Microsoft gears up for ‘technical preview’ beta of Office 2010

As APC tipped last week Microsoft has confirmed that the next version of its super suite will be known as Office 2010 dropping the Office 14 cypher by which it’s been known for the past two years.

The suite will touch down sometime in the first half of 2010 although a ‘technical preview’ beta edition will be released “in the third quarter of 2009” promises Chris Capossela senior vice president of Microsoft’s Information Worker Product Management Group.

The preview will include full access to the browser-based Office Web Apps which are essentially slimmed-down versions of Word Excel PowerPoint and OneNote.

While the technical preview will be more restricted than a full-on public beta such as Windows 7 recently enjoyed a public beta may follow in  early 2010 as part of the lead-up to the suite’s launch.

Office 2010 will be accompanied by other products in what Microsoft is tagging its ‘2010 wave’. These will include  Exchange 2010 which goes into a public beta today and will be released by December; plus Project 2010 Visio 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010 all of which are slated to join Office 2010 in a likely mid-year launch.

Exchange 2010 follows the ‘software plus services’ mantra laid down by Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie and has already been rolled out to education customers using Microsoft’s Office Outlook Live@edu program at some 2000 educational institutions.

New features include the ability to thread emails by ‘conversation’ rather than subject matter – a mode popularised by Google’s Gmail – plus a ‘mute’ switch to remove yourself from an irrelevant thread by hiding emails in that thread. Exchange’s browser-based Outlook Web Access client can now  be used on Firefox and Safari.