Get more done faster with Microsoft Teams

Around the world teamwork is on the rise. Research suggests employees now work on nearly double the number of teams than they did just five years ago. This means more than ever people are reliant on their peers to help get things done. But a “one size fits all” approach does not work when it comes to group collaboration—different tools appeal to different groups and address unique needs.

This is not your typical online event

Each 90-minute session starts with an online business roundtable discussing your biggest business challenges with a trained facilitator and then transitions into a live environment in the cloud. You will receive a link to connect your own device to a remote desktop loaded with our latest and greatest technology so you can experience first-hand how Microsoft tools can solve your biggest challenges.

U.S. customers: Register here.
Outside the U.S.? Register here.

Why should I attend?

During this interactive online session, you will explore:

  • How Microsoft Teams, the newest collaboration tool:
    • Keeps everyone engaged with threaded persistent chat.
    • Creates a hub for teamwork that works together with your other Office 365 apps.
    • Builds customized options for each team with channels, connectors, tabs and bots.
    • Adds your personality to your team with emojis, GIFs and stickers.
  • How to keep information secure while being productive—Make it easier to work securely and maintain compliance without inhibiting your workflow.
  • How to quickly visualize and analyze complex data—Zero in on the data and insights you need without having to involve a BI expert.
  • How to co-author and share content quickly—Access and edit documents even while others are editing and reviewing them all at the same time.
  • How to get immediate productivity gains—Most attendees leave with enough time-saving skills that time invested to attend a Customer Immersion Experience more than pays for itself in a few short days.

Office.com/setup

New to Office 365 in April

Several Office 365 updates this month can help companies of all sizes accelerate the digital transformation within their organization. We released Outlook Customer Manager, introduced Microsoft To-Do in Preview, extended Designer to PowerPoint on iPad, added support for Office 365 Groups in additional Office apps and more. Read on for the details.

Outlook Customer Manager is rolling out worldwide

Outlook Customer Manager makes it easy for small businesses to track and grow customer relationships without leaving Outlook. Today’s rollout includes several new capabilities based on feedback we received during the First Release of Outlook Customer Manager. It’s easier to manage customers and upcoming deals with automatic reminders about customer inquiries, suggested company information from Bing and integration with Microsoft Flow. You can also access Outlook Customer Manager on the go in Outlook for iOS and Outlook on the web. Read more about Outlook Customer Manager.

Availability: Outlook Customer Manager is rolling out to Office 365 Business Premium subscribers worldwide. It can be accessed in Outlook on Windows desktops, iOS and the web.

Microsoft To-Do transforms the way you manage your tasks

Last week, we introduced Microsoft To-Do in Preview, an intelligent task management app that makes it easy to plan and manage your day. To-Do helps you stay organized and prioritize your most important to-dos for each day with intelligent Suggestions. Outlook Tasks also sync so you can stay on top of all your to-dos in a single view, wherever you go, across your devices. Learn more about Microsoft To-Do.

Availability: Microsoft To-Do is now available in Preview for all customers and can be accessed on Windows 10 devices, iPhone, Android and the web.

Designer is now available in PowerPoint on iPad

Designer in PowerPoint helps you create high-quality slides in seconds. Now when you’re on the go with your iPad, you can get professional design options for slides with images and certain types of text. Get started with Designer in PowerPoint.

Designer now provides design recommendations in PowerPoint on iPad.

Availability: Designer is now available in PowerPoint on iPad, for Office 365 subscribers. Designer was already available in PowerPoint on Windows desktops, Macs, Windows tablets, Android tablets and the web, for Office 365 subscribers.

More Office apps support Office 365 Groups

We’ve extended support for Office 365 Groups to more Office apps, making it easier for you to access shared team material and work better together.

  • Groups in Word, Excel and PowerPoint—Now, you can open and save documents in your frequently used groups, without leaving the app you’re working in.

A list of frequently used groups is being shown listed in the Open tab of the File menu in Word.

Access your frequently used groups directly within Office apps.

Availability: Groups integration in Word, Excel and PowerPoint on Windows desktops is coming with this month’s Office 365 updates, for Office 365 commercial customers.
  • Groups in Outlook for Mac, iOS and Android—Now you can view your groups list, read and respond to group conversations, add group events to your calendar and more in Outlook on every platform. Read more about groups in Outlook.

You can now access groups in Outlook within Outlook for Mac, iOS and Android.

