Microsoft has released a first beta of its Office 12 productivity suite to a selected group of 10,000 customers and partners. The final version of the application is expected in the second half of 2006.
The suite's main new feature is a user interface that Microsoft chairman Bill Gates unveiled last September at the Professional Developer Conference in Los Angeles.
The interface is designed to change with the current task being performed, which Microsoft expects will better inform users of the available features.
Internal Microsoft research had shown that the features most requested by users were already available in the software but were difficult to find.
Office 12 will also offer new business intelligence tools to help employees find and analyse information.
A second beta of the application will be made available to a wider group of testers in Spring 2006. The vendor is inviting interested parties to sign up online.
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