Microsoft Office Updated on Android

If are an Android user listen up.

Microsoft earlier today released new versions of its Office creation tools for Android smartphones.

Today’s releases include three of the key elements of Office – namely, Word,PowerPoint and Excel – and for light users, they are free to use. If you want to unlock all the features though, you will of course need an Office 365 subscription.

Each of the apps has been specifically designed with smartphones in mind. For example, you will find the familiar Word and PowerPoint options, but the controls have been specifically placed to enable easy one-hand use.

Although these are free for light users (no editing ability) these apps really sign if you have a Microsoft 365 account,

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The 3 Eras of Modern Computing – Embracing the Cloud

We finally made it. After a year of planning today our organization is in the cloud with our data. Researching cloud services led us to Microsoft 365. Today our migration is complete!  This had me thinking about computers, networks, human beings and the applications we all use to get things done.  For some, the “cloud” is some whimsical word play filled with mystery and curiosity.  To me, “the cloud” is simply the next, logical step in how we use and interact with digital data.

I will try to demonstrate this natural progression in three eras. Hopefully once you see this some of the mystery about the “cloud” will be diminished.

Era #1. DOS – Modern Computing with the “Disc Operating System”

MS-DOS dominated the computer market between 1981 and 1995. That’s a long time. DOS was Microsoft’s first operating system on the first wave of offering user friendly and affordable computers. However, to work with DOS the computer user had to run commands from the command (c:/) prompt. For example, if you wanted to use a word processor like “WordStar” you would need to go to the DOS prompt and type the command, c:/ws.exe (oh, those were the days). Each program was executed like this and you could only use one program at a time.  Although this was clumsy and complex it is all we knew at the time and most of us grew quite comfortable in the world of MS-DOS.

We lived in this DOS world for more then a decade until a GUI (graphic user interface) was released.

Era #2. The Graphical User Interface (GUI)

On November 20, 1985 Microsoft debuted their new, dramatically different operating system, Microsoft Windows. This new operating system replaced the command line prompt with a graphical interface. Microsoft’s new interface for the first time brought the ability for “non techs” to move around the PC easily and work with countless applications.

You would think that this would have been an easy transition for many. From DOS to Windows. No more command lines!

Guess what? For many PC users this was anything but easy. Even many non-tech types struggled with this change. It actually took until about 1989-1990 before the majority of PC users were starting to accept Windows and move away from MS-DOS. Why this delay in adoption?  Well, to me, it seems that even when something is old and complex and lacking state of the art features, if we know how to get around it, warts and all, that, at least in the short run it is easier then learning something new, even if it is our best interest.

Era #3. Cloud Services – Not So New

The concept of cloud computing dates back to the 1950’s. Yes it really does. I would not mislead you. Back in the 1950’s large mainframe computers were popular and seen as the future of computing. These large main frame computers soon became available in universities and corporations. To make these costly mainframe computers more efficient and cost effective the ability to allow multiple users became very important. This was the original concept of “cloud computing” and what is really cool is that this “new” technology, is not so new, and was in fact around long before I was born.

The Modern Cloud

Although this idea dates back to the 1950’s the modern concept of “cloud computers” that we understand today remained out of the public sector for decades. Then Microsoft dominated the market with DOS and Windows from the early 1980’s with files stored locally on PC’s and then servers. This remained so until about 2006 when Amazon.com (yes the online retailer) launched Amazon Web Services in order to provide website and client-side applications to customers who did not want to host these services on premises. By 2011 and 2012 Amazon Web Services was maturing into a widely accepted option for organizations who did not want to manage and host their applications and websites.

Not to be left out of this new wave of computer services both Google (2008) and Microsoft (2010), among countless others, entered the world of cloud services. With these two tech-giants engaged cloud services began to grow in popularity.

Here, at our organization we first entered cloud services in 2011 when our email was migrated from an on-premises Exchange (mail) server to what was known at the time as “Microsoft Online Services”.

This first step into the cloud with email services, I have found is the best way to make an eventual full transition into cloud services. It provides time for the organization to get antiquated with the new service and how interacting with off-site information works.

