Microsoft delivers an overdue progress report on its Office 365 upgrade push

Microsoft officials have finally provided a progress report on the company's migration of its Office 365 users to the latest feature set.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

When Microsoft launched the latest update to its Office 365 suite of hosted apps in October 2012, the company decided to move brand-new customers to the newest feature set first. Existing Office 365 users were told they'd be upgraded over the coming months.


Many existing users have been frustrated by having no visibility as to when Microsoft planned to move them to the latest Office 365 bits -- the cloud complements of the Exchange 2013, SharePoint 2013 and Lync 2013 on-premises products. Some users received word they were about to be notified, only to have that process halted or rescinded with no explanation as to why.  Microsoft officials repeatedly declined to provide any information about its rollout path and progress over the ensuing months. 

On July 5, Microsoft finally provided an update on its Office 365 rollout progress via a post to the Office 365 Technical Blog.

Microsoft officials said late last year that some Office 365 enterprise users were getting the updated bits starting in the fall of 2012. Last we heard (around February of this year), Microsoft officials said existing Office 365 customers would continue to receive the updated versions of Lync Online, Exchange Online and SharePoint Online "throughout the year" through November 2013. Office 365 users in the U.S. were set to be upgraded first.

Late last week, Microsoft officials said "over three quarters of our customers have either been upgraded to the new experience, or have heard from us that they will be upgraded this month."

Those who haven't heard -- I know you're out there, as I hear from you regularly -- the updated word is you will be moved to the latest Office 365 bits "in the next few months."

Microsoft's guidance for those tired of waiting: "For those of you who want the new functionality as soon as possible, you can experience the new Office Web Apps and Office 365 ProPlus client technology in your pre-upgrade environment," according to the July 5 blog post.

Microsoft officials reiterated that once customers are scheduled to get the upgraded bits, Microsoft will give the Office 365 administrators a four-week heads-up, so that they can implement recommended pre-upgrade steps, if needed. Microsoft will then provide an exact upgrade date.

Users can opt to run up-to-three-week pilots of the Exchange and Lync upgrade experience with up to 100 users to head off any possible problems before allowing the full-on Office 365 update. (Those in the pilot cannot be rolled back to the old experience, Microsoft officials note.)

Users also can opt to postpone their upgrades once they get the first upgrade notification mail. Postponements are allowed only once and those who choose this option will not be allowed to select a new, preferred upgrade date. Instead, Microsoft will contact admins from four to six weeks after they postpone with a new upgrade date. Here's a brief, updated frequently asked questions (FAQ) list about the upgrade process.

Microsoft officials said once Office 365 users are moved to the latest bits, they'll have the "foundation" for Microsoft to deliver more frequent, regular updates.

"Moving forward,, you will see Office 365 updates as opposed to upgrades," the blog post noted. In Microsoft's Office parlance: "upgrades" are new versions of an existing product or service; "updates" are collections of new features designed to be added to an existing product or service.

Any readers of this blog had any problems with their Office 365 updates (or lack thereof)? Or was it smooth sailing once the update process finally kicked in?

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