Microsoft Shooting for Weekly Refresh with Office
Microsoft is taking cues from Yammer.
While we were already aware that Microsoft planned to have a refresh schedule with Office similar to Windows 8 and Windows RT, Bloomberg reports that the company is planning to switch to weekly updates with the online version to keep up with the "fast-changing" technology industry. Naturally, these changes will eventually end up in the non-subscription version of Microsoft's popular productivity suite.
Before Office 2013, Microsoft relied on a three-year release schedule, making it easy for both consumers and businesses to know what and when improvements will take place. But "nimbler" opponents like Dropbox, Box and even Google – which deliver frequent updates over the Web – have pushed Microsoft to ditch the tried-and-true schedule for something more frequent and easily accessible. The three-year release schedule just doesn't work in a fast-paced world anymore.
Thus, within a year, users of the subscription-based Office – including e-mail, telephony and collaboration tools according to Office VP Jeff Teper – will have parts of the software refreshed on a weekly basis. Previously, Microsoft planned to refresh the software once per quarter at the very least, but has now moved up to a monthly update. Microsoft has already started with more frequent updates as seen with Windows 8.
The shift to a more frequent update schedule stems from Microsoft's acquisition of Yammer back in July 2012. The five-year-old startup had reportedly convinced its own customers that frequent updates were an advantage, as it gave them the latest and greatest features. Then again, Yammer only had seven million users (most unpaid), whereas Microsoft has more than one billion users, most of who pay for the software. For Microsoft, moving at a fast pace will have its risks.
Currently, Yammer issues updates twice per week, which is infrequent compared to Facebook which updates twice a day. Yammer is expected to move to three times a week in the near future, then adopt a continuous system of updates. Adam Pisoni, Yammer’s CEO and co-founder, is also the general manager of engineering for Office, hence the Yammer update reference.
That said, there's fear that the product quality of Office could suffer. Make an unpopular change or install a buggy feature, and Microsoft will face an even worse issue than the feedback stemming from Windows 8 and Xbox One combined. But Microsoft has signed on Yammer’s data chief, Peter Fishman, who has a Ph.D. in economics, to help Microsoft with its own data analysis which in turn should keep the Redmond company from implementing bad ideas.
"It’s all about service and quality," said Raman Padmanabhan, chief information officer for Xerox’s business-services unit. "You have to have a certain quality or it just kills your business."