Microsoft readies new Outlook.com, Outlook on the Web features

Microsoft is adding new suggested contact and automatic flight notifications to Outlook on the Web and Outlook.com starting in 2016.

Starting in January 2016, Microsoft plans to make two new features available to users of Outlook on the Web and Outlook.com.

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Suggested contacts -- designed to help users find correct contacts more quickly -- and an "events from email" feature that will add airline flights automatically to users' calendars are both on their way, Microsoft officials announced on December 18.

Events from email will start rolling out in early January 2016 to Office 365 First Release customers and those who have been migrated to the new Outlook.com preview. Microsoft officials said they expect this feature to roll out more broadly in March 2016.

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Because events from email are stored in users' calendars, they will show up automatically in all versions of Outlook (PC, Mac, iOS, Android and Windows Phone) that connect to Office 365 and/or Outlook.com mailboxes. However, this flight confirmation information will not be visible automatically to those with whom a user shares a calendar, as they are marked private by default.

The first supported confirmations will include flight confirmations from Expedia, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

The smart contact selection feature will start rolling out in mid-January for First Release Office 365 customers and then going more broadly in March, including to those with the new Outlook.com preview. Microsoft also is planning to make this feature available as part of Outlook for PCs, Outlook for iOS and Outlook for Android in the first half of 2016. Officials are "evaluating a timeline for Outlook for Mac," according to today's blog post.

All Office 365 commercial subscription customers who have access to Outlook on the Web (meaning all Business, Enterprise and EDU plans) will get both features.

Speaking of Outlook, if you're wondering what's going on with the Outlook.com/Outlook unification plan that Microsoft announced back in May, it's still not completed yet.

Microsoft officials said in May that they'd be updating Outlook.com with new features that would make it look and feel more like "real" Outlook. The plan is/was to bring Outlook and Outlook.com closer together so that users feel like there are fewer differences between these two different email products that are both called "Outlook." It's similar to what the company is doing in terms of bringing together Skype and Skype for Business (Lync), and OneDrive and OneDrive for Business.

In August, Microsoft expanded the very limited number of users who had received the new Outlook.com preview. I asked recently for a status update on the migration to the new Outlook.com and received the following statement from a spokesperson:

"As you know since May, we've been rolling out the new Outlook.com experience. We began rolling out the preview to a small number of users in May and have received positive feedback on the experience. In August, we decided to extend the rollout more broadly, so that more users get access to these features faster. This migration is still continuing. We will have more to share on this early next year."

I, myself, still don't have the new version of Outlook.com. I've heard from some who do, but not all that many....