Microsoft is soliciting existing Office Live Workspace users to be part of a pool of testers for its forthcoming, free (but ad-supported) Office Starter 2010 product.
The ithinkdiff.com enthusiast site has posted a copy of the Office Starter 2010 invitation that Microsoft has sent out. Potential testers are asked to commplete a survey, which includes questions about the personal productivity applications and services they currently use. On the list are Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Apple's iWork, Microsoft Works, Open Office and Microsoft Office.
In spite of its name, Office Starter 2010 really has little resemblance to Windows 7 Starter Edition. Office Starter 2010 is a new version of Microsoft's Office suite that is expected to launch in May/June 2010. Office Starter will bundle together stripped-down versions of Word and Excel only, Microsoft officials said in October. (Stripped-down here means basic document viewing and editing only.) Starter will be ad-supported and free. Microsoft is positioning Office Starter as a replacement for the Microsoft Works trial that is often preloaded on new PCs.
Microsoft officials also said recently that Microsoft is planning to phase out Office Live Workspace, the company's existing add-on to Office that allows users to share and collaborate on documents over the Web. Office Web Apps, another of Microsoft's new Office SKUs being introduced in 2010, is the natural successor to Office Live Workspace.
Microsoft officials have said the company is planning to field a public beta of Office 2010 in November. Many are expecting that beta to be opened up next week, in conjunction with Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference (PDC). Microsoft is on tap to make available public betas of Office 2010, Office Web Apps, SharePoint Server 2010. Microsoft also may show off the Office Mobile 2010 product, a version of Office for mobile phones, next week as well.