Microsoft has been making some major pivots over the past few years to expand their reach and “playing well with others” when it comes to cloud based services. One of the biggest, and honestly most surprising, changes has been altering the rendering engine for Edge to the Chromium engine. There’s lots of speculation as to what this will mean for Edge in the future but I think it will have a greater impact on Chromebooks when it comes to working with Office 365.
With the primary browser platforms all running under one common engine, the developers on the Office 365 will have a much easier time writing applications that work across multiple machines, be it Edge on Windows 10 or Chrome on a Chromebook. As a Microsoft user who counts on his Chromebook I couldn’t be happier. While G Suite (Google’s office platform) has some strengths, it still doesn’t compare one-to-one with Microsoft’s offering.
You’ll hear the argument made that Microsoft’s pursuit of “Windows Lite” or “Lite” or whatever they’re calling it will take a chunk out of the Chromebook market but honestly that’s not the play for the long game. Microsoft is about the cloud now and hardware is just a way to get there. It doesn’t matter the tool, what matters is what you do with it. Personally I like the thin client approach of a Chromebook coupled with the power of Office 365 and Azure. You’d be hard pressed to find a combination that offers the same level of flexibility, power, and accessibility.
I’d wager we will see more and more changes in Office 365 over the coming months that work equally as well on Chromebooks as they do Windows 10 machines. It’s to Microsoft’s benefit to do this because if you can run Office 365 equally well on both hardware platforms, why wouldn’t you get a subscription?
New features are coming to Outlook on Android so I wanted to take a minute to highlight the ones that have the biggest impact from a productivity perspective.
Sync Draft Folders
Now when you start an email on your mobile device you don’t have to finish it there. The Drafts folders will be synchronized so you can pick up where you left off on your Windows machine, Chromebook, iPad, or whatever you’re most comfortable with. This capability is a great way to take advantage of those small windows of time without having to inconvenience yourself later.
Office Lens in Outlook
Office Lens is the Microsoft application for capturing images, documents, and drawings from your mobile device. The addition of Office Lens support to Outlook cuts out unnecessary steps when sending images to others. Now rather than having to capture an image, create a draft, and then go back and find your image to attach it you’ll be able to add the image right from your draft email.
I’m speculating on this next part but it would make perfect sense that the images would sync in your draft folder as mentioned previously. If so this could be a bigger feature than expected.
A feature that has received positive reviews on Google applications is coming to Outlook on Android. You’ll now be able to reply to emails with smart responses from a single button providing an experience more akin to chat than email. I use Quick Reply on a few of my apps and when I do it’s been fairly useful. We’ll keep an eye on how this feature develops. Personally, I’m hoping they bring Quick Reply to Teams…but that’s a different post.
Office 365 Groups Calendars and OneNote Notebooks
This is a bit of a mouthful so let me explain. In Office 365 Groups (a type of SharePoint site) you have the ability to have shared calendars and OneNote notebooks. This update to the Outlook Android client will give access to those calendars and shared notebooks from Outlook. If you’re working in a collaborative environment (and if not…we need to talk) this is a step in the right direction.
Thanks to the good people over at DroidLife for bringing this to my attention.
There may be three major players in the education space, but Microsoft is in the strongest position and it’s all thanks to Google. Here’s how Microsoft wins the long game starting in the classroom.
Microsoft announced yesterday their release of Windows 10 S for education and the free availability of Office 365 for teachers and students. Rather than digging into those I’d like to challenge part of the common wisdom as to why they are doing this.
Google has been making huge inroads into the education space on the back of Chromebooks and their Google Suite of applications. Both falling within price points that until this time (and possibly continuing) Microsoft and Apple couldn’t touch. The announcements from Microsoft signal to me a recognition of the importance of the education market not only as a revenue stream, but as a long term investment.
As students traverse high school and graduate from college and other schools, the familiarity they have with specific applications guides their decision making processes and comfort levels in the working world. To phrase it this way, how many businesses are running on Google Apps and how many are running on Microsoft Office? If you have a generation of people coming into the workforce more comfortable with Google’s offerings, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain that massive market share Microsoft has spent decades cultivating.
Will the new devices and offerings flip the education market back to Microsoft’s favor? I don’t think we’ll see a massive shift in influence and implementations but it does mean that Microsoft is back in the game and is serious about competing. Will Windows 10 S devices beat Chromebooks? My gut says no unless they can get to a ridiculously low price point and offer capabilities Google hasn’t even thought of yet. Will Office 365 supplant Google in the classroom? Again I have to say no, but I do see it taking a much larger bite of the pie.
When playing the long game strategically it becomes important to consider not only immediate investment and market share but also long term influencers and loyalty. Decision makers who grew up Apple helped Apple take a big bite of the education market for a long time but that is changing now. Who will be next? Microsoft wants to be sure their name is in the running and remembers that the classroom is an excellent place to begin.