This week's Microsoft news included updates on Windows 10, Surface device membership plans, Planner on Office 365, and Project GigJam.
The beta edition of business collaboration app Project GigJam became generally available to users on Windows, Mac, iPhone, and iPad. GigJam was designed to provide a way for teams to accomplish tasks by breaking down silos between apps and devices.
For example, GigJam can be used to send specific paragraphs of a document for review, instead of the entire file. If you need a vendor to entire order information, you can use GigJam to access a Salesforce order, conceal the price, and send the info to their phone so they can edit.
Redmond says it hopes to launch GigJam as part of Office 365 later this year.
[Microsoft Band 2: Updated with Android support for Cortana.]
You won't have to wait as long for Microsoft's Planner app, which has been added to the Office 365 suite. Users can access Planner to create new plans, organize and assign tasks, work together on files, discuss current projects, share documents, and keep others updated on progress.
Each plan created within the app has its own board where participants can separate tasks and categorize them based on its status or on the person working on it. In the coming weeks, Planner will roll out to eligible Office 365 customers, including those with Enterprise E1-E5, Business Essentials, Premium, and Education plans.
In other enterprise news, Microsoft has quietly started a Surface Membership plan for small business customers. Organizations can pay a monthly fee to finance current models of the Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, and Surface 3.
Subscribers can upgrade to new devices for free as they are released, and they can access Microsoft support and services. Additional perks of the membership plan include seven-day tech support, individual personal training, in-store discounts, and the Microsoft Complete for Business extended service plan with accidental damage protection.
Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring received preview build 14361 for smartphones and PCs. This build brings several fixes and a few major new features. As always, testers are cautioned to be wary of the known issues they're likely to encounter.
Highlights of this build include password manager LastPass as a Microsoft Edge extension, Windows Ink improvements, design changes within Settings, and new icons. You can also use Docker natively on Windows 10 with Hyper-V containers to build, ship, and run containers using the Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 5 Nano Server container OS image.
Microsoft has made Apache Spark for Azure HDInsight generally available, marking the end of a public preview period. This launch brings improvements to the scalability and productivity of Spark for business users.
The launch of Apache Spark for Azure HDInsight is part of Microsoft's efforts to make big data more approachable and easier to handle. This service gives customers a Spark service that's ready for the enterprise, since it's secured, fully managed, and made simpler for users who may not be very familiar with handling data.
We learned how Microsoft is analyzing queries entered in its Bing search engine to identify users who may have pancreatic cancer. In a study published by the Journal of Oncology Practice and reported by The New York Times, scientists demonstrated how online searches could indicate that someone is experiencing pancreatic cancer symptoms prior to a diagnosis.
Next week, Microsoft says it plans to showcase its development projects at an afterparty it's holding following the start of Apple's 2016 Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. The event is called "The Future of Apps," and will teach developers about Microsoft's recent company acquisition Xamarin, which enables users to build apps for a variety of platforms.