According to a report by ZDNN's Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft has released Office 10 Beta 2 to a small group of technical beta testers, with a wider release expected soon. Beta 2 comes quickly on the heels of an interim build, also sent to a limited number of testers, that focused mostly on upgrades to Outlook 10, the suite's email and personal information management (PIM) application. The company's first beta release, which arrived in August, revealed a number of new features, including task panes for commonly used functionality, voice recognition, and a Whistler-like user interface. Office 10 Beta 1 was first previewed on the SuperSite for Windows.

"Beta 2 will be far more comprehensive \[than Beta 1\] and \[will\] have taken into account tester suggestions and bug fixes made to date," Office product manager Lisa Gurry told ZDNN. Gurry maintains that the next version of Office--which has yet to be officially named--is still on track to ship late next spring.

In many ways, Office 10 is a minor upgrade to Office 2000, offering visual and functional simplifications, a handful of .NET-type services, and a new licensing mode. This new mode, called new Subscription mode, allows the user to "subscribe" to Office, rather than pay for it outright. This subscription can then be renewed over time, extending the amount of time that the suite can be used. Voice control features were barely functional in Beta 1, and its unclear how this feature will evolve by the final release. But Microsoft has added voice dictation and command functionality to Office 10, along with training routines to help users get set up. Office 10 will also reportedly be more reliable than previous versions