01:34 PM

Microsoft Readies Office 12 Beta

Microsoft expects to get it out in two to three weeks, according to an e-mail sent by Microsoft to potential beta testers.

Microsoft will put the first beta of Office 12 in testers hands within two to three weeks, according to e-mails received by prospective users.

"You will be provided with access to the Office '12' Beta software, documentation, and support within the next 2-3 weeks," the e-mail read. "But we wanted to let you know now that you have been accepted, so that you can make any preparations that you need."

Although an earlier version of Office 12 leaked to the Internet more than a week ago, this will be the first official release of the suite, which is scheduled to ship in late 2006.

It's also the first time that Microsoft will use download as the primary method of distributing an Office preview. In the past, the Redmond, Wash.-based developer has issued CDs to testers.

"The software will be made available to you primarily as a download from a secure website location," Microsoft's e-mail said. "If you are unable to download the software for any reason, we will provide the ability for you to request physical media shipped to you." Office 12 Beta 1's system requirements include Windows XP and 256MB of memory for a client, Windows Server 2003 and 1GB of RAM for a server. "But as with any Technical Beta, they do not necessarily represent final Office '12' hardware requirements," the e-mail continued.

The Windows enthusiast Web site ActiveWin has posted a copy of the e-mail.

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