Microsoft aims to make Office 365 'smarter' via social, APIs, machine learning

Office 365 is getting a new app called Oslo to automate interactions between colleagues, and offering new tools for developers

Microsoft will add new software, developer tools and capabilities to Office 365 in an attempt to make the cloud applications suite a "smarter" product that is better at helping people interact at work.

At its SharePoint Conference, which kicks off in Las Vegas on Monday, Microsoft will demonstrate a new machine learning application code-named Oslo designed to understand how employees work in Office 365 and with whom.

Oslo will base its insights on a variety of signals gleaned from how people use Office 365's components, like Exchange Online for email, OneDrive for Business for storage, Lync Online for IM and video conferencing, SharePoint Online for team collaboration and Yammer for enterprise social networking. Microsoft calls this information the Office Graph.

Based on that input, Oslo will suggest and display more prominently the co-workers, documents, files, email messages, notes and other Office 365 elements it determines are the most relevant and important for each particular user at any given point. Oslo will serve as a search engine for Office 365, and will also work in the background to proactively map and surface user connections across the suite's applications.

"It'll lead to better team collaboration and better personalized insights," said Jeff Teper, a Microsoft corporate vice president.

Microsoft will demonstrate Oslo at the conference and plans to release it in the second half of the year. The company hasn't yet decided which Office 365 editions will have it, nor has it yet determined if it will cost extra.

Teper also said Microsoft hasn't decided if or when Oslo will appear in the on-premises versions of SharePoint, Exchange and Lync. To make sure they have the best, most and latest Office server product features, customers should go to Office 365, he said. "We're optimizing on the cloud," Teper said.

Office 365 will also get a new groups feature modeled after the one in the stand-alone Yammer product. It will give teams a set of collaboration tools including shared a email inbox, calendar, files library and activity stream.

"We've taken the groups concept from Yammer and extended it throughout Office 365," Teper said. "The idea here is to deliver a unified collaboration experience across Office 365."

Microsoft is also extending the Yammer integration with Office 365 via what it calls "inline social" capabilities, such as enterprise social conversations inside documents stored in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business.

Office 365 will also gain a new video portal where users will be able to upload, store and search for work clips. Office 365 will automatically compress, optimize and render the videos.

For developers, Microsoft is releasing an Office 365 software development kit for Windows 8 and Android that will let programmers build applications that can tap into Office 365 data and capabilities. Microsoft is also enhancing existing Office 365 APIs (application programming interfaces) for PowerPoint and Outlook, and prepping new APIs for Office 365 files, contacts, email, calendar and tasks.

The SharePoint Conference runs through Thursday. Microsoft expects about 10,000 customers and partners to attend.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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