The Office division is now Microsoft's number one cash cow, so it's no surprise that Redmond is always looking into ways to improve products that belong to this unit.
The company announced today that the Office 365 roadmap would be made public in an attempt to allow users to stay up to date with what's changing in their cloud-based productivity suite, thus letting them know about features that have already launched, are rolling out, in development, or canceled.
This way, Microsoft says, it's increasing transparency and helps Office 365 customers prepare for future releases that could help get things done in a more effective way. At the same time, they could also appeal to more users who are seeking specific features in Office 365 and would thus purchase a subscription in anticipation of the new updates that are supposed to be implemented in the near future.
“The Office 365 for business public roadmap provides you with a way to learn more about upcoming updates before the change comes to your service. It provides a few months’ view of new features, enhancements, and major updates,” the company said in an announcement published on the Office blogs today.
“In some cases we may communicate farther in advance than a few months, like when we announced our long-term investments in the new service Codenamed 'Oslo' and the Office Graph. We will provide visibility to planned updates that are in development and in the process of being rolled out to the service, as well as to items that have been launched and are now generally available for all eligible customers. The public roadmap will be your best source of truth for product enhancements coming to the service.”
What's more, Microsoft is also providing users with a new program that allows them to try out some of the new features in advance before they are being released to everyone.
The so-called First Release channel would bring what Microsoft calls a “small selection of significant enhancements to the Office 365 experience,” including updates for SharePoint Online and Exchange Online.
“If you opt-in to First Release, you will receive new qualifying feature updates first, a minimum of two weeks before customers in our standard release group,” it said.
All Office 365 customers are part of the standard release group, so everyone will get the updates two weeks after the First Release subscribers.
Basically, not only does this provide users with earlier access to some features, but it also helps the company collect feedback and fix any issues that might exist before everyone else gets their hands on these updates.