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Microsoft TechEd: Office 365 Gets Smarter

Microsoft Office general manager Julia White talks Office for iPad, turning average users into data gurus, and the future of enterprise social.

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Including the barrage of new cloud products Microsoft unveiled Monday at its TechEd conference in Houston, the company recently has announced more than 60 products and features. Many involve Office 365, whose familiar apps play a central role in Microsoft's plan to transition customers to the cloud.

InformationWeek sat down at TechEd with Microsoft Office general manager Julia White to discuss Office 365's momentum and roadmap, including the recently-released Office for iPad; Oslo, Power BI, and other new products that inject analytics and personalization into Office; and Microsoft's vision for enterprise social tools.

Office for iPad burst out of the gates in late March, triggering more than 12 million downloads in its first week. White said that since then, the apps have maintained a blistering pace. They have been downloaded more than 27 million times in its top 10 geographies alone.

The apps are free downloads, so it remains to be seen how many of those 27 million will translate into paid Office 365 subscriptions, which offer the only way to create and edit, rather than merely review, documents. White said many users opted for 30-day Office 365 trials, which means conversion rates are just beginning to come into focus. Early results "are beating our expectations," she told us.

[Just exactly what has Google been doing with users' data? Read Google Data Mining Changes: Privacy Reform Needed.]

On Monday, Microsoft execs touted the Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) as a comprehensive, one-stop shop for managing devices and apps of all kinds. But EMS -- which bundles Intune, the company's device management product, with Azure Active Directory Premium for authentication and Azure Rights Management for data protection -- is particularly important for companies that want to manage Office for iPad. That's because the device and app management programs companies currently use often come up short.

John Dasher, VP of product marketing at Good Technology, a major iPad management player, confirmed in an email that his company's products don't currently support the new Office apps, for example. He added that Good is "working with Microsoft to explore how they could create a [Good]-secured version of [the Office apps]." Other vendors such as AirWatch and MobileIron offer Office compatibility via secure containers and other methods, but none offers EMS's granular control and easy integration.

Microsoft Office General Manager Julia White
Microsoft Office General Manager Julia White

Is Microsoft creating headaches for companies that want to deploy Office for iPad but are already invested in management products? "It hasn't been flagged as an issue," White said. In a separate interview, Microsoft senior director of product marketing Andrew Conway pointed out that vendors such as Good often sell their own productivity apps.

Although Office remains the enterprise standard for productivity, many businesses continue to run old versions because they don't see the point in upgrading. Others have at least partially embraced competitors

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Apprentice
5/25/2014 | 10:56:01 AM
Need information onhow to write a app that can be run on a cloud novice
I design a product that I believe every new car need and can be installed on existing cars but it is a cloud base product How do one get people interested in one idea and to see if it is sound.


I more virtual thinking but would like some assistance. Believe it is valuable but have no contact or income looking for work


Thank you Jimmy
User Rank: Author
5/14/2014 | 10:22:18 AM
Bye, bloatware?
"Single-purpose apps that are great at what they do": That is a a big culture change for White to pull off with MS mobile devs.
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