Office 365 updates begin to percolate through Microsoft's line-up

Pieces of Microsoft's promised fourth-quarter Office 365 update are beginning to manifest themselves via various Microsoft products.

There's a fourth quarter Office 365 update on tap from Microsoft, as I've blogged before. A few of the related pieces and components have started falling into place over the past week or so.

Exchange Online -- which along with SharePoint Online and Lync Online comprise the Office 365 bundle of Microsoft cloud-hosted servers that competes with Google Apps -- is getting a new Office Web Apps feature. The Exchange team blogged about the coming tweak in a new post on October 31. (Office Web Apps are the Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.)

Here's the team's description of what's on tap:

"We’re excited to announce an update to OWA in Exchange Online that now integrates the Office Web Apps into the attachment previewing experience for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files! Along with continued PDF support, this means Exchange Online users get high-fidelity previews of Office documents on the web, in exactly the same format they were created. WebReady Document Viewing is perfect for quick document previews and if you need to edit a document you can easily open the file in your desktop Office client from the Office Web App through a single click."

I've asked Microsoft officials several times if there are other Exchange Online enhancements coming this quarter, but have received no word back.

On November 1, Microsoft also made available (only in beta form, however) the promised Office 365 Integration Module (OIM) for its Small Business Server 2011 Essentials product. SBS 2011 Essentials, the product formerly codenamed "Aurora," is a hybrid cloud-on-premises server for small businesses that Microsoft made generally available back in July 2011. OIM is what makes the product a "hybrid." I've asked the Softies when they expect the final version of OIM to be available; no word back yet.

By installing OIM, SBS 2011 Essentials users can subscribe to Office 365 or configure their server to work with an existing Office 365 subscription; perform Office 365 management tasks from a dashboard and more.

Last week, Microsoft rolled out its fourth-quarter update for its Dynamics CRM offering (both the Microsoft-hosted CRM Online and the on-premises Dynamics CRM product). The Q4 Dynamics CRM Online update integrates CRM Online with Microsoft's Office 365 suite. It also adds Salesforce/Facebook-like "activity feeds" to Microsoft's CRM product, along with some other new features.

While on the topic of Microsoft and the cloud, it's also worth noting that Microsoft is one of the new members of, a new online forum consortium dedicated to fostering "a discussion around safer, more secure and sensible cloud solutions in the public sector." Other partners in the new forum, which went live on November 1, include the Chertoff Group, Civitas Group, Harris Corporation, Juniper Networks, KE&T Partners, L3 Stratis, Lockheed Martin, Peerstone Research, Ponemon Institute, SANS Institute and Smarsh.


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