Back to Microsoft for a second. Having missed the boat with smartphones there was no way Microsoft could afford to fail in the new world of cloud services. Since their cloud services launch in 2010 it has been full sped ahead with improving and enhancing their cloud services. Office 365 was publicly launched in 2011 which now offers the ability to manage data offsite, in the Microsoft’s cloud, which is known as Microsoft Azure.

Today, June 10 our organization completed our 2 week migration of our data to Microsoft’s Cloud.

Why Go the Cloud? What is the Benefit?

These are two questions I am asked often. I will try to answer these and other questions in respect to what the cloud offers to both the organization and employee.


Benefits of Cloud Computing – With the Right Cloud Partner

  • Mobility –  Or what I call, the “Magic of the Cloud”. This is the ability to work from anywhere, on any device, on any document. In addition the magic is that when you open a document you can start from where you stopped working on it.
  • Collaboration – The ability to easily share documents with other employees and even stakeholders outside of your organization. The ability to work & share documents today is critical to the success of projects and collaborative efforts.
  • Security – Very often, cloud providers can offer security levels that organizations simply to dot have the ability to provide on premises. For example, with Microsoft specifically, an organization’s data is stored in several data centers located in the continental United States. These data centers are “Department of Defense” certified, are located in “unmarked” buildings and guard by security personnel.
  • Up to Date Software – Cloud services bring the ability for the organization to always be using, and have access to, the latest versions of their applications. This fosters innovation by providing the best in technology to the staff.
  • Controlled Cost – Cloud services are considered “software as a service” (SaaS) which means the cost is incurred as a subscription. The annual cost can be projected and budgeted, allowing the organization to have a good handle on current and upcoming financial situations. Licensing rules and cost, especially with Microsoft have grown increasingly complex and expensive over the years. Microsoft’s cloud service for the most part ends this confusion and it’s unknown future cost.

There you go, a fast rundown regarding what I call the 3 Eras of Modern Computing. I believe cloud services are here to stay so we might as well embrace it and make it the best it can be.

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Windows in the Cloud?

windowscloudIs the future really in the cloud? Even for operating systems? Microsoft has dived deep into this arena very successfully with Office 365 and now it looks like our favorite operating system is heading to the sky as well.

Microsoft late last month filed to trademark “Windows 365” with the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office (USTPO), documents showed.

The trademark, filed with the USTPO on Jan. 29, resembles Microsoft’s already existing mark of “Office 365” the subscription based services for both consumers and enterprise. This trademark filing by is sparking speculation that Microsoft is planning on a subscription plan for its operating system.
Microsoft filed for the Office 365 trademark in 2011 and was granted the mark a year later. The company officially launched the Office subscription program in June 2011 but significantly expanded it in January 2013.
Microsoft has recently pitched the phrase “Windows as a service” to describe their upcoming Windows 10 which is scheduled to arrive this fall.
“With Windows 10, we think of Windows as a service,” said Terry Myerson, the chief of the firm’s operating system group, in a presentation one week before the company filed for the Windows 365 trademark. “Windows 10 is so much more than the latest version of Windows. Windows 10 changes the rules of the game and redefines the relationship between us and our customers.”
It is possible that Windows 365 could offer extended support to customers whose devices have aged out of whatever definition Microsoft eventually applies, or represent one way users running an expected Windows 10 Pro could slow the anticipated monthly updates for consumers to a more manageable three-times annually for businesses.
However when this does happen (and it will) it will be a fundamental change in the way we think about operating systems. Also, as a result of this major change do not expect this to actually occur for a year or two.

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Our Continuing Microsoft Cloud Journey

Cloud3Here at the Borough of West Chester we are set to continue our expanded journey into Microsoft’s cloud.

Phase 1 (2011-2014)

We began this journey back in 2011 when our on-premises Exchange (email) server was retired and our email moved to what Microsoft called at the time, “Microsoft Online Services”.

Then in 2013 Microsoft upgraded and enhanced their online email service, now re-branded Microsoft 365. In 2013 our organization went through this upgrade process. In addition in 2013 Microsoft upgraded their Office product from Office 2010 to Office 2013. Along the way there have been other enhancements such as improved filtering, archiving, compliance management and mobility services. Also we were introduced to other services such as SharePoint, OneDrive and Lync. The adoption to these other services have been slower but that is about to change.

