How Microsoft Office will automatically extract useful info from your email

All these new features can't come at the expense of quality, but you have to think about that differently for a service. "In the old days, the on premise design principle of engineering and the measure of quality was mean time to failure; how long could your code run until it failed.

"The longer your code could run, the higher the quality. With a service it's very much about mean time to recovery. It's not about if something fails every year. It's if it takes you down for three days, it's a huge deal but if it if it fails every year and auto recovers in a nanosecond… that is a very different way to think about it, to engineer it, to measure your success. It's not so much about it never failing but that it has to be self-healing. That's been a big mental model change for the engineering team."

One Office 365

Office 365 has done its own mini version of the 'one Microsoft' reorg. "No longer is there a standalone Exchange, a standalone SharePoint and a standalone Lync team," White explains; "they are all integrated into an Office 365 team. So, there is a team focused exclusively on security, compliance, privacy across all things Office 365, thinking about it across the board instead of being very workload oriented."

Previous tools in Exchange couldn't assume you had SharePoint and Lync as well, let alone the latest versions, correctly deployed. That made it hard to create integrated experiences. "Now we can think about security compliance as a holistic thing and solve it in a unified way," White suggests. One area the team is tackling; groups.

"There are so many different ways we have tried to solve the groups problem. In email we have distribution groups and public folders, in SharePoint we have SharePoint groups, in Yammer we have Yammer groups, in Lync I can create my buddy list. They're all about having a set of people that you're doing work with and if you look across each individual product we have a half dozen ways we've solved that problem.

"But now with Office 365 and developing all together and knowing that they will all be deployed together and in the right way, you can say gosh, why isn't there a concept of just a group in office 365 and it can propagate anywhere and you don't have to recreate it."

Add headers and footers to Word Web App documents and find or replace phrases

Add headers and footers to Word Web App documents and find or replace phrases

Yammer is going to be much more integrated, not just in the Office 365 portal – which is happening already – but, in the longer term, into the way you work in Office tools. "Today, I have to go somewhere and go do social things. Moving forward it's going to be a horizontal technology that lights up in a bunch of different ways."

Forget the Facebook-style updates we're used to. "It's not about news feeds; it's about information being open and discoverable and accessible and that creates instant collaboration and discovery."

Take something we all know, like email. "There's so much info in my inbox that's probably incredibly useful to my coworkers across the globe but they will never find it because it's locked to my inbox. There are some things that do not belong in the public forum but this could be useful for someone else to find. We're thinking about how do we unlock more and more of that.

"Even simple things like; Why can't I like my email? Why can't I bring useful concepts between what are today different siloes of information in a more fluid approach?


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.