Office 2003 beta 2 refresh due soon

Microsoft is on track to release its "refresh" of Office 2003 beta 2 to testers before the end of the month, a company spokesman said Friday.

Announced in April, the refresh is meant to deal with bugs that testers found in what Microsoft has called its largest beta test for Office ever. With the first set of bugs squashed, Office 2003 should be more stable when it comes out later this year, comparable to a product with the first service pack installed, Microsoft has said.

Release of the final Office 2003 product code was pushed back to the third quarter because of the exceptional refresh of the second beta.

"We are still on track to deliver (the refresh) later this month," a Microsoft spokesman said. However, if not all issues are dealt with on time, the beta 2 refresh could be pushed into the third quarter, he added. "Our biggest priority is not the date, but releasing a great product."

The refresh will be delivered online, not on CDs. The size of the files is unclear. "I have not heard final word on whether it will be a complete new download of the code, or whether it will be offered as a patch," the spokesman said.

A version of Office 2003 was leaked earlier this month. Rumor sites were buzzing on whether this was the beta 2 refresh. Microsoft said no: this was a "dogfood" release for testing purposes at Microsoft internally.

Office 2003 beta 2 was announced in early March. About 600,000 copies of the software have been distributed and Microsoft has said it received double the amount of feedback it normally gets on an Office beta.

No major issues that would require a full new beta were discovered, but Office 2003 beta 2 has allowed the Office development team to gather feedback about some "minor issues that can impact customer satisfaction," Microsoft said in April. The vendor has declined to detail what improvements are being made or what issues the beta testers found.

Microsoft released the first beta version of Office 2003 in October last year to a few thousand testers, many within Microsoft. A beta refresh is a rarity; a second beta is typically followed by a version of the software that is almost ready to be commercially released.

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Joris Evers

IDG News Service
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