Phase 2 (2015)

Starting very soon the Borough of West Chester’s Microsoft Cloud adoption will expand. All file services will be migrated into SharePoint and OneDrive while Lync (soon to be re-branded to Skype for Business) will become an important and organization wide communications tool.

Another change that will positively impact all staff is the move to E3 licencing for everyone. Up until this Phase only management and other specialized personnel enjoyed this full functionality of Microsoft’s services. However because of the organizational shift to SharePoint all staff will move to the E3 licensing model. It is with E3 that users can access all that Microsoft has to offer in the cloud and this will allow us to move our data into SharePoint (and OneDrive).

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One of the most exciting things about all of this is that our journey with Microsoft’s Cloud Services will not stop here. Microsoft has recently announced that there are even more enhancements around the corner although the time frame on some of these are unknown.

Phase 3 (2016 and Beyond)

Here are some of the continued planned enhancements on our horizon once our deployment is completed this year.

From Search to Delve. While enterprise search is a useful capability, SharePoint will go beyond search with a capability called Delve. This is “a new way to discover relevant information and connections from data across Office 365, as well as provide predictive search capabilities,” and it builds off of the machine learning capabilities of a technology called Office Graph, which draws connections between people and the data they need.

NextGen portals. SharePoint’s portal functionality may have put this solution on the map but a new generation portal technology, aptly called NextGen Portals, will provide a library of new “ready-to-go” portals that save time, money and effort. “NextGen Portals, by design, are intelligent, collaborative, mobile and ready to go”.

OneDrive. SharePoint’s OneDrive for Business offering is still based on the Groove technology Microsoft acquired a decade ago, but it too is evolving alongside the consumer OneDrive offering document and file storage and management. Of course, the business offering will also provide the security, reliability and manageability required by IT, and the service will be available to users of popular mobile platforms and of course Windows and Mac.

Team Sites. SharePoint’s Sites capability is evolving “within Office 365,” White says, which means “beyond SharePoint. That is, in Office 365, Sites can include SharePoint content as before, but also “email, instant messaging, tasks, contacts, personal files, social feeds and more” from elsewhere—Exchange Online, Lync Online—in Office 365.

We are already building our Team SItes!

We are already building our Team SItes!

 

Business intelligence. Another feature that appears to be exclusive to Office 365, Power BI is a cloud-based business analytics service that “provides an integrated analytical platform in the cloud that connects to your important information from where it lives via the Excel interface users know.”

Social. Microsoft moved quite quickly to add social networking functionality to SharePoint years ago and then of course the firm bought Yammer in 2012, dramatically expanding those capabilities. Now, Microsoft is further expanding its social capabilities by making Yammer functionality available across Office 365 and with Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.com as well.

Management capabilities. Microsoft is also promising a unified management experience for enterprises that opt for hybrid deployments. And it is further promising a “unified experience for compliance, management and IT controls that span across Office 365—in addition to SharePoint, across Exchange, Lync and all of the new experiences.”

Extensibility. SharePoint’s success can be tied directly to its extensibility capabilities, and while initial cloud-based SharePoint versions had lacked some important on-premises extensibility functionality, those days are gone. Today, Microsoft is evolving the app model it launched with SharePoint 2013 and is extending it in the cloud with a new set of Office 365 APIs that target existing and new (Office Graph, Office 365 Video and so on) features.

Continued Improvement Leads to Good Change

As you can see one of the most exciting benefits of our continued Microsoft Cloud adoption is the continued improvement which is planned. This is a perfect fit for us at the Borough of West Chester as it relates perfectly to our newly titled Kaizen, Technology and Communications Committee”.

Kaizen is Japanese for “good change” which of course many of these cloud services offer. Some of these changes are more relevant to our particular organization than others but the important factor here is that we will be in a position to access and utilize what will best help us get the job done and serve our community.

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Microsoft’s New Clutter Helper

office365_0Microsoft today launched Clutter, an email filtering option for Office 365 business customers.

