Microsoft has announced that it won't open Office 2010 beta testing to the general public, but will instead limit the preview to a large group of invite-only users starting in the third quarter of 2009.
The technology preview, as Microsoft will call the beta programme, will involve "thousands of users", a company spokeswoman said. But it will be a closed group, in that Microsoft will not post a beta version of Office 2010 to its site for just anyone to download.
"At this point, there is no plan" to offer the beta to the general public, she added when asked whether Microsoft would release a preview to any and all.
Office 2010 - which had previously carried the codename 'Office 14' - will be issued in beta form to workers in Microsoft's largest corporate accounts as well as run-of-the-mill consumers, the spokeswoman said.
By omitting a general beta, Microsoft breaks with the approach it used to test Office 2007, the dramatically revamped suite it introduced to business customers in late 2006 and launched in retail January 2007. For Office 2007, Microsoft delivered two betas, one in March 2006, the second in September; in between it let users try out the suite's applications from within their browsers.
The Microsoft spokeswoman also confirmed that Microsoft will ship two separate versions of Office 2010, one suitable for 32-bit operating systems, the other offering applications written specifically for 64-bit. Office 2010 will be the first Microsoft's suite to boast a version that natively supports 64-bit.
Microsoft has said it will ship Office 2010 for Windows sometime in the first half of next year.