April’s hype and blunders in Office

Microsoft published a blog post about all the great things added to Office 365 in April 2017. Naturally, many overworked journalists took the bait and there’s been a lot of similar stories across the media.

Microsoft’s PR department must be very pleased with themselves. So much free, unquestioning, publicity.  It’s true there’s been interesting things happening this month but Office-Watch.com readers expect more from us than just a rehash of Microsoft hype.

Here’s a more realistic overview of Microsoft Office news for April 2017. The hard truths ignored in the hype and a few things Microsoft ignored.

Dridex hack

We’d be remiss if we didn’t start with a mention of Microsoft’s biggest blunder of April 2017.  It’s a mistake that cost customers time and money.  It could have been avoided.

The Dridex hack is a known vulnerability in Office and Windows.  Hackers took advantage of the security bug to try infecting computers around the world, knowing that Microsoft has holding back on fixing the bug until the April 2017 ‘Patch Tuesday’.

To-Do

We’ve already looked at To-Do and the death of Microsoft’s existing Wunderlist.

Microsoft is hyping To-Do as an April 2017 innovation without a mention of the inconvenience/trouble coming for their existing customers nor how basic it is. They also don’t mention that the new To-Do is very new. It’s a preview service only.

According to Redmond “Microsoft To-Do transforms the way you manage your tasks” – not now it doesn’t.  Only if by ‘transform’ you mean ‘downgrade’.

To-Do is very basic with limited features, to put it kindly. It can’t even match Outlook desktops ‘Tasks’ feature (which is in desperate need of improvement).

It’s the future of To-Do that will be interesting. If Microsoft does a good job, then To-Do should be a good addition to Office.

Office 2016 ‘perpetual’ buyers get a prod

Also not mentioned in Microsoft’s April 2017 hype was the news that commercial buyers of Office 2016 ‘perpetual’ single payment will have their cloud access cut off in 2020.  It’s a ‘bait and switch’ by Microsoft, changing what you get after the purchase is made.

This news has been misreported in some places but we have the straight facts.

PowerPoint Designer on iPad

The Designer feature for PowerPoint has now been added to PowerPoint for iPad.

Designer sends your slide content to Microsoft’s servers and comes back with design suggestions for that slide.  It’s supposed to suggest photos and make SmartArt from lists but we’ve never been able to get that to work, even using Microsoft’s own examples!

Designer is covered in our Office 2016: the real startup guide.  Our book is regularly updated to include recent Office features, like Designer </shameless plug>.

Customer Manager

A long-awaited Customer Relationships Manager (CRM) is now available for Outlook.  CRM is something that Microsoft has tried before but never had much success.

The new Customer Manager works with Outlook desktop, has a separate iOS app (no Android app yet) and a web interface.

But you need an Office 365 Business Premium subscription to get it.

Customer Manager is just out of beta/preview and you know what Microsoft ‘Version 1.0’ products are like <sigh>.

Skype for Windows 10

According to Microsoft, the Skype app for Windows 10 is “ready for everyday use”.  That might be true for people new to Skype but more experienced and regular Skype users will be disappointed.

We use Skype almost every day and speak from experience.  The Skype Win10 app is not up to the standard of the existing Skype for Windows.  The Skype app is nowhere near as powerful, flexible or reliable as the desktop program.

By all means, use the app on Windows 10 tablets but if you have a computer/laptop then traditional Skype for Windows is the way to go.

Skype is good for video/audio calls but has lost ground to the new generation of instant messaging apps (WhatsApp, Signal etc).  Microsoft continues to ignore the very real privacy and security omissions in Skype.   Skype privacy is a joke, encryption is unknown.

Groups expansion

Microsoft Groups is being added into existing Office products.

Word, Excel and PowerPoint can now save directly to Groups.

Outlook for Mac plus the Outlook apps for Android and Apple now ‘get’ Groups.  You can use Group conversions, add Group events to your calendar.

Security

Microsoft continues to boost their security offerings for commercial clients.