Office 11 becomes Office 2003, second beta due soon

The next version of Microsoft Corp.'s Office, now known as Office 11, will likely be called Office 2003 from the release of the second beta version early next month, according to sources familiar with Microsoft's plans.

The naming of the productivity application suite would be in line with other Microsoft products. For example, Microsoft earlier this year changed the Windows .Net Server product name to Windows Server 2003, with launch of the server platform scheduled for April 24.

Microsoft released the first beta version of Office 11 in October last year. A second beta version will be made available internally at Microsoft next week, followed by release to testers on March 6, the sources said. The final product should be out midyear, Microsoft has said.

A Microsoft spokeswoman in the U.K. confirmed the second beta version is due soon, but declined to confirm the name change.

"The Microsoft beta 2 announcement for Office 11 is expected very shortly. At this time we have not made any announcements on the naming conventions we will apply to this release of Office," the spokeswoman said.

Irwin Hunter, product manager for Office at Microsoft in the Netherlands, said the "Office 2003 name is on the table," but has not been finalized.

Microsoft marketing staff from around the world will meet at Microsoft's Redmond, Washington, campus for training on the new Office product next week. Although the Office 2003 name has already been spotted in early builds of the new software, the company could still decide to change it.

Most of the applications in the new version of Office, the successor to Office XP, will look and act much as they currently do. Under the hood, however, there are some big changes, with enhanced collaborative tools and support for XML (Extensible Markup Language) being the most important ones.

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