Microsoft has released a preview of Office 2016 for Windows, making the sneak peak available only to subscribers of its business-grade Office 365 plans.
The preview is aimed at IT professionals and developers, not run-of-the-mill end users. Like its predecessor Office 2013, "Office 2016 Preview (for Business)" requires Windows 7 and later.
Office 2016 Preview includes Access, Excel, Lync, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher and Word.
"This early build doesn't yet contain all the features we're planning to ship in the final product," cautioned Kirk Koenigsbauer, who leads the Office 365 Client Apps and Services team, in a blog post. "However, through the course of the preview, customers should expect to see new features delivered through monthly updates." Microsoft has said it will ship Office 2016 for Windows in the second half of 2015.
Monday's preview followed the release of a broader-based preview of Office 2016 for Mac two weeks ago. Because the latter is open to anyone, not only users of Office 365 in the workplace, it looks increasingly likely that Office 2016 for OS X will debut in final form before the Windows edition.
On its website, Microsoft spelled out the requirements for running the preview, which include an Office 365 subscription such as Business Premium or Enterprise E3, and seemingly, administrative rights. "If you are a business end user, please confirm with your IT admin before you install Office 2016 Preview," the site warned.
However, Computerworld was able to install and run Office 2016 Preview using non-admin credentials for an Office 365 enterprise subscription.
Although the focus is clearly on Office 365 subscribers, Microsoft has promised that it will also offer perpetual-licensed versions, those that are paid for once, then used as long as desired. Office 365 subscribers will be able to upgrade to Office 2016 as part of their plans; Microsoft has not yet disclosed prices for non-subscription versions.
Unlike the customer-friendly preview of Office 2016 for the Mac, today's Windows flavor will replace existing Office applications like Excel, Outlook and Word. Testers who change their minds and want the older versions back must reinstall them.
Office 2016 will be the standard desktop suite, and is separate from (and different than) Office for Windows 10, the touch-enabled versions of Excel, Word and PowerPoint targeting tablets and touchscreen-equipped PCs. Microsoft released a preview of Office for Windows 10 more than a month ago.
As is Microsoft's practice for beta software, Office 2016 Preview support will be self-serve, primarily through a peer-to-peer discussion forum.
Those interested in testing the Office 2016 preview must register on Microsoft Connect.