Office Options Grow, Q2 Earnings Rise On Cloud: Microsoft Roundup

Cloud dominated again in Microsoft's Q2 financial report, closing out a week of news on Windows 10, Cortana, iOS apps, and Office Online.
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Windows 10, productivity, cloud, and iOS were the focus of Microsoft's news this week before the company announced its Q2 2016 earnings on Jan. 28.

Microsoft is trying to make Cortana more proactive about helping users stay on track. Its digital personal assistant was updated and given the abilities to scan emails and to schedule smart reminders with appointments you might forget.

As Cortana weeds through messages, it recognizes language indicating a promise (for example, "I'll send this report by 4:00 p.m.") and use it to create a reminder. Since the focus is on productivity, alerts will be displayed in Cortana's interface and not as annoying pop-up reminders.

[Microsoft open sources deep learning, AI toolkit on GitHub.]

This feature, which can be disabled, was rolling out to Windows Insiders at the time it was announced. It will eventually roll out to all Windows 10 users, and on Cortana for iOS and Android when Microsoft can iron out technical issues related to launching on those platforms.

iOS stole the spotlight for this week's mobile app updates. Shortly after reports surfaced claiming Apple may launch a subscription service for Apple News, Microsoft released News Pro for iOS and desktop.

News Pro, powered by Bing, is a service through which users receive personalized news feeds based on pre-selected areas of interest. It's the brainchild of Microsoft Garage, an internal organization created to give cross-company employees a chance to build new ideas.

Microsoft also added video capabilities and other features to its Selfie app for iOS, which generated more than 500,000 downloads in the two weeks following its launch one month ago. iPhone users who aren't into selfies can look forward to the Microsoft Word Flow keyboard for iOS, which will make it easier to type with one hand.

Office for iOS was also updated as part of Office Online cloud integrations announced this week. Microsoft is giving third-party storage partners the option to integrate with the suite, enabling users to browse Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files stored in cloud services, like Box (currently available), or Edmodo, Citrix ShareFile, and Egnyte (coming soon).

The cloud updates will also expand real-time coauthoring capabilities to users who store files on third-party services including Box, Dropbox, ShareFile, and Egnyte. This enhancement allows more people to work together on Office apps, regardless of their cloud storage provider.

Box and Dropbox are being integrated with the newest version of, where users will be able to attach files directly from Box, Dropbox, and OneDrive as regular attachments or cloud-based links.

Windows 10 updates include the release of build 14251 to Windows Insiders in the Fast ring. It's a big jump from its predecessor, build 11102, a result of bringing together the PC and mobile code bases so they share a common number.

Build 14251 lacks major new features, but delivers a few key bug fixes. PC games will no longer crash when switching from windowed mode to full screen. Narrator, Magnifier, and third-party technologies will no longer crash. File Explorer won't crash when DPI settings are at 175%.

Jan. 28 marked Microsoft's Q2 earnings call for its 2016 fiscal year. Revenue of $25.7 billion, which topped analysts' expectations, was largely driven by Azure and Office 365 cloud offerings.

Office 365 revenue grew 70%; Azure revenue increased 140%. It was also a strong quarter for the Surface portfolio, which pulled in $1.35 billion, but a terrible quarter for phones, which saw a 49% drop.

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