Microsoft expanding Office Web Apps test program

Microsoft is allowing more testers to join the Office Web Apps Technical Preview program just a few weeks before the company is set to release a public beta of Office 2010.

Microsoft is allowing more testers to join the Office Web Apps Technical Preview program just a few weeks before the company is set to release a public beta of Office 2010.

Office Web Apps are the Web-ified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that Microsoft plans to deliver alongside the client-based version of Office 2010 by mid-2010.

According to a post from earlier this week on the Office Web Apps team blog:

"(W)e are opening up the Technical Preview and inviting more people to try out the Office Web Apps.

"For a limited time, you can sign-up for a Technical Preview account here (if you are already a part of the technical preview, this link will generate an error): http://skydrive.live.com/acceptpreview.aspx/.documents?aobrp=browse.

"The features in this expanded Technical Preview are the same as the initial preview; however, during the preview (and beyond) you can expect to see new functionality added over time. Thanks for helping us make Office Web Apps even better!

Nick Simons Program Manager, Office Web Apps"

Microsoft made available to selected testers a test build of Office Web Apps in mid-September. The test build was quite rough and didn't include all of the functionality that will be in the final release (or even the public beta, which is slated for November). The test build is of the free, consumer-focused version of Office Web Apps. Microsoft also is readying two paid variants of the suite: One that will be run by companies on premises and one that will be hosted by Microsoft.

Microsoft officials have said they plan to add functionality to Office Web Apps so that it will work on certain mobile phones -- starting with the public beta. But they won’t say how this is happening or for which devices/browsers. Currently, the Office Web Apps test build works (and is being supported by Microsoft) on Windows, Mac OS and Linux machines running Internet Explorer 7.0 or higher; Firefox 3.5 or higher or Safari 4 for the Mac.

In related news, Microsoft officials told Office 2010 testers that the company is planning to close down the Technical Preview of the client-based suite in a few weeks to pave the way for the public beta (which I wouldn't be surprised to arrive right around the time of the Professional Developers Conference in mid-November).

From a note Microsoft sent to the current Office 2010 Technical Preview testers -- which one tester shared with me --  this past week:

"The Beta release of Office 2010 marks the end of the Technical Preview program you currently belong to. We will release the Beta on public download sites, where you can download and install a newer build of Office 2010 client software. At that time, you will also get your first look at the exciting new features we have added to server products such as SharePoint."