Office System Beta 2 Officially Unleashed

Microsoft on Monday officially launched the long-awaited second beta of Office 2003, which will be marketed as part of the newly dubbed "Office System." 500,000 copies of beta 2 will ship worldwide to partners and testers, as well as customers who order beta kits.

Office System Beta 2 consists of Microsoft Office 2003, FrontPage 2003, InfoPath 2003, OneNote 2003, and SharePoint Portal Server 2.0. Microsoft Visio 2003 and Project are also part of the Office System umbrella, but will ship separately this summer. The beta 2 kits will include Windows Server 2003 RC2, Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 and Exchange Server 2003 Beta 2 as well.

"Today's work force is geographically dispersed, information-hungry and constantly striving to be more effective and efficient," Microsoft's corporate vice president of the Information Worker Product Marketing Group, Joe Eschbach, said of Monday's release. "The applications in the Microsoft Office System are central to addressing these problems, and by offering them all together, we are giving customers the opportunity to experience firsthand how deploying the Microsoft Office System can improve communication and collaboration across enterprises - small and large."

Office 2003 beta testers are expected to receive their kits by Wednesday. BetaPlace has been updated to reflect the release, with a new survey asking testers for opinions on the product's appearance.

MSDN subscribers will be provided beta 2 downloads once again starting March 11, after Microsoft mistakenly posted and removed the beta 2 release last month.

Non-testers can order Office System Beta 2 kits for $19.95 USD to cover shipping and handling for the fifteen included discs. The beta software can be installed on up to five PCs and will expire on November 30, 2003.

SharePoint Products and Technologies 2.0 Beta 2, which includes Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server, is available for download free of charge. OneNote 2003 Beta 2 can also be ordered individually for $7.95 USD.

Office System products will ship in final form in mid-2003. Microsoft has yet to specify pricing or launch dates.

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