Microsoft has alerted potential testers that the beta for the next version of Microsoft Office, code-named Office 11, will begin shortly. The beta will include Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, Access, FrontPage, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Scribbler, which is designed for Tablet PC devices, along with a hosted SharePoint Team Services Web site for "exploration and use" during the beta time period.

"Our goal is to have a targeted group of testers willing to actively participate and provide useful feedback to our development team," the company wrote in a beta invitation it distributed yesterday. "Please carefully consider your willingness and ability to test Office 11. Your feedback will be critical to the success of our product. Regular and consistent participation throughout the program is expected."

Microsoft has already publicly announced the Office 11 release schedule, setting mid-2003 as the target availability date, which coincides with Exchange 2003 Server's release. Office 11 will include native support for XML data formats and tighter integration with Microsoft .NET services.