Microsoft last week unveiled the next iteration of its popular productivity suite as a public beta. According to the Redmond-based software giant, this will be the final such "open-to-all" release prior to Office 2010 going Release To Manufacture (RTM). As such, Microsoft explained that it wants to get the beta into the hands of a very large group.
It appears to me that this beta of Office 2010 is, well, more than just a method to improve the application. With mounting pressure from other free or cloud-based productivity suites, it's as if Microsoft is using Office 2010 Beta to get as many people exposed to its Office environment as possible. Indeed, Takeshi Numoto, the corporate vice president for Office, admitted as much when he told Computerworld in an interview last Wednesday about the dramatically increased scale of testing. He said:
Instead of tens of thousands who tried the Technical Preview, now we're talking about millions and millions of people.
Thankfully, Microsoft has learned its lessons from the Windows 7 RC debacle and won't be imposing any limits on the number of times that Office 2010 Beta can be downloaded. However, Numoto wasn't sure when the download link will eventually be taken down, so it makes sense to download a copy first if you're interested in giving it a spin.
So what are the specifications required to run 2010? In a nutshell, if your system can run Office 2007, then Office 2010 should purr along just fine. Just for the sake of completeness, I've included additional details below:
Microsoft has set the minimum requirements for the beta as a 500MHz or faster processor; 256MB or more of memory; 3GB of free hard drive space; and Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3), Windows Vista SP1, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2008 SP2, or Windows 7.
Are there any downsides to installing Office 2010 Beta? Well, if you are attempting to use Microsoft Outlook 2007 (or any versions of Outlook for that matter), then you will only be able to use the latest installed version. Actual experience varies depending on installation options, but switching back to an older Office suite seems to require some kind on of reinstallation at the minimum.
Personally, the potential for possible disruption to my work is staying my hand for now. The appeal is strong, though, given that users will be able to run Office 2010 Beta until October 31, 2010. Based on anecdotal evidence from other testers, the release is robust and does not believe like the beta build that it is touted to be.
And you didn't hear it from me, but if reports on its stability are accurate, then Office 2007 Beta might represent a perfectly legal way for some SMBs to delay the purchase of some Office licenses until next year. The free download is available from the official Microsoft site here.