Availability: Groups integration in Outlook is rolling out in Outlook for Mac, iOS and Android, for Office 365 commercial customers. Groups integration is currently available in Outlook on Windows desktops and the web.

Skype for Windows 10 is generally available

With the launch of the Windows 10 Creators Update, Skype for Windows 10 has graduated from preview and is ready for everyday use. Skype for Windows 10 now includes exclusive features such as mini view, SMS relay for Windows Phone and Skype Translator for calls to mobile phones and landlines. It is easy to use Skype with keyboard shortcuts, conversation search and a redesigned group video calling view that brings everyone even closer together. Read more about Skype for Windows 10.

The new mini view of a Skype for Windows 10 video chat is being shown, overlaying a website being viewed.

Skype for Windows 10 is generally available with new exclusive features such as mini view and more.

Availability: Skype for Windows 10 is available for all customers as part of the Windows 10 Creators Update.

Office 365 security and compliance updates

Earlier this month, we announced several Office 365 security and compliance updates that help enterprise subscribers better protect, detect and respond to threats within their organization. Office 365 Threat Intelligence, now generally available, leverages the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph to help you stay ahead of the evolving threat landscape. Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) Safe Links is now available in Word, Excel and PowerPoint to protect users from clicking malicious links. ATP also includes new reports to help you understand your organization’s health. Advanced Data Governance, also now generally available, applies intelligence to help you retain high value data while reducing your risk profile. Lastly, a new Data Loss Protection (DLP) policy management page helps you configure and enforce sensitive data policies across your organization. Read more about these security and compliance updates.

Availability: Office 365 Threat Intelligence, Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) improvements and Advanced Data Governance are all available and included for Office 365 Enterprise E5 and Secure Productive Enterprise E5 customers. ATP Safe Links is now available in Word, Excel and PowerPoint on Windows desktops, for Office 365 Enterprise E5 customers (or Office 365 ProPlus customers with ATP).

Other Office 365 updates this month

Learn more about what’s new for Office 365 subscribers this month at: Office on Windows desktops | Office for Mac | Office Mobile for Windows | Office for iPhone and iPad | Office on Android. If you’re an Office 365 Home or Personal customer, be sure to sign up for Office Insider to be the first to use the latest and greatest in Office productivity. Commercial customers on both Current Channel and Deferred Channel can also get early access to a fully supported build through First Release. This site explains more about when you can expect to receive the features announced today.

Digital transformation in the media and entertainment industry.

The digitization of content has completely changed how media companies think about the creation, production, marketing, distribution and monetization of content. As their audiences find new ways to consume entertainment, whether it’s through tablets, smartphones, connected TVs, PCs, gaming or mixed reality devices, the competition for attention has never been greater. This evolution has disrupted traditional business models and is driving organizations across the industry to identify new ways in which they can quickly and securely produce and deliver the right content, at the right time to any device – all backed by business insights and projections which can be used to drive future decision making.

More and more organizations in the media and entertainment industry are turning to cloud providers to minister to run their compute and storage needs and are recognizing the further of malleability, security and scalability. For these organizations, having the attainment to speedily scale uphill and all along dealing out knack then needed changes the cost curve for producing content. Once the content is ready, advanced search and hurting content recommendations lessening to increased consumption. Advances in computer vision and natural language admin (NLP) will goal these changes even supplementary.

From working with NBC Sports to power the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic games livestream across devices, including Connected TVs for the first time, to delivering content storage, media encoding, rendering, advanced analytics and more, Microsoft is partnering with companies across the media and entertainment industry to help enable digital transformation. At the National Association of Broadcasters Show (NAB 2017), we are excited to announce several new partners and customers who have chosen Microsoft’s cloud to power their digital transformation:

  • Avid selects Microsoft Azure as preferred partner to power their business: Avid is a leading technology and multimedia company that specializes in audio and video; specifically, digital non-linear editing systems, management and distribution services. With this strategic partnership, Microsoft Azure will power Avid and all new joint customers’ content, globally, and we will co-develop cloud-based solutions and services for the media and entertainment industry, powered by the Avid MediaCentral Platform, the industry’s most open, tightly integrated and efficient platform designed for media. With a cloud-based offering built on Avid’s portfolio of the industry’s best and most comprehensive creative tools and media workflow solutions, the partnership will enable media organizations and creative professionals to quickly and easily leverage the efficiencies, flexibility and agility that the cloud enables.
  • Verizon Digital Media Services offers integrated Microsoft Azure Storage: We also recently announced with Verizon Digital Media Services that it will make cloud-based storage from Microsoft Azure available to all Verizon Digital Media Services Edgecast Content Delivery Network (CDN) customers. Azure Storage will now power Verizon STORE, the cloud-based origin storage offering on the Edgecast CDN, providing an even more convenient option for resilient, infinitely scalable object storage that is ideal for media and metadata.
  • Crackle, a unit of Sony Pictures Television Networks, selects Microsoft Azure as a streaming service partner: Crackle programs Hollywood movies, popular TV shows, original series and feature films for the world’s connected audience. Azure helps power the streaming network’s services and allows consumers to view content at anytime, anywhere on every connected device.
  • Availability of Skype TX for Radio; new Skype TX hardware integrations with Newtek: Earlier this month we announced the availability of Skype TX for Radio with partner Broadcast Bionics – an industry first enabling delivery of high-quality audio enabling producers to bring on guests from Skype’s network of hundreds of millions of users across the globe – a significant improvement for radio broadcasters and podcasters worldwide. Additionally, one of our innovative partners, Newtek, released the TriCaster® TC1, the first affordable end-to-end 4K IP video production system that offers multiple studio-grade Skype TX channels for adding remote video guests to live broadcast.

The next wave of digital transformation

With a diverse and growing set of ways in which audiences can consume media and entertainment, it is not only important to ease the creation of content but also ensure that data is serving up smart insights about what content resonates with audiences. In 2016, global internet advertising revenue surpassed global TV ad revenue for the first time[i]. As our world becomes more digital, advertisers, content creators and distributors will move past general demographic information and increasingly require more granular customer details for TV like they do for the internet. Over-the-top (OTT) solutions will help here but it is also important that there are end-to-end monetization strategies that go with it. At NAB some of our customers and partners are showing off how they are evolving their businesses to take advantage of intelligence to create more meaningful connections with their customers.

  • Ooyala, a Microsoft partner and leader in premium video platforms, media logistics and advertising, demonstrated how Ooyala Flex, their media logistics platform, integrates with Microsoft Cognitive Services to simplify metadata capture by extracting transcripts, detecting faces within videos, and analyzing text to detect key topics. Ooyala then uses that rich metadata to recommend relevant videos to viewers and to deliver targeted advertising.
  • UFA GmbH (UFA), one of Germany’s oldest and most distinguished entertainment brands, is a highly efficient creator of entertainment content. UFA already had this long-term vision pioneering a cloud-based production workflow. They now have brought their archive and the content distribution into Microsoft Azure – with the aid of the Microsoft partner Interlake and nexx.tv. Using Microsoft’s Cognitive Services, UFA is able to make its video content actionable and accessible in completely new ways, such as automatically translating and tagging the content, to see inside the video. The vision is to bring the entire production process into the cloud, from recording to play out.

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Office Store investments bring new opportunities to developers

With the continuing momentum of the Office Store, we are delighted to share that starting this spring we’ll begin supporting Chinese, Russian, Dutch, Brazilian (Portuguese) and Italian language apps alongside the opening of 8 additional store fronts (Russia, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Brazil). Additionally, based on partner feedback, we are excited to announce that we’ll be adding subscription pricing for apps in the Office Store allowing developers to charge a monthly recurring fee for their solutions.

These enhancements increase the opportunity for developers to promote and distribute apps globally or within the 31 individual selectable markets where the Office Store is available. Developers will have an even greater choice between free, trial, paid and subscription versions of their apps, broadening their reach to entirely new users, customers and segments. As Peter Duff, President and CEO of Adlib explains, “Partnering with Microsoft to offer Adlib PDF Publisher in the Office Store has opened us up to a completely new market segment that has traditionally been out of reach. The subscription model will allow customers to use our enterprise functionality without an upfront IT capital expenditure.”

Apps for Office and SharePoint scenarios extend across Microsoft products and interact with external data. For example, imagine your key business data appearing live right within Excel or your travel plans being booked from within Outlook and then updated real time in your calendar appointment.

In October, developers are welcome to begin updating and/or submitting subscription apps in the Seller Dashboard. And starting in November, Office Store users will be able to purchase subscription apps. Click here for instructions for how to update your app link.  For those developers who wish to submit apps, or update their apps in new markets, submissions will open in December. Office Store customers will have access to local language apps and store fronts by early spring.

