless they need the functionality of the Office 2000/Windows 2000 Registry Repair utility.