Is this the end of Office “365” as we know it?

Microsoft has been slowly removing the “365” from Office 365 over the past few months in all kinds of different places.

Ever since Microsoft Inspire (formerly known as the Worldwide Partner Conference) in July 2017 where Microsoft 365 was unveiled, the term “Office 365” and especially the “365” is being seen less and less.

For example many web portals that previously used 365 in their URL now just use office.com. A couple of examples include:

Old URL New URL
https://outlook.office365.com
https://portal.office365.com

Others that are built on top of Office 365 don’t even use the Office URLs, such as Teams which uses teams.microsoft.com as its URL.

Looking at the Microsoft corporate messaging since mid-2017 we see slides like this:

You’ll notice how all of the apps and services listed in the above slide are from Office 365, but this is a “Microsoft 365” slide.

The Microsoft 365 bundle isn’t entirely new in the enterprise space. Before the current incarnation it was known as the “Secure Productive Enterprise”, and before that “Enterprise Cloud Suite”. The key difference from Inspire this year is that now there is a Business edition available.

Microsoft 365 is made up of three key components: Windows 10, Office 365, and Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS). Both Office 365 and EMS are in themselves bundles of apps and services

EMS is itself without version numbers, as are the products within its bundle – as most of these were born in the cloud.

Windows 10 has been purported to be the last version of Windows and also one that is continually updated. So at some point the “10” part of its name may drop off as well.

Office 365 is a collection of version-less apps and services. The closest we come to versioning is apps such as Office 365 ProPlus being the somewhat equivalent of Office 2013/2016 and at some point 2019.

The better together experience Microsoft is aiming for is delivered by Microsoft 365: the latest desktop experience, the latest productivity experience across mobile/web/desktop, and the latest security experience across every device/account/service/app.

At present “Office 365” is still the term that is being used in presentations and events, but more and more it is being replaced with “Microsoft 365” in slideware and general messaging.

Ultimately this is purely a shift in branding and customer perception. Where once Azure was known as “Windows Azure”, Microsoft removed the operating system specific branding so that customers weren’t restricted in their thinking that Azure could only run Windows services on it. Now Azure runs a number of Linux/Unix flavours, as well as providing services that are less about operating system and more about development language & platform.

Office 365 has served its purpose as a brand and differentiator. While some organisations are still yet to migrate to Office 365, it has become the mainstream of productivity for any Microsoft-aligned organisation.

I expect over the next year or so we’ll see the “365” disappear from Office 365 and “10” disappear from Windows, and the messaging will read that Microsoft 365 is built on Windows, Office, and EMS. There won’t be a song and dance about it, URLs and branding will simply continue to change quietly in the background.

One day you’ll log in and this:

Will have simply become this:

Mixed Office apps experience on the Surface Hub

While the Surface Hub is a great group device – it’s not specifically designed for individuals to access their content as easily as they would from their own computer.

This poses somewhat of a challenge as the intent of the Surface Hub is for people to stand near and work with the device, not stay seated at their computers.

Pre-installed on the Surface Hub are both the Office apps (eg. the “mobile” touch-friendly versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint) as well as OneDrive for Business.

All of the apps allow users to sign in which then provides access to their recently accessed content. However, what I’ve found is that the sign-in experience does not appear to be consistent between them.

As you can see from the Sway below I was able to sign in to some apps while others still required me to log in. In some instances, there was a delay between it realising that I was already signed in and then bringing up the history in the second app, whereas in other instances it simply required me to sign in again.

When signing in to the Office apps or OneDrive for Business app the user is prompted to add the account to Windows or skip the step. This is core Windows 10 functionality that is designed to simplify the sign-in experience for other Azure Active Directory / Office 365 aware applications. In my tests, I tried both options – signing in as well as skipping the step. As the Surface Hub allows you to scrub the session when you press “I’m done” I could test out both scenarios without any interference.

In both scenarios, the experience was a mixed bag which means that the average user might potentially get frustrated with either having to wait for their file history to appear in the app, or worse still having to sign in again. This can potentially lead to a negative experience which may impact their desire to use the Surface Hub in the future – therefore it is important to call this out as part of end user training as a “quirk” to be aware of. The hope is that in future updates of either the Windows 10 Team version that runs on Surface Hub (ie. the soon-to-be-released Anniversary Update) or the Office apps themselves the experience will be improved.