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Microsoft this morning launched a technical preview of the next generation of its Office programs — releasing the products to a selected group of customers who will test them privately and provide feedback to the company under the terms of non-disclosure agreements.

The company announced the milestone this morning and promised a public beta during the summer, but absent any leaks from the technical preview, it’s looking like details on the next versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other Office programs will be scarce until then.

“At this early point in our development cycle, I’m not able to share too much about Office 15, but I can tell you Office 15 is the most ambitious undertaking yet for the Office Division,” writes PJ Hough, the corporate vice president of development in the Microsoft Office Division. “With Office 15, for the first time ever, we will simultaneously update our cloud services, servers, and mobile and PC clients for Office, Office 365, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project, and Visio. Quite simply, Office 15 will help people work, collaborate, and communicate smarter and faster than ever before.”

Even with the secrecy, the broad directions aren’t tough to predict. More mobile and cloud-based features are pretty much a given, and it would be a surprise if Office didn’t take on elements of the Metro design style that Microsoft is already using in Windows Phone and Xbox and bringing to Windows 8.

Metro-style apps in Windows 8 will use web technologies HTML5 and Javascript. At Microsoft’s annual meeting with financial analysts last fall, CEO Steve Ballmer was asked about the possibility of Office being adapted into a Metro app. Ballmer responded that “certainly you ought to expect that we are rethinking and working hard on what it would mean to do Office Metro style.”

The company is using “Office 15” in quotes, signaling that it’s the code name and won’t necessarily be the designation for the shipping product.

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