Microsoft late yesterday released the first test version of Office 12, making the Beta 1 code available to about 10,000 pre-approved testers. The final version of the product is due out some time in the second half of next year, no doubt timed to coincide with the release of Vista, the next version of Microsoft's Windows operating system. One might easily speculate that this new version of Office will be designed to take advantage of features only available with Vista.

Chris Capossela, a Microsoft vice president, said in a statement: "The next version of Office is the most significant release in more than 10 years. Now, after many years of research and development, we're eager to put the software to the test and solicit technical feedback from select customers and partners."
Office 12 boasts a new user interface, but the company has yet to confirm a comprehensive list of all new features in the suite. Details on pricing also remain to be seen.