The tool, which Microsoft debuted earlier this year in Outlook Web App (OWA), the browser-based mail client for Exchange, is rolling to Office 365 cbusines customers starting today.

Similar to an anti-spam filter, Clutter places messages into a segregated folder where they can be ignored or reviewed later. Microsoft defines “clutter” as “lower priority messages” that, while not strictly spam, are either unimportant or useless.

“Clutter removes distractions so you can focus on what matters most,” claimed Brian Shiers, a senior product marketing manager, and Kumar Venkateswar, a senior program manager, in a blog post Tuesday. Shiers and Venkateswar work on the Exchange team.

In practice, Clutter works similarly to a spam filter. Users can drag messages they deem suitable to a same-named folder to “train” the tool to spot simular email in the future. “It gets smarter over time, learning from your prior actions with similar messages, and assessing things like the type of content and even how you are addressed in the message,” said Shiers and Venkateswar.

Once enabled in OWA, Clutter appears in other clients linked to that Exchange account, including Outlook on both Windows and Mac desktops and notebooks as well as the iPhone and Android OWA apps.

Microsoft powered Clutter with Office Graph, the machine learning engine that also drives Delve, an Office 365 application that attempts to automatically connect users to the most relevant colleagues, files and data.

Employees whose workplaces have adopted Office 365 subscription plans will be able to call on Clutter. Unfortunately consumers who subscribe to Office 365 Home or Personal will not. I hope this is made available shortly on the consumer side as well.

Turning On Clutter from the settings in Office 365's OWA is available starting today for Business users.

Turning On Clutter from the settings in Office 365’s OWA is available starting today for Business users.

 

I enabled Clutter this afternoon through OWA’s Options menu and a new folder labeled “Clutter” appeared moments later in the desktop Outlook client tied to the account.

I have no immediate evidence that Clutter is doing its job but I will surely try to use this to see if it helps further clean up my ever growing email account.

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Lync Morphs into Skype

I have been expecting this move from Microsoft for the past year or so. Thinking about this logically I agree with the move but somehow emotionally I am a little unnerved by it.

Microsoft Lync has been Microsoft’s communication app for enterprise users for years now but when the next version hits in early 2015, it will be re-branded as Skype for Business, and will include new client and server experiences and of course an update to Office 365.

Look for this merging of Lync and Skype to occur in early 2015.

Look for this merging of Lync and Skype to occur in early 2015.

 

This change can be tracked all the way back first to May of 2011 when for 8.5 billion dollars Microsoft purchased Skype then in February of 2013 when Microsoft revealed that it had moved Lync into the Skype organization, not Office.

The upcoming Lync update will be a major change. There will be new versions of both the desktop and mobile versions. The product will be re-branded to Skype for Business much in the same way as OneDrive for Business.

The new Skype for Business will reportedly be compatible with previous Lync versions as well as Skype and will continue the federation work that Microsoft began building over the past year and a half. The search capabilities will take advantage of Bing technology so that you can very quickly find people in the Skype user directory as well as your own corporate Lync directory.

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Office 365 Has a Hiccup

Apparently Microsoft’s Office 365 was not working for thousands of businesses across the United States and Outlook was down for many people and organizations today. Confirmation even arrived in the form of a tweet on the official Office 365 Twitter account.

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Email service is so embedded into our every lives now that it impacts things we first do not relate to “email”. For me it was “scanning to email” not working at our office today. We have 6 individual devices that can provide this service and one by one each was reported “down” to me in the morning. As I checked services like, the network, Websense, firewalls and the devices themselves it was only after eliminating each one did I turn to email. After all I was receiving email but when I looked into it a little closer email was sluggish and some messages were not arriving to their destination.

I called Microsoft and was greeted with a message that basically said, “we know email service has been degraded and our engineers have no further information, please stand-by and if you want a text message update please provide your phone number”. I of course provided my phone number and let everyone now that it was “not our problem”.

The problem with cloud services is just that. It is a service and when things go wrong you simply need to kick back, advise the affected users and… wait. This is a very difficult for technology staffers as they want to dig in and figure the problem out.

