Microsoft Offers Peek At Early Version Of Next Office Release

Microsoft has taken the first step toward sharing an early version of Office 15, the next release of the company's flagship Office applications and services.

Monday Microsoft launched the Technical Preview Program for Office 15, marking the first time the company is sharing the in-development software with a limited number of customers under non-disclosure agreements.

"Office 15" is the code name for the product, which presumably will be named either Office 2012 or Office 2013, depending on when the final product is released.

The product's public beta, which is made available to a wider audience than the technical preview, will be available "later this summer," said PJ Hough, corporate vice president of development, Microsoft Office Division, in a blog post.

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Hough did not reveal more about the timetable for Office 15 beyond the public beta. He also did not disclose details about new features and functionality.

"At this early point in our development cycle, I'm not able to share too much about Office 15, but I can tell you Office 15 is the most ambitious undertaking yet for the Office Division," Hough said in the blog. "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. Quite simply, Office 15 will help people work, collaborate, and communicate smarter and faster than ever before."

Customers who participate in Microsoft's Technical Preview Programs test early builds of Microsoft products and provide feedback that's incorporated into subsequent releases. Hough said the Technical Preview Program is already full.

Microsoft is expected to release Windows 8, the next version of its operating system for desktop PCs and tablet devices, sometime before the end of this year.