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Microsoft squirts out Office 2010 public beta

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Microsoft plans to punt five different flavours of its Office 2010 suite when it lands in the first half of next year.

Customers will be able to get their hands on Ribbon-wrapped Standard, Home and Business, Professional Plus, Professional and Home and Student editions of the software, with three of those versions hitting public beta testing status today.

In Microsoft’s previous iteration of the suite, customers were faced with eight different Office 2007 SKUs.

The company’s UK Office client manager Karen Buckley said Microsoft had "simplified" the SKU line-up.

"We’ve taken the number of SKUs down from eight to five in Office 2010… We have a new Home and Business SKU for companies. On the volume licence side we have 2010 Standard and Pro Plus, but for businesses Pro Plus is really the one we recommend.”

Office Ultimate, Enterprise and Small Business editions that were available in the 2007 version of the suite have been scrapped for the next major release of the software.

Microsoft hasn't revealed prices yet, and it's also sticking to its guns on when the finalised version of the software will be released by reiterating that Office 2010 - that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, and Office Web Apps - will rock up at some point in the first half of next year.

The firm has also been somewhat ambiguous about when testers can expect to see the web app version of Office 2010.

Microsoft's UK Office server boss Peter King told The Register that one engineering team had worked "across all delivery methods".

"If you download SharePoint on the 18 November you will see the web applications exactly as they are today in beta form."

However, he added that the Windows Live team was a little behind on delivering the goods.

"Windows Live ship cycle is slightly different so there won’t be a major update to the web applications on Windows Live at this stage due to different development schedules," he explained at a demo of the software in London last week.

Effectively that component, which will use Microsoft's SkyDrive to give users the ability to save their documents in the cloud in much the same way as they do with Google Apps, remains in a limited technical preview mode for now.

It's also only supported on Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox browsers currently. As previously reported, Microsoft has shown little love for testing its web apps on Opera and Google's Chrome.

However, the firm assured us that it was "confident" Office would work in those browsers. MS just hasn't granted Opera and Chrome the official seal of approval yet.

Those interested in the beta should be able to tinker with Home and Business 2010, Professional 2010 and Professional Plus versions of the Office software by downloading it here. And keep an eye out for our review of the Office 2010 beta too. ®

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