Anyway as the late afternoon arrived I could see Microsoft was getting their act together and email started flowing more normally and even the majority of “scan to email” services had been restored. Then at about 6:15pm EST I received the following text message as promised.

The Office 365 Service issue has been resolved. Refer to the Admin Center for further service status.  Thank you for your patience.

The issue today, which has actually been quite rare at least in my experience empowers those who want to remain in control regarding maintaining their on premises servers to deflect the future of cloud computing with fear. Now do not get me wrong, I do not like loosing control but in respect to technology either  “on premises” or in “the cloud” there will always be service related issues. Once this is accepted cost control as well as quality control should guide any organization regarding where to turn for their services.

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OneDrive Just Got Better

OneDrive-Logo-290x290My favorite cloud storage service just got better.

The online cloud storage wars are really gearing up, and Microsoft is the latest to improve their service.

Microsoft announced today that all users of its OneDrive cloud storage service will have access to 15GB of storage for free which is a significant increase from the previous limit of 7GB.

The 15GB limit brings OneDrive up to par with Google, which also offers 15GB of free storage to users of its Google Drive cloud storage service.

However, Microsoft is not stopping with OneDrive as they are also taking things a step further by also increasing the storage space available to Office 365 subscribers. Instead of the previous 20GB storage limit with a subscription, users will now be given access to a whopping 1TB of storage space.

By comparison, the 1TB Google Drive option costs $9.99/month for storage alone. When compared to Office 365 Home which is also $9.99/month but of course you are getting Office 365 in addition to the 1TB of storage. Office 365 is looking better all of the time.

What is really happening here is that cloud storage cost is becoming more and more affordable and software service providers are beginning to rely on inexpensive cloud storage cost to attract users to their other services, like Office 365.

You can check OneDrive @ www.onedrive.com.

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Microsoft’s a Hit on the iPad

It seems that a couple of years went buy with rumors on and off suggesting that Microsoft was going to released their prized software, Office on the iPad. Well rumors changes to fact last month as Microsoft Office made it debut on an iPad near you.

top-free-ipad-apps-microsoft-office-1

Microsoft is a hit in the iPad App Store. Who would have thought it?

Once finally released on the iPad almost universal positive reviews followed. The apps are excellent, fully touch optimized, and designed from the ground up to run on an iPad. To get full access the apps require you to have Office 365 to create or edit documents. Pricing on 365 Home has been dropped to about $6.99 month which has proven another winner for Microsoft.

The apps have proven a App Store hit, immediately rocketing to the top of the free charts, and racking up a whopping 12 million downloads by early April. Earlier this week, Microsoft’s Julia White told the crowd at the TechEd conference in Houston that the apps have been downloaded a further 15 million times, for a grand total of 27 million — in just 46 days.

Microsoft has even gone as far as admitting they should have done this long ago.

The apps are must haves for iPad owners with an Office 365 subscription (and they work very well as document viewers if you don’t have a subscription).

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Office for iPAD Has Arrived

It’s official! Microsoft has indeed launched a version of its Office suite of productivity apps for Apple’s iPad. This was officially announced by Microsoft at an event in San Francisco earlier today.

word-for-ipad

The app suite, which comprises Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The apps are more full-featured than their counterparts on iPhone, with extensive editing tools. However and here is the catch. You will need to be an Office 365 subscriber to use all of them. Non-subscribers can still view and present documents, but they will not be able to create documents.

The Office for iPad apps will look familiar to Office users, complete with tables, Microsoft fonts and the dreaded Ribbon, which has pop-up menus that appear when you tap an icon. The iPad version includes some unique features as well including a custom numeric keypad and table recommendations in Excel. It also has a built-in connection to OneDrive. The iPad apps also support real-time collaboration within documents, which Microsoft earlier rolled out.

I found that you need to install Word, Excel and PowerPoint individually but that’s OK. No need of wasting space on your iPad if you only need one or two of these apps. Because of this you will need to search Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint in the App Store. You do receive an option after downloading one of the Apps, like Word to install the other applications afterward.

Of course the idea here for Microsoft is that they will get more subscribers to their Office 365 cloud service. Office 365 for Home is $99/year and you can learn more here.

I will write a full review of the new app soon.

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