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7 things you may not know about Microsoft Office

Paul Rubens | March 19, 2014
This isn't your parent's Microsoft Office. Recent activity culminating with the SharePoint Conference 2014 shows that Microsoft is making its Office suite more social, more integrated with both home-grown and acquired Microsoft technologies, more analytical and more cloud-friendly.

Microsoft has a knack of choosing confusing names for its products and then changing them; its cloud-based Office Web apps, which rival Google's cloud apps, are no exception. The moniker "Web apps" was apparently too confusing for many users, says Kirk Gregersen, a senior director on Microsoft's Office team. "'Apps' is associated with native apps on mobile devices, and 'Online' better communicates what they are."

Goodbye, Word and Excel Web apps. Hello, Office Online, Word Online and Excel Online.

4. Lync-Skype Video Integration Not the End of Skype Story
Microsoft bought Skype back in May 2011 for $8.5 billion. That price seemed high at the time, but now it seems low compared to the $19 billion that Facebook is shelling out to buy the WhatsApp messaging platform, which doesn't yet include a desktop component.

The first milestone following the acquisition came when Microsoft implemented voice connectivity between Skype and Lync, its communication product, in mid-2013. (Lync is available as a standalone product or as part of Office365 enterprise packages.)

Gregerson says the company is on course to provide video integration between the two products by mid-2014. Without being drawn into details, he hints that there are more plans for Lync and Skype. "Video integration is not the last step. There are more things that we are doing."

5. New APIs Mean More Integrated Solutions, More Mobile Apps
Microsoft has released it Office 365 software development kit (SDK) for Windows 8 and Android. Its aim is to help developers build mobile productivity solutions powered by Office 365. Windows and Android developers can connect to Office 365 data and services, including files, calendars, contacts, tasks and email.

New Office 365 APIs for files, people, email, calendar and tasks bring enhancements requested by customers including self-service site provisioning and support for OneDrive for Business file actions.

At the SharePoint conference, Microsoft also demonstrated new data loss prevention capabilities for Office content, enabling organizations to manage, track and audit content.

6. Office 365 Is Microsoft's Fastest-Growing Product - Ever
Microsoft has made a big bet on cloud-based software. When it comes to Office in the cloud, the bet seems to be paying off.

According to Gregersen, Office 365 (and its forerunner, Business Productivity Online Suite) has experienced 18 consecutive quarters of triple-digit customer growth. Now, such growth isn't that hard when you come from a base of zero, in the initial stages at least, but the numbers it has racked up recently appear impressive.

Microsoft won't discuss hard numbers, but Gregersen did say that about 25 percent of Fortune 500 companies are Office 365 users, including 70 percent of manufacturers and 60 percent of financial companies. (It's important to remember, however, that these figures don't reveal how many users there are within an organization - only that at least someone in the organization uses Office 365.)


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