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Office 2010 Preview in July, Beta Later

Microsoft is gearing up to release an invitation-only "technical preview" of Office 2010 (aka Office 14) this July, followed by a full-blown Office 2010 beta for general consumption sometime during the second half of 2009. According to the company, the beta will come in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions, and will run on Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista, and the upcoming Windows 7 operating system.

In addition to the preview and beta announcement, Microsoft's Reed Shaffner also added that end-users will not need to upgrade hardware that currently runs Office 2007, however many older hardware and OS configurations may require an upgrade to run server and client products. "Like Windows 7 has demonstrated, we realize that taking advantage of the hardware you already own is just as important as supporting all the new technology coming out," he said over on the Office 2010 IT Blog.

For consumers who can't wait for the beta, Microsoft has launched this website that allows eager users to sign up for the technical preview. Invited participants will have access to Word 2010, Excel 2010, Outlook 2010, PowerPoint 2010, OneNote 2010, Access 2010, InfoPath 2010, and Publisher 2010. Microsoft said that attendees of its annual TechEd event, held here in the US, will comprise the first batch of the limited Technical Preview program; additional applicants will probably be added later. At this point, it's unknown if the following beta will contain the same feature set as July's technical preview.

For now, Microsoft remains tight lipped in regards to Office 2010 pricing and technical details and the company hasn't offered any information in regards to the variants planned for its Office suite. With OpenOffice.org providing a compatible suite for free, Microsoft will need to "go all out" with this latest version of Office in order to convince end-users to dish out loads of cash.