I give Microsoft a lot of grief over not being transparent enough with its customers and partners about its product plans. But sometimes the Softies do the right thing.
The Office 365 team has found a way to keep administrators and customers in the loop about new features that the company is adding regularly to the Microsoft-hosted suite of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online. There's now a public Office 365 release wiki that the Softies are updating monthly with information about the new functionality in both the E (enterprise) and P (small business) Office 365 offerings.
In the pre-cloud days, Microsoft was releasing new versions of most of its major products every two, three years. That made it easy to do the big "ta-da" launches where all new features would be revealed at once. However, with cloud deliverables, Microsoft -- like other cloud players -- has needed some new way to keep folks in the loop about constantly updated services.
For a while, the Office 365 team seemed to be moving toward quarterly public disclosures, as Microsoft's official stance was that it was updating Office 365 every four months. But in reality, Microsoft has taken to rolling out new Office 365 features as soon as they're deemed ready. Since the start of this year, the Softies have made a bunch of new capabilities available to Office 365 E and P plan customers in January, February and March.
Here's a sampling of what Microsoft has added to Office 365 since the start of this year from the Office 365 wiki:
- Research In Motion BlackBerry Business Cloud Services (BBCS) for Microsoft Office 365
- Microsoft Exchange PST Capture
- Lync Client-side Recording of conversations/meetings
- Improved PDF support for SharePoint Online
- SharePoint Online improved ability to recover SharePoint site collections
- Storage quota limit increase for Customers with more than 10,500 seats
- Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) for mobile phones and higher storage limits added to Exchange Online Kiosk plan
- Office 365 Support for POP and IMAP Connections to Outlook 2003
Granted this is information about recently released updates, and not about updates that are in the works. But it's still a helpful resource for Microsoft customers, partners and us Microsoft watchers, too....
Update: Speaking of all things Office-related, there are some clues (courtesy of SharePoint expert Bjorn Furuknap) indicating that June might be the month when Microsoft launches the public beta of Office 15 client, servers and the Wave 15 Office 365 updates. Microsoft officials said earlier this year that the one public beta of all three families of Office 15 wares would be "this summer."