The Office Store is available to all customers of the new Office and can be accessed directly within Office applications and at Office.com. Hundreds of business and productivity apps are available, created from well-known ISVs to individual developers and start-ups. You can also build your app and reach these customers. In fact, Office users have already downloaded well over 1 million apps from the Store!

Not only are we are making it easier for customers to find apps that make them more productive, we are providing an opportunity for developers who may have never developed for the Microsoft platform before – and the new development model makes it easier than ever for developers to build, run and maintain adding value to both their business and their customers.

SkyDrive introduces smart files in Windows 8.1

When we designed SkyDrive for Windows 8.1, we thought a lot about how storage needs are growing much faster than device hard drives. So we invented smart files, which allow you to have your files always with you while being unconstrained by storage capacity.

In the Windows 8.1 preview we saw consumers using SkyDrive in two distinct ways. The first group of people are very conscious of what they have saved to disk and most of their files are online-only. We found that the majority of people using smart files take up 80% less disk space than they would without smart files. The second group of people are on the other end of the spectrum: they explicitly chose to have all their files available offline, and so have their entire SkyDrive stored locally.  This showed us that users understand smart files and are tailoring the feature to their needs.

 

 

Although smart files are a fraction of their original size, they behave identically to any other file. A great example of this is how smart files show up in Bing Smart Search in Windows 8.1. This feature, which is rolling out over the coming weeks, allows you to search from the desktop for the content of Camera Roll photos that have had text extracted from them.

For example, you might have taken a photo 6 months ago of the menu of your favorite restaurant, but can’t remember where it’s buried in your Camera Roll and want to remember the dish you had. You can simply type in the restaurant name on your desktop and Bing Smart Search will search text of your Camera Roll photos and pull up the picture of the menu with the restaurant name printed on it. With the power of smart files, this will work even if your Camera Roll is marked for online-only access. The moment you open the photo, it will be instantaneously pulled from the cloud for you to view the full version.

 


People are starting to take photos not only to capture special moments, but also to keep track of everyday information, so we are really excited about this scenario and proud to unveil this valuable OCR search feature.

Just weeks away from the general availability of Windows 8.1, we’re very excited to not only continue allowing you to have your files always with you, but to make your files smarter.

Start working social with Yammer

To help our customers with their enterprise social adoption, we are continuing to drive the Social Journey forward with a series of videos, prompts, and other resources to help you understand how Yammer can help change the way you work together. Find out how to begin your interactive social journey here.

Power BI for Office 365 preview and Power BI in Excel updates

We are excited to share that today the Power BI for Office 365 preview has been updated to include natural language search through Q&A as well as our improved experiences to two Power BI add-ins in Excel, Power Map and Power Query, which provide customers with improved data 3D mapping visualizations and data search, respectively.

We’ve had our preview open for an initial wave of customers over the past month and are encouraged by the enthusiastic response we’ve received. For more details please check out the Data Platform Insider blog and Excel Blog.

To learn more and register for the preview visit www.powerbi.com. You can also download Power Map and Power Query along with sample datasets on the Power BI add-in Getting Started page. To see Power BI for Office 365 in action, check out this demonstration. Tell us what you think by posting in the comments below or tweeting us at @SQLServer #MSBI #PowerBI.

12 reasons why users prefer Outlook over Gmail at work

The best thing about my job is that it gives me the opportunity to talk to customers. It’s an honor and pleasure to hear them speak about our products and services. At times it’s humbling and at other times it leaves me with a sense of pride. I could talk to customers all day long and not be tired!

The conversation gets doubly exciting when the customer has switched from Google Apps for Business to Office 365. We see more and more customers and partners recognizing their love for Outlook. These organizations listened to their employees and decided that Office 365 was the right choice to keep their organization productive and satisfied. As I talk to these customers, there are a number of capabilities that they callout as missing in Gmail. Here are a few reasons that come up consistently with users who prefer using Outlook over Gmail.

1. Integration across email, calendar and contacts — Email is the primary mode of communication at work today. Customers tell us they look at Outlook as one place to effectively communicate at work to get things done. Whether it is to setup meetings, find more information about a contact, dial into conference calls or jump onto online meetings, Outlook is their hub. They tell us how they love the consistent experience of the inbox since it gets them going on their task without much thinking. As they start Outlook each morning, this consistent look gets them going every day with minimal to no training. Gmail on the other hand frequently tries a new experience e.g. new compose or new inbox.

