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Contradicting its statements earlier this week, Microsoft
now says it will offer at least one public beta of Office 2010, though the
software giant did not disclose a firm date. A Microsoft spokesperson was
quoted as saying that its assertion to the contrary gave "the wrong
impression."

"Although we are not disclosing a date for the public beta, there
definitely will be one," the spokesperson says. The spokesperson says that
the Office 2010 development cycle follows the pattern of previous iterations,
with both technical previews and a public beta.

"This development cycle for Office is no different than it was in years
past; technical preview is usually invite-only, but still goes out to hundreds
of thousands of people, and there is a public beta cycle where millions can
download and try Office," the spokesperson says.

It seems the confusion occurred when a different spokesperson claimed earlier
that Microsoft did not plan on offering a public beta as it did with Office
2007, instead mentioning only a closed technical preview that would take place
starting in the third quarter of 2009.

There’s still no firm timetable for Office 2010’s public beta, and Microsoft
also has not specified the number of Office 2010 betas Microsoft will produce
or what it will be called.

For Office 2007, Microsoft delivered two public betas; the first in March 2006
and the second—called “Beta 2 Technical Refresh”—in September 2006.

 
While the betas were in progress, Microsoft charged users $1.50 to download a
preview version of the productivity suite and try it out in their Web browsers.
Microsoft said in July 2006 that it was overwhelmed by the positive responses
and quick adoption, and was forced to “implement a cost-recovery measure” for
users who wanted to try out the suite.

Microsoft remains undecided about whether it will implement a "pay-to-play"
requirement for users who want to try out Office 2010 in beta, the spokesperson
says.

"We are still working out the delivery options and will share additional
details later this year," according to the spokesperson.