Microsoft to add new SMB apps to Office 365 Business Premium plan

Microsoft looks poised to add some new cross-platform mobile apps to its Office 365 Business Premium service, and possibly some kind of new 'personal business assistant,' too.

Microsoft looks to be set to add more new and seemingly small-business-focused applications to its Office 365 Business Premium subscription.

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There's a sign-up page for "business apps for Office" that I saw via MSPowerUser.com that touts a handful of apps, including MileIQ, Bookings, Invoice, Spend, Point, and Presence. The apps listed seem to be supplementary to Microsoft's existing Office app suite, and also seem to be mobile-first and cross-platform.

Some of the applications either already have been or are in the midst of being added to the Office 365 Business Premium plan, such as the MileIQ mileage tracker and Bookings automatic scheduling applications. Just this week, Microsoft announced that Bookings could be integrated directly with business users' Facebook pages.) Microsoft bought Mobile Data Labs, the company behind the MileIQ app, in November 2015.

A couple of the apps listed on the page seem to be as-yet unofficially unannounced and are listed as "coming soon." Those include Spend, a expense-tracking app, and Presence, an app that will allow users to "establish yourself online simply and confidently track your web presence."

I wonder if the Spend app has anything to do with the Microsoft Garage incubator project that was known as "Phoenix." Back in 2015, Microsoft was testing an iOS version of the Phoenix expense-reporting app, but references to that app seem to be gone from the Garage page.

There's also a referrals app mentioned on the new-app page that's called Point. I wonder if this has anything to do with another Microsoft Garage incubator app that was called "Home Team." The Garage page lists Home Team as "experiment complete." The description of the app: "Home Team enables users to get and share word of mouth recommendations for service professionals (plumber, electrician, stylist, dog walker, etc.)."

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The new business apps page also references a "personal business assistant" as being a "coming soon" addition to the plan. I blogged a while back about Microsoft's Bing Concierge bot, which looked at the time to be a rival to Google's Assistant. Maybe this is somehow related to whatever this new business assistant may be.

The "Sign Up" button for all these apps takes users to a page to sign up for a free trial of Office 365 Business Premium. That service is Microsoft's most comprehensive Office 365 subscription plan for small businesses. It costs $15 per user per month if paid monthly, or $12.50 per user per month if paid annually. It includes the full set of locally-installable Office applications for up to five PCs and/or Macs per user, as well as Exchange Online, Skype for Business Online, SharePoint Online, Yammer enterprise social-networking, and 1 TB of OneDrive for Business cloud storage.

I wonder whether Microsoft is planning to announce these apps during its November 2 Office event in New York City that's expected to focus on team and collaboration Office futures on which the company is working. I've speculated that Skype Teams, Microsoft's Slack competitor, could be part of that set of announcements. I'd think general availability of Microsoft's GigJam collaboration app/service for "getting work done" might be another possible announcement for that day.

I've asked Microsoft how these apps fit into its strategy and when the "coming soon" ones will be coming. No word back yet.

Update: A spokesperson said Microsoft had "nothing to share" on any of my questions.

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