2. Offline access to email —  A big topic in all our discussions is being able to work on email without worrying whether they are connected to Internet. Customers tell us when traveling on an airplane, their favorite work-related activity is to clear up their email backlog. Most of them work in Outlook during their journey. They can read and respond to email just like they would when they are at their desk connected to the Internet. As the Internet connection is re-established, the email is automatically sent. With Gmail offline, users have access to only past month’s email when there’s no Internet connection. Also, users can access their email offline on Chrome and Safari browsers only. By contrast, Outlook does not have these restrictions.

3. Organize email your way — Not all users work the same way. Some sort their folders alphabetically; others don’t. Some like to simply search for their email while others need the ability to look for their email in specific “bins”. As a result, they relate to folders in Outlook better. Users have limited ways to organize their email in Gmail. They are limited to only use labels to organize their email. Asking users to relearn their way of organizing email is simply unacceptable to them. As one user said, “it felt like trying to get work done with workarounds.”

 4. Categorize email items to stay organized — With Outlook, users have the ability to assign categories to various items (e.g. message, calendar appointment, task etc.) An item can be assigned multiple categories to classify it in more than one way. And those who need visual cues have the ability to color-code the categories. At a glance, users can see how they spend their time across different areas by looking at the color coding of the events on the calendar. Those who use categories and color coding to keep their work organized cannot imagine doing without it. These customers had to restrict themselves as they tried to use the colors to differentiate items in their inbox, tasks etc. in Google. The inability to associate colors with different items in email rendered color coding meaningless for these customers.

 5. Multiple ways to find email — Users need multiple ways to find their email. Using search to find email works mostly when users know what they’re looking for. But users insist “sometimes you just don’t know what to look for” and they have to rely on where they filed an email to go find it. The ability to sort email by date and size, to specify the timeframe, and to scope the places to look are all various ways to find the email when you don’t know how to describe your search. Outlook provides multiple ways to track down what users are looking for, whether its search, folders, categories, sort emails in inbox, search folders, etc. With Gmail, users do not have a way to sort email by size, date or sender and are stuck with just one thing – search!

 6. Flags, changing importance of email — Outlook makes it easy to flag email to grab quick attention. One customer described it as, “when I see a red exclamation marked email in my inbox, I know I have to get to it quickly.” The lack of the “red exclamation mark” in Gmail leaves users confused as to what email is more important than others. Because they cannot set the “red exclamation mark” while composing email, they are unable to get the right priority of attention to their email from their recipients. By contrast, Outlook makes it easy to not only include a “red exclamation mark” but also flag email for rapid follow-up or change the importance of an email to “low” to indicate lack of urgency. Customers tell us these seemingly little capabilities make users far more productive on daily basis than using Gmail without these.

7. Rules to minimize email clutter — Customers tell us how much they love Outlook, and yet they continue to push us to help them better manage the clutter in their inbox. We continue to make progress on that front every day. Some users use rules to move items to various folders and assign categories to stay organized. This helps them remove unwanted email and minimize the clutter in their inboxes. Gmail has filter capability, but the actions you can take after you filter these emails is limited in nature. Customers tell us it is easier to setup rules in Outlook to flag important email based on the sender.

 8. Rich contact information — It’s great to hear users describe how they’re able to find someone’s office by looking at their contact card. Contact card in Outlook provides rich information about the user. The photo in the contact card enables users to associate faces with names. “Presence” information shows the status of the user, for example, whether they’re busy, offline, etc. Users can quickly and easily start a chat conversation with the contact, schedule an appointment, make a quick phone call, or start an online conference. And unlike Gmail, the contact card in Outlook also includes each person’s job title, department and location information.

 9. Scheduling meeting rooms — Outlook lets users schedule resources like meeting rooms, projectors, etc simply by adding them as a resource to your meeting. The resource then functions just like any attendee, including the ability to auto-respond to the meeting invite as well as the ability to see the free/busy schedule. Users who want to do this easily with Gmail end up frustrated as the experience of scheduling meeting resources with Gmail is a cumbersome, multiple-step process involving primary and secondary calendars.

 10. Mail tips — How many of you have inadvertently sent an email to a long distribution list instead of the one person that you intended to? I am sure many of you can relate to this scenario, just like I have embarrassed myself! For users like me, mail tips in Outlook is a savior. As you begin composing email, a message pops up to indicate that you might be sending mail to a large distribution list. It’s a good warning sign if it wasn’t the intention of your email. This is a great example of enabling you to make the right decisions, while continuing to help you be productive.This capability pops even more when the recipient of your email is on vacation or has their automatic responses turned on. As you begin composing the email, the automatic response message for the recipient shows up within the message, thus saving you the headache of waiting for the vacation response to plan the appropriate next follow-up action. Customers who have switched from Gmail love it when the mail tip pops up in Outlook telling them the urgent message might be headed for someone who is unavailable for a few days.

