Microsoft posted the second beta of Office 2003 to its Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) website yesterday (19 February), only to pull it a few hours later.
"A copy of the second beta was inadvertently posted yesterday. It was subsequently pulled because it is not ready for customers," a Microsoft spokeswoman in Europe said. "We expect the beta 2 to ship in March."
Microsoft would not specify how many MSDN subscribers downloaded the beta, claiming only that it was "a very low number".
One of those who got a sneak preview of the software was Steven Bink, the owner of an IT services company in Amsterdam and a Microsoft beta tester. Bink was able to download only part of the package; he offers screenshots of FrontPage 2003, InfoPath and OneNote 2003 on his website. (http://winxp.bink.nu/)
FrontPage is Microsoft's Web authoring tool. OneNote and InfoPath are two new additions to Office. OneNote is designed for taking notes and, besides text, can handle and integrate rich media, including digital ink, audio, HTML, and graphics. InfoPath helps users pull together data in back-end systems using XML (Extensible Markup Language) and work with that data in a form-like document.
"When I heard the beta was available, I immediately started downloading it," said Bink. "Apparently it was not meant to be offered online yet. It was unusual that it appeared on MSDN first, before being shipped to the official beta testers."
The second Office 2003 beta also includes Sharepoint Portal Server version 2.0 and 2003 versions of Publisher, Outlook with Business Contact Manager and Windows Sharepoint Services 2003, according to a screenshot of Microsoft's MSDN page on Bink's Web site.
Microsoft released the first beta version of Office 2003 last October to a few thousand testers, many within Microsoft. The second beta will be widely available, possibly to hundreds of thousands of testers. The final product should be out mid-year, Microsoft has said.
Most of the applications in the latest version of Office, the successor to Office XP, will look and act much as they do now. But there are some big changes, with enhanced collaborative tools and support for XML being the most important ones.
Microsoft has also confirmed Office 2003 as the name for the successor to Office XP, dropping the Office 11 codename. The name is in line with the nomenclature for other new Microsoft products. Earlier this year, Microsoft changed the Windows .net Server product name to Windows Server 2003, with the launch of the server platform scheduled for 24 April.