Microsoft Office 2000 Beta Program Seeks a Few Hundred Thousand People to Take Part in the Largest “Test Drive” in the History of Office

, November 12, 1998 — Effective Nov. 16, customers everywhere have an opportunity to begin their evaluation of the Microsoft Office 2000 desktop productivity suite. Microsoft anticipates that 700,000 people will take advantage of programs that give them a head start in evaluating the product.

The company is sticking to the strategy that customer involvement is key to the success of Office 2000. The new version of Microsoft’s desktop suite – due to be released in the first quarter of 1999 – is raising the bar on user input during all phases of product development. Microsoft is inviting customers to participate in the largest beta program in Office history, and to get an early look at how they can benefit from Office 2000.

Microsoft Office 2000 beta version 2 will be available for customer evaluation through the Office 2000 Corporate Preview Program and the Office 2000 Consumer Preview Program. Combined, these programs are expected to reach more than 700,000 existing and potential Office users. People who want to participate in the review cycle can sign up for either of the two preview programs beginning Nov. 16 at

The Corporate and Consumer Preview Programs enable businesses and consumers to test drive the pre-release version of Office 2000 Premium for a nominal fee of $19.95. Office 2000 Premium includes the Microsoft FrontPage 2000 Web site creation and management tool, the Microsoft PhotoDraw 2000 business graphics software, the Microsoft Word 2000 word processing software, the Microsoft Excel 2000 spreadsheet application, the Microsoft Outlook 2000 messaging and collaboration client, the Microsoft PowerPoint 2000 presentation graphics program, the Microsoft Access 2000 database, the Microsoft Publisher 2000 desktop publishing program, and Microsoft Small Business Tools.

The Corporate and Consumer Preview Programs are just one way that customers are getting an early look at Office 2000. The company will also showcase the pre-release Office 2000 suite at its main booth at Fall COMDEX in Las Vegas. Microsoft product managers also will demonstrate the features of Office 2000 and FrontPage 2000 to computer enthusiasts during a free, live broadcast direct from Las Vegas. The event – the latest offering in Microsoft’s popular eXtreme series – will be broadcast to 29 movie theatres across the United States.

Microsoft has also kicked off three dozen preview events across the United States as part of the Office 2000 Roadshow. The two-month roadshow includes a User Group Tour, which is making stops at user groups in 15 cities nationwide to introduce customers to the Office 2000 experience. The roadshow also includes a Team Web Tour, which consists of presentations to Web enthusiasts at over 20 sites throughout the country demonstrating how Office 2000 helps web enable workgroup productivity. Overall, Microsoft expects more than 10,000 people to attend the roadshow events. The company is distributing Office 2000 Preview Kits to all attendees so they can begin evaluating the suite right away.

Participants at the preview events are giving Office 2000 beta version 2 a warm reception. Users are impressed by its tight Web integration, its ease of use, and its ability to enhance communication and collaboration within workgroups and teams. “We are finding the Web collaboration features of Office 2000 really useful to us in publishing,” said Jim Minatel, Executive Editor at Macmillan Computing Publishing in Indianapolis, Ind. “We’ve put up a test server where our internal editors and authors can post outlines on books and comment on each others’ outlines. The people who use it love it. Office 2000 provides a sense of community that you don’t get through e-mail threads or FedExing everyone a hard copy.”

“You can’t beat this program,” said Helen Hebert, who teaches all the applications in the current version of Microsoft Office in her position as Associate Degree Program Department Head at EAI/Remington College in Cleveland, Ohio. “It’s phenomenal what the applications in Office 2000 can do, and the integration of all the programs is just terrific. PowerPoint is more animated, Access is more user-friendly, and the auto-formatting feature in Excel makes working on a spreadsheet so much easier. FrontPage 2000 makes what happens on a Web a lot more understandable to people. And with Office 2000, Publisher is built in, which exponentially changes the amount of options you have for a document.”

The company will offer five versions of Office 2000 targeted to specific types of users:

  • Office 2000 Premium

  • Office 2000 Developer

  • Office 2000 Small Business

  • Office 2000 Professional

  • Office 2000 Standard

The advanced design of Office 2000 takes into account the growing importance that customers say they assign to intranets and the public Internet. New Office 2000 tools that use Web technology to streamline information sharing and collaboration help users improve both their personal and workgroup productivity. These innovative tools also let customers use a Web browser to gather, manipulate and analyze vital business information easily and effectively. Enhanced intelligence features and tighter integration among the component applications in Office 2000 help users work more efficiently.

Microsoft designed these and other features into Office 2000 largely at the behest of customers. The company established a new level of customer participation by asking repeatedly for input on product direction and by encouraging customers to critique product details throughout the development process.

“We worked closely with users of Office 97 and listened when they said they wanted to collaborate using familiar tools,” said John Hand, product manager for Office 2000. “The workgroup web is one of the main benefits of the new product. Customers are excited about the ability to collaborate in an environment they’re comfortable with.”

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