Five years on, Office 365 shows its strengths

With the core tools largely toughened, Microsoft is building out new capabilities in video and community sites

Five years on, Office 365 shows its strengths
Credit: flickr/Lauren Mitchell

Launched in 2011, Office 365 has now hit the five-year mark. Long gone are the dreaded days of the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) that was its predecessor. Microsoft is continuing to both improve Office 365's features and release new ones.

This week, Microsoft previewed Microsoft Stream, a new business video service. It will coexist for now with the two-year-old Office 365 Video, but Stream will ultimately replace Video.

For the most part, the two services perform similar tasks: provide on-demand video. But where it gets exciting is what Microsoft hopes to offer as Steam evolves, such as live streaming and intelligent video search (including via face detection, not merely from a transcript). Because Stream is part of Office 365 system, you'll be able to add those videos into your applications, then manage and secure them using Office 365 settings.

Microsoft also recently previewed the Office 365 Network online community. What's new here is it will be hosted on an unauthenticated platform so that posts appear in public search results, and people won't have to log in to view the content. That's a big shift from the traditional employees-only access you get from a system like Yammer or SharePoint Sites. Office 365 Network extends corporate information to the web, acting essentially as a simple content management system for a public community website.

Microsoft has also begun to offer free Skype Meetings for small businesses that aren’t Office 365 subscribers. Even if the intent is to introduce potential customers to Office 365, it's a sign of Microsoft's long-term, expanding approach to Office 365.

These follow initially experimental technologies like Delve and Sway that it is now pulling into the Office 365 mainstream.

Office 365 started with many flaws and limitations, and many still exist. But in the intervening five years, it has also made substantial progress in its Office 365 suite that finally go from promise to reality. It's no accident that much of the momentum centers around the cloud, where it's easier to get scale and where changes can be made much more quickly to the software as it is improved.

I eagerly look forward to the next five years!

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