11. Ignore conversations — Some conversations are worth ignoring. Often such conversations are an outcome of someone’s oversight or “who has the last say” attitude. Outlook has a very simple way to ignore such conversations. With a simple click, all existing and new emails in this conversation are moved to deleted Items folder, thus removing clutter from your inbox to help you focus on more important tasks at hand. Users also like the clean up option, where only the latest email thread with all comments is kept intact, while the rest of the emails are moved to the deleted items folder. All unique forked conversations are also kept intact to ensure all comments are still available in one place. With Gmail, users have a way to mute the conversation, but this capability is not easily discoverable and it does not work if the recipient gets added back on the To line of the email.

12. Sharing and delegating calendars — Administrative assistants who are responsible for managing multiple calendars tell us that working with Google Calendar was one of the most painful experiences for them. With Google, they claim that they had a “calendar mess” to deal with, leading some to use paper-based calendars to keep things in check! With Google Calendar, you get the option to either share all details on the calendar or just the free/busy schedule. It does not have the ability to share the free/busy with just the subject of the events. It lacks the level of control as to what details to share. After switching back from Gmail to Outlook, customers have much better control over managing calendars. For example, users can decide whether to share each person’s “free/busy” status along with the subject for the meeting. They can also choose to share full details about each meeting including the subject, attendees, the location, etc. Once the calendar is delegated, administrative assistants can easily manage the delegated calendar alongside their own calendar in a simple side-by-side view and minimize the confusion of making changes to the wrong calendar!

Having spoken to so many customers who have switched from Google Apps during the past year, I can safely conclude that not everyone used Outlook the same way. Based on their role and organization, they missed Outlook for a variety of reasons. The core of what Outlook gives them is the ability to use it in a way that makes them more productive in their job, whether it is an administrative assistant helping the leader to be more successful or an executive sending a high importance email to the team. The choice and flexibility is what they missed the most about Outlook.

Please click through this slideshow to see some of the differences for yourself:

Microsoft has the broadest set of tools for real-time communications

1. Microsoft offers both a consumer and an enterprise-grade service.

Microsoft offers both consumer-grade and enterprise-class services to our customers. With over 300 million connected users, Skype has one of the largest communities on the planet. Microsoft also offers Lync Online as part of Office 365, and it is a communication service that responds to the security, compliance, and communication needs of large organizations. Skype and Lync connect to each other — so users on Skype can call users on Lync and vice-versa.

Google offers a single consumer-grade communication service that lacks enterprise features that many businesses require. From its marketing to its feature set, Hangouts was designed with consumers in mind, not businesses. When the new Hangouts service was announced at Google I/O in May, Google Apps for Businesses wasn’t even mentioned. The focus was on how Hangouts connects you “with the people you love” — not the people with whom you do business. The scenario that exemplifies the value of Hangouts is a wedding engagement announcement, not team collaboration or better business meetings. The most discussed features in Hangouts are easy photo sharing and emoticons (“emoji”) that “make conversations more fun.” Paired with features like Google Effects, which lets you add animated pirate hats and snorkeling masks to your face during video conferences, Google’s focus is clearly not the business experience with Google Apps.

By contrast, Office 365 and Lync Online were designed from the ground up with a focus on what enterprises expect from their unified communications platform. Employees get a rich set of business-appropriate features, such as presenting directly from PowerPoint into a Lync meeting, sharing robust meeting notes in OneNote with meeting details automatically populated by Lync, sharing specific applications, whiteboarding, and choosing an optimal arrangement of meeting participants and content. Organizations benefit from the robustness of capabilities such as administration with Active Directory, archiving and compliance tools, integration with Microsoft Office, extensibility from public APIs based on industry-standard technology, and interoperability with other systems and devices (from headsets to Lync Room Systems).

2. Microsoft provides the best support and security options.

Office 365 provides 24/7 technical support and the added benefits of a 99.9% financially backed uptime guarantee for all of its services, including Lync. A customer using Lync Online and Office 365 can take advantage of a broad range of support options, starting from the basic one-by-one incident support, to comprehensive and ongoing support through Microsoft Premier Support programs. This enables customers to trust Microsoft to be there and help when something needs troubleshooting or fixing.

