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Microsoft Debuts Project 2010, Beta Test Soon

Microsoft today is expected to unveil key details of the next version of Project, which will roll in key improvements while strengthening its ties with other Office software.

The new edition of Project will feature the Office "ribbon" user interface, as well as a new timeline view and the ability to sync with SharePoint task lists.

"Project 2010 is the most significant release of Microsoft Project in over a decade," Seth Patton, senior director of product management and marketing for Project, told InternetNews.com.

Project 2010 will also see Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) cutting the number of editions of the software from four to three. As a result, Microsoft will offer Project Standard 2010, Project Professional 2010, and Project Server 2010 when the update is released.

General availability is scheduled for the first half of next year, Patton said.

The company also said it has begun signing up participants for the public beta test of Project 2010 which is set to begin later this year.

Details of the new release are expected to be discussed during a keynote speech by Chris Capossela, senior vice president of Microsoft's Information Worker Product Management Group, during the company's Project Conference 2009 in Phoenix.

In addition to supporting SharePoint task lists, Project 2010 also adds improved support for SharePoint Server 2010 as well as enhanced collaboration and reporting; integration with Microsoft Outlook 2007 and 2010, according to Microsoft.

Project's new timeline view provides the ability to have a sequential overview of project schedules, Additionally, Project 2010 will provide Web-based project editing.

Perhaps the most immediately visible aspect of the new version of Project, however, will be the addition of the so-called "Fluent" user interface -- otherwise known as the "ribbon" -- that debuted with Office 2007.

The ribbon's addition aims to "democratize" project management, Patton said.

"If you can use Office, you can use Project 2010," he added. "We think this will expand the use of Project."

Office 2010 marches forward

None of the Office 2010-branded products have been released yet, although Office 2010 is currently in technical preview and is set to begin beta testing later this year.

The same is true for SharePoint 2010 and Visio 2010.

Just as with Project 2010, Office 2010 is due for general availability during the first half of 2010.