Microsoft is to charge people $1.50 to download a beta version of Office 2007.

"In just the past two months since its launch, more than three million people have downloaded the 2007 Microsoft Office system beta 2," the company said in a statement.

"Given how dramatically the beta 2 downloads have exceeded our goals, we have made the business decision to implement a cost-recovery measure for downloading the beta."

Microsoft will begin charging users from Wednesday, it said. Though users will be charged for downloads of the actual Office 2007 beta 2 software, Microsoft will continue to offer an online test drive of Office 2007 it launched in late June, which users can access through a Web browser.

The company plans to release Office 2007 to business customers before the end of the year, and to consumers in early 2007. Both of those releases have been delayed from their originally scheduled ship dates.

The beta 2 of the software suite that is now being charged for was first released in May.