On the other hand, Hangouts is a feature in Google+, and Google+ is not a core service of Google Apps — it is considered an additional service. That means Hangouts is not supported under Google’s Technical Support Services Guidelines, and it is not covered by any support or service level agreement. What if you have a problem with Hangouts? You only get to check Google’s web help center or help forums. What if you have a favorite communications feature you like to use in a certain way? Google might change your experience without warning and force you to use it differently.

Beyond just Google’s planned changes, what if Hangouts has an outage? Hangouts is not on the Google Apps Status Dashboard so your organization doesn’t have visibility into the issue. And since Hangouts is not protected as part of the SLA, Google doesn’t have a financial responsibility to get you back online quickly, nor an obligation to compensate you for downtime with service credits. You just don’t know what will happen, whether on purpose or unintentional, with the Hangouts service.

3. Microsoft lets you talk to the broadest set of users on the planet.

Sometimes in the course of doing business, your enterprise’s partners, vendors, and customers don’t have the same infrastructure as you do. Office 365 and Lync allow you to connect with Lync users inside and outside of your company whether they have Lync installed or not. You can also include anybody with an HTML5 browser in the rich Lync meeting experience (including group video and content sharing). And as mentioned earlier, any Lync user can connect with the over 300 million connected Skype users as well. Imagine the possibilities: collaborating on a joint marketing plan with a partner. Conducting status calls with a small business vendor you’re working with. Explaining your medical diagnosis to a patient and discussing their case.  Or simply getting in touch with your family while you’re on a business trip. Office 365 and Lync let you collaborate naturally, seamlessly across borders, with more options.

If you use Google Apps for Business, Hangouts only lets you collaborate with other users who also have Hangouts. And you only get the premium Hangouts web experience if you use the Chrome Browser.

4. Microsoft has a more comprehensive feature set.

While Hangouts On Air allows public audiences to watch a Hangout via YouTube, only up to 15 people can actually participate in the video chat itself and have the full Hangouts collaborative experience. Everybody else is just a viewer. But we know that in many enterprises, teams are larger than 15 people, and more than 15 people need to collaborate on content in real time with each other. That is the true power of real time communications with the cloud. Office 365 and Lync support fully participatory experiences for 250 people in virtual meetings. Everybody — not just a small handful of people — gets the full power of interactive presentations, content sharing, instant messaging, voice, and video. That means everybody can speak up in that weekly status meeting, or comment on those latest product designs, or ask questions about that graph in a business report. Office 365 and Lync don’t just make you watch a broadcast — you can be in the “studio” itself.

5. Microsoft has robust security and compliance.

Organizations often wish to enforce policies for collaborating with and sending information outside the company. That is why with Office 365 and Lync, not only can you turn off Lync-Skype connectivity if you wish, but all Lync instant message conversations can be archived to Exchange regardless of user behavior. Office 365 lets IT enforce its policies to help keep the organization safe and secure.

However, if you’re using Google Hangouts, “there is no setting that prevents Hangouts with users outside your domain [and] Hangouts does not yet support warnings informing users that they’re messaging outside of the domain.” That means with Hangouts, IT must rely upon users to check and abide by company policy for external communication. But, as we’ve seen with a similar lack of enforcement capabilities for Google+ posts, employees sometimes make mistakes with external communication. This can be risky for organizations, and that’s why IT should be able to enforce external collaboration policies. But with Hangouts, you can’t.

What if your company wants to archive all instant message conversations? Sorry, with Hangouts, users can still communicate off the record by turning off message history. So much for compliance. And speaking of compliance, the new Hangouts is not compatible with Vault. So organizations face a costly tradeoff and have to give up Vault’s email archiving and e-discovery capabilities in order to get the new Hangouts.

Microsoft’s approach — from the living room to the boardroom.

We at Microsoft offer the best of both worlds — communications products that serve consumers, small businesses of all sizes, and enterprises. We believe people are users both at home and at work, so we believe in providing solutions that scale to the needs and requirements of both the living room and the boardroom, not just building a single product for both. Our business product, Lync Online with Office 365, provides the features, seamless integration, management capabilities, and robustness that enterprises expect when it comes to business productivity. We are excited for you to give Lync a try in your enterprise so you can collaborate effectively with a product designed with your business needs in mind.

