Not a lot has been said about the next version of the worlds most popular Office Suite, but there are rumours circling. Server is a new environment Microsoft wants to carry the Office moniker into. Sites such as Microsoft Watch have mentioned the possibility of an Excel Server and InfoPath Server, the XML Form based solution released last year with the new Office System.
When can users expect the beta, that’s the big question? I suspect you will probably see it appearing either May or June 2005. But a recent story also on Microsoft Watch has determined that the beta could come as late as August or mid September 2005. Paul Thurrott, Windows enthusiast has also mentioned his take on the possible release date for Office 12 is May 2006, I kind of agree since the product does not have any dependencies on Windows Longhorn. He also mentioned that there would be 3 betas for the product, but the other things he has said so far is on the bleeding edge of FUD.
Office 12 Beta 1 – May or June 2005
Office 2006 Beta 2 – January 2006
Office 2006 Technical Refresh (so called Beta 3) – April 2006
Office 2006 World Wide availability – June 2006
Paul first said that users should expect the beta for Office 12 May of 2005, but information turning up from Microsoft partners have disclosed that Office 12 beta could possibly be September 2005 as mentioned before. So, obviously the guy does not know what he is talking about.
The product was said to be developed only to run on Windows Longhorn, but was changed to meet customer demand because of the long drawn out schedule of Windows Longhorn. Most of this is decided by License agreement customers who Microsoft dearly wants to keep happy and the shareholders of course. That 3 betas Paul mentioned, he said the first one would be released September and second beta December, talk about nonsensical. We all know that Microsoft betas especially Office, individual betas usually are 6 months long. If the first one is September and the second December, that would be 3-4 months only, not realistic to me at all. Which leaves me to believe it’s too short.
Check here to see my take on the possible release dates for other Microsoft betas.
Microsoft has been mum, mainly because Office 2003 was released last October and they want more users to upgrade before they mention anything about a new version. I believe Microsoft will be specifically targeting Office 2000 users and 97 users who have held on strong even since these products have dropped out of Microsoft product support. The sense of, its doing all I need and inertia are strong competitors to newer versions of the product. And the 90% of features not being used babble and competitors such as Open Office are also another problem to worry about.
My 2 cents to MS is to make that task pane in Office more useful, the product needs a dedicated formatting palette to start exposing some of the great hidden functionality in Office. But we can only wait and see, lets hope Microsoft has a good reason for me running Office 2003 and Office 2000 users to upgrade.
I will do a lot of articles like this focusing on Office today and Office in the future.