Microsoft is launching a broad 'preview' programme for the next release of its Microsoft Office suite.
Customers willing to pay $19.95 for unfinished software can sign up for the beta programme at Microsoft?s Web site (www.microsoft.com) for a large scale preview programme. (Microsoft said the $19.95 is for the costs of materials, shipping and support.)
Over 700,000 beta copies of Office 2000 beta 2 will be distributed to consumers and businesses in 43 countries.
Microsoft is also offering a Corporate Preview programme, which includes tools and information to help IT professionals prepare for the deployment of Office 2000 in their company.
Participants in the scheme will receive the new 'premium' version of Office, which includes Frontpage 2000 (Web design), Photodraw 2000 (a new combined photo editing and illustration package), Microsoft Office Small Business Tools, as well as the '2000' versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, Outlook and Publisher.
A free one-month trial version of Photodraw 2000 is now available for download from Microsoft?s Web site.
Office 2000 offers extended Web functionality, for instance by making it easier to use HTML as a format for saving documents and to save them directly to a Web server. The final release is expected to be in stores in the second quarter of 1999.
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is expected to tout Office 2000 in his keynote speech at the Comdex trade show on Sunday evening.
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