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Microsoft to add new geography, stocks data types to Excel

Microsoft is bringing new kinds of AI-enabled data types to Excel, starting with geography and stocks. Up next: Companies' own organizational data.

Microsoft is starting to test two new data types that it plans to add to Excel.

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Credit: Microsoft

New geography and stocks data types will be coming first to Office Insiders. Microsoft's plan is to have the Insiders test these and then start rolling the features out to Office 365 subscribers, starting with those with Commercial accounts and U.S. English, over the next few months.

To date, Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet has supported numbers and text types. But as Microsoft hooks up its applications and services to the Microsoft Knowledge Graph, these apps are getting smarter and able to handle more types of tasks.

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"We're starting to add concepts inside cells, which will allow new things to be done with spreadsheets," said Rob Howard, Director of Office 365 Ecosystem Marketing.

Microsoft's Knowledge Graph, codenamed "Satori," has evolved considerably, Howard said. It matches entities with the correct domains and is able to understand certain things about a given entity. The Knowledge Graph already powering Bing and Excel data types. It's this cloud-connected/Knowledge Graph connection that is behind Microsoft describing these new datatypes as AI-infused.

The new geography data type supports states, countries, zip codes and cities. Stocks includes ticker symbols, fund names, company names and can fetch up-to-date prices.Microsoft's strategy is to add more smart data types to Excel over time.

In the future, Microsoft is likely to add organizational entity data, such as sales and CRM data, as supported types, officials said, but wouldn't share a timeframe as to when this might be enabled.