It was a busy week. Lots happened that required contemplation and review, such as how an Office 365 security vulnerability came to light and was fixed, the solid results for cloud services in Microsoft’s FY16 Q4 numbers, the shocking news that the Microsoft Press editorial staff had been laid off, and some time spent testing the preview version of the Azure Information Protection product. All of that and I’m supposed to be on vacation. Lucky there are 24 hours in a day, which leads me to some other things that passed by that should be mentioned.
A bit more Yammer news
A new Yammer video was released on the Office Mechanics channel. Most of what was revealed in terms of new user interface features was well known to users of the 88,000 strong Yammer-based Office 365 Network as they have been rolling out there over the past few months. Nevertheless, the Yammer community will be glad to see evidence of Microsoft’s continual interest in the platform given some recent developments. They’ll also be glad to hear some details about how the long-awaited link-up between Office 365 Groups and Yammer will work. Expect more on this topic at the Microsoft Ignite conference in September.
Speaking of the “old” Office 365 Network, the fallout continued over Microsoft’s decision to move the Office 365 Network from Yammer to a Lithium-powered platform. Over 500 comments were posted about the decision, some of which were quite amusing. In essence, the major issues cited are the poor UI design (especially felt on small screens), the inability for people to know when new items have been added to groups that they follow, and the lack of a mobile app. I am particularly vexed at not being able to paste into the new forum (kind of a basic flaw for anything supporting conversations) and the circular “don’t worry, I am doing something” icon that persists on screen even after an item is posted. Microsoft says that they are working hard to fix the problems.
Figure 1: That circular icon really means that something is happening. Something is. Trust me!
It is unlikely (read, it won’t happen) that Microsoft will reverse course at this point. The old network will be decommissioned on September 1 and that will be that. What is interesting is that the level of activity has dipped on the old network and has not been replaced by equivalent action in the new. This might be due to some discomfort with the teething problems of the new network. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft develops the new network from its current unpromising start.
Elsewhere, Microsoft launched a new Bookings app, but only for Office 365 Business Premium customers. Apparently, Office 365 enterprise tenants won’t see this app, at least not in the short term. There’s probably some logic in this stance because Bookings is all about helping small businesses to establish an online presence where they can allow customers to book (as you might imagine) slots in a calendar. Think appointments with a doctor or something similar. Most enterprise companies won’t be interested in this functionality, but there are small businesses who subscribe to Office 365 enterprise who would be interested in such a capability. After being asked, Microsoft responded:
“We started rolling out Bookings to Office 365 Business Premium because it was designed with small businesses in mind. We know that there are small businesses in our Enterprise SKUs in all segments (Commercial, Government, EDU, Not-for-Profit), and we are working to bring Bookings to E3 and E5 in the coming months.”
Google Apps vs Office 365 plans
Also during the week, Tech Pro Research launched an analysis of the costs of using the different Google Apps versus Office 365 plans. Because of the difficulty of doing a comparison between two complex products, which usually requires in-depth knowledge of both, I am not always convinced of the value of these kind of analyses, but in this instance, it seems like a reasonable job was done. You might complain that some of the comparisons were a little dated, such as the reference to Lync rather than Skype for Business; an odd oversight in what purports to be a recent survey. And you might also point out that Office 365 has multiple offerings in some places like collaboration, where Yammer is probably a better representative for “group collaboration websites” than SharePoint team sites (Office 365 Groups are missing, too).
Figure 2: Comparing Google Apps and Office 365
It’s easy to poke holes in surveys like this (for instance, compliance is a strong suit of Office 365 when compared to Google Apps), but that’s not the point. Treat something like this as a framework to begin the debate about the functionality available in both suites against their cost, add your own knowledge to the mix, and the analysis becomes more interesting and valuable.
Business Insider UK asked Microsoft (presumably UK) “to send us a list of the best, little-known things you could do with the software.” The resulting list contains some things you might not know about. Then again, it contains some you probably do. Such is life.
Finally, the IT/DEV Connections session catalog is now online. The conference takes place in the ARIA Hotel in Las Vegas from Oct 10-13, and many good and independent speakers will be there to tease out the ins and outs of Office 365. The talented lineup for the Office 365 track includes Paul Robichaux, Scot Hillier, Jeff Guillet, Chris McNulty, Benjamin Naulin, Liam Cleary, Stale Hansen, Justin Harris, Ted Pattison, and J. Peter Bruzzese to mention just a few. This is the anti-Kool Aid conference. Expect solid advice and no brown smelly stuff from bovines. And yes, I’ll be there too.
Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.
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