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Microsoft debuts 'streaming' Office 2010 beta

Microsoft launched the beta of Office Home and Business 2010 over the weekend and is delivering the preview using its new “streaming” download technology.

The beta was the second that Microsoft made available to the general public, and followed the enterprise-grade Office Professional Plus 2010 test edition that it unveiled last week.

Microsoft's move came just three days after it sent invitations to a small group of people asking them to test Home and Business.

The preview gives the general public a chance to try one of the three editions Microsoft will sell at retail, and includes Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Microsoft has not yet set prices for Office 2010, or slated a ship date more specific than sometime during the first half of 2010.

Home and Business is the first beta of Office 2010 that Microsoft is delivering via its Click-To-Run system, which “streams” pieces of the suite as users begin a download, letting them start working with the suite in minutes. While users work with the trial, the remainder of the code is downloaded in the background. The technology also places Home and Business in a virtualized environment, separating it from the rest of Windows by running its applications from a virtual “Q:” drive.

Although Click-To-Run lets users run the beta on a PC without disturbing existing installations of Office — with the exception of Outlook, since only one copy of the e-mail client can run on a given machine — it also presents some problems, Microsoft has acknowledged.

According to a Nov. 6 entry on the Office engineering team's blog, users may find that some Office add-ons won't work when running software delivered by Click-To-Run. “In some cases, add-ins might have trouble locating the Click-to-Run Office products on the machine, or they might have issues communicating with Office products when they are running in the virtual environment,” the team admitted.

Click-To-Run products like Home and Office also ditch Microsoft's usual patching process, and instead update automatically and without any user approval. “Click-to-Run users also get updated automatically over time, with no need to download or install patches,” added the Office team in its blog post. “The product seamlessly updates itself in the background.”

Home and Business can be downloaded in English, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish editions from Microsoft's Web site.

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