It’s been six months since Microsoft launched Office 365, its subscription-based version of Office for businesses and consumers. Over 2 million consumers now subscribe to Office 365 Home Premium (the Office 365 “family pack” with five licenses) and 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies are using it in some form. This, Microsoft says, makes it the company’s fastest growing business in the history of Microsoft.
Since its launch, the team has added about 100 new features to the Office apps and today, it’s adding three more – one for business users and two for consumers.
The most interesting one – and the only one that even non-Office 365 users will get to enjoy – is the addition of real-time co-authoring to the Office Web Apps. Those are the apps that allow you to edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint presentations in SkyDrive, and while their feature set easily rivals that of other online office suites, it was missing effective collaboration tools until now. In addition to this feature, Microsoft is also adding an autosave function to the Word Web App.
Microsoft’s corporate VP for the Office division John Case, it’s worth noting, told me that he believes the Office Web Apps haven’t quite received the recognition they deserve. He plans to change this by focusing more of the marketing on them and giving them more attention in general. “They have always been important companions to the client apps,” he told me,”but we are now starting to view them as standalone apps, too.” In the coming month, he promised, Microsoft will invest more heavily in the Web Apps.
The second new feature involved consumers who subscribe to Office 365. Subscribers to Home Premium always got a couple of bonuses with their subscriptions, including 20GB of extra storage on SkyDrive and 60 minutes of free calling anywhere in the world on Skype. Those benefits only applied to the users who paid for the subscription. With this update, everybody who uses the license will get access to these benefits.
For business users, Microsoft is announcing a major licensing change to Yammer. Going forward, all Office 365 enterprise versions will now include Yammer Enterprise, too. Before, Microsoft’s social enterprise tool was only available in the top-end enterprise stack of Office 365. This change applies to new and existing customers. Case told me that Microsoft believes that social is increasingly becoming a critical way for companies of all sizes to engage with their employees, but also partners and suppliers.
Another change to the Yammer licensing model involves the partners and suppliers. Until now, it was never quite clear if Office 365 subscribers could grant external users access to Yammer, but now the company has cleared this up. Starting today, Yammer customers will explicitly have the right to grant external users access to Yammer.
Today is about more than just adding features, though. It’s also about getting stuff done. Apparently. Because this is Microsoft, a company that loves its marketing campaigns more than any other big tech company, the Office team has decided to declare today “Get It Done Day” in an effort to highlight that its users can use Office anywhere, including on the web. We decided not to ask too many questions about this, but if it’s your thing, feel free to tweet about it.