What’s new in Office 365 Groups for April 2017

With over 85-million monthly Office 365 users, there’s no such thing as a typical customer. That’s why we built Office to embrace the diverse needs of the modern workplace by giving teams their choice of tools. Even within a single organization, different teams often have different demands for the productivity tools they use every day. What’s unique about Office 365 is the ability to deliver tools that meet these diverse needs—all on a single, manageable platform.

Supporting these teams is Office 365 Groups, a membership service leveraged by millions of users, which helps teams collaborate in their app of choice, including: Outlook, SharePoint, Skype for Business, Planner, Yammer, OneNote and Microsoft Teams. Office 365 Groups helps to structure, format and store information in a way that is accessible across different applications, but remains secure and easily manageable.

Enhancements to help admins manage groups

A key benefit of Office Setup 365 Groups is that any user in your organization can create a group and start collaborating with others in seconds. Self-service creation is great for users, but we know IT admins need to be able to easily manage groups, gain insight into their use, control their directories and ensure compliance of group data. Today, we are announcing new enhancements for administering Office 365 Groups to support these needs:

  • Restore deleted groups—If you deleted an Office 365 group, it’s now retained by default for a period of 30 days. Within that period, you can restore the group and its associated apps and data via a new PowerShell cmdlet.
  • Retention policies—Manage group content produced by setting up retention policies to keep what you want and get rid of what you don’t need. Admins can now create Office 365 Groups retention policies that apply to the group’s shared inbox and files in one step using the Office 365 Security & Compliance Center.
  • Label management—With labels, you can classify Office 365 Groups emails and documents across your organization for governance, and enforce retention rules based on that classification.

This adds to our broad set of group management tools recently rolled out to Office 365 customers:

  • Guest access—Guest access in Office 365 Groups enables you and your team to collaborate with people from outside your organization by granting them access to group conversations, files, calendar invitations and the group notebook.
  • Upgrade Distribution Groups to Office 365 Groups—The Exchange Admin Center now offers an option to upgrade eligible Distribution Groups to Office 365 Groups with one click.
  • Data classification*—You can create a customizable data classification system for Office 365 Groups, such as unclassified, corporate confidential or top secret.
  • Usage guidelines*—You can define usage guidelines for Office 365 Groups—to educate your users about best practices that help keep their groups effective, and educate them on internal content policies.
  • Azure AD Connect*— Enables group writeback to your Active Directory to support on-premises Exchange mailboxes. See “Configure Office 365 Groups with on-premises Exchange” for more information.
  • Dynamic membership*—Admins can define groups with rule-based memberships using the Azure Management Portal or via PowerShell. Group membership is usually updated within minutes as users’ properties change. This allows easy management of larger groups or the creation of groups that always reflect the organization’s structure.
  • Hidden membership—If you want group membership to be confidential (for example, if the members are students), you can hide the Office 365 group members from users who aren’t members of the group.
  • Creation policies—There may be some people in your organization that you don’t want to be able to create new groups. There are several techniques for managing creation permissions in your directory.
  • Setup Microsoft Office 365 Groups activity report—These reports includes group properties, messages received and group mailboxes storage over time. Note you can also leverage the SharePoint site usage report to track groups’ file storage.

A look at upcoming features

Because Office 365 is a subscription service, we’re able to continue improving the admin capabilities based on customer feedback. Here’s a look at some of the enhancements on our Roadmap for the next three months:

  • Expiry policy*—Soon, you will be able to set a policy that automatically deletes a group and all its associated apps after a specific period. The group owner(s) will receive an email notification prior to the expiration date, and they will be able to extend the expiration date if the group is still in use. Once the expiration date is reached, the group will be soft deleted for 30 days (and hence can be restored by an administrator if needed).
  • Azure AD naming policy*—Admins will be able to configure a policy for appending text to the beginning or end of a group’s name and email address no matter where the group is created, such as Outlook, Planner, Power BI, etc. Admins will be able to configure a list of specific blocked words that can’t be used in group names and rely on the native list of thousands of blocked words to keep their directories clean.
  • Default classification and classification description—Will enable admins to set default Office 365 Groups classification at the tenant level using PowerShell cmdlets. In addition, admins will be able to provide a description for each of the defined classifications.
  • Classification is available when creating or modifying a group across apps—Selecting a group classification will be available when creating or editing a group across the following Office 365 applications: Outlook, SharePoint, Teams, Planner, Yammer and StaffHub.