Microsoft plans to announce a boatload of new capabilities to Office, search, and Edge at its Ignite conference, including rollout plans for its Chromium-based Edge browser, a tool to read your email aloud in the Outlook app, corporate insights driven by Microsoft Search, and more. But subtle improvements like natural-language queries in Excel may prove more significant.
Microsoft has arguably struggled to align search and the web with its traditional Office silos of spreadsheets, presentations, and documents. Now, executives say they’ve cracked the problem.
Microsoft hasn’t lost its idealistic view of the Internet, dating back to Internet Explorer’s “beauty of the Web” campaign (go.pcworld. com/btwb). But today, the web provides more opportunities and more challenges to solve, said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president in charge of Microsoft’s Modern Life & Devices Group, in advance of Ignite. Mehdi recounted the problems Microsoft was trying to solve: How do you protect privacy and still maintain personalization? How do businesses bring together the web and their own knowledge into a cohesive whole? How does Microsoft apply its own tools, like Edge and Bing, to those goals?
Microsoft will lay out many, many new features across Office, search, and the cloud to do just that. We’ve had a look at them, then we whittled them down to the 10 new things we think you’ll want to know about.
THE NEW MICROSOFT EDGE IS OFFICIAL
The big addition is what Microsoft has dubbed the “new” Edge, or the “next” Edge: a Chromium-based version of its browser that has a new logo, too. Announced earlier this year, the new Edge browser feels fresh and fast (go.pcworld. com/frsh). Mehdi said a release candidate (go.pcworld.com/rlcn) will be published at Ignite, with a final version slated for January 15. Edge development is decoupled from Windows, so that new versions of Edge will be released on its own timetable. Microsoft’s goal is to meet or even outhustle Google, with new versions due every four to six weeks for “every platform that matters,” Mehdi said: Android, iOS, MacOS, Windows 7, and Windows 10.
New PCs will, at some point, simply be pre-loaded with the new Edge. Microsoft hasn’t quite specified how existing PCs will be handled, but it seems that one will simply replace the other.
“Between January and March, we’re going to do a lot of testing to see if we can upgrade people’s Edge on the desktop for existing PC builds,” Mehdi said. “That’s the plan. We’re going to do some testing, and just like Windows updates, we’re going to try and get that right.”
At Ignite, Microsoft will also show off Collections, which Microsoft showed off (go. pcworld.com/msco) at Build earlier this year. Collections allows you to bookmark a series of web pages or text into a Collection. What’s interesting about it, though, is if you export it using the ellipsis menu, the metadata (name, price, rating, et cetera) can be automatically
MICROSOFT SEARCH: BING FOR BUSINESS, USING “MICROSOFT CORTEX”
For years, Microsoft has cast about for the right way to offer insights into coworkers. Should it be Delve (go.pcworld.com/dlve)? Outlook Groups (go.pcworld.com/otgr)? Some combination of the two? Now, that information is accessible via Microsoft Search, the business “look” of Microsoft Bing.
Microsoft Search, which goes live Monday, makes available corporate information from your intranet in the same way Bing searches the Internet. Microsoft Search’s new tab page will put your company’s business resources at your fingertips, including corporate policies or the travel site no one can remember. If you’re within the corporate network, you’ll see Bing-powered Microsoft Search; outside it, you’ll see Bing.
Like Bing, you’ll be able to use semantic search for natural-language queries. According to Mehdi, much of this information should still be in Delve, as well as in Microsoft Search; they serve distinct roles, according to Microsoft.
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