The next version of Microsoft Office has reached a new development milestone, allowing a handful of privileged individuals to sample the pre-release software. The technical preview is currently limited to a "select group of customers under non-disclosure agreements" -- in other words, folks who can keep their traps shut about new features while providing Microsoft with valuable feedback. As such, you shouldn't expect a full rundown on the revamped suite until later this year, though some leaks are possible.

Penned by PJ Hough, CVP of Development, Microsoft's announcement also lacks substantive details, saying only that Office 15 "is the most ambitious undertaking yet for the Office Division."

The post also notes that this will mark the first simultaneous update for Microsoft's cloud services, servers as well as 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."

One way or another, you can expect more information about Office 15 (presumably launching as "Office 2013") as we approach the public beta's launch this summer.

Considering the emphasis on cross-platform synchronicity and mobile-friendly interfaces, we wouldn't be surprised to see some form of Metro-like UI in the next Office. We also assume that the latest productivity suite will launch alongside Windows 8, which is expected to enter public beta in February and launch in the fourth quarter of 2012.