Microsoft is releasing a bevy of updates to Office 365, employing machine learning capabilities integrated into the suite, geared toward digital transformation throughout different organizations.

During the annual Microsoft Ignite conference in Atlanta, the company announced new products that take on multiple fronts, bringing improvements on matters of security, intelligence and the cloud platform.

Microsoft, as a way of democratizing Artificial Intelligence and ensuring its widespread availability for users, announced that Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, Sway and Excel will be backed up by different cloud-powered AI capabilities.

About 23,000 Information Technology professionals were present at the conference as Microsoft expressed how the IT industry can empower and fuel the drive toward digital transformation.

"[T]he IT industry has a tremendous opportunity to help digitally transform every aspect of business, spanning how companies engage their customers, empower their employees, optimize their operations and transform their products," said Judson Althoff, Executive VP of Microsoft's Worldwide Commercial Business.

The company, inspired by its belief that IT is in the heart of digital transformation, introduced new features that take advantage of AI technology.

The new Tap feature in both Word and Outlook will enable users to easily use relevant content from their organization's existing documents and have it integrated into their own emails or documents. Tap helps users pull data from a centralized source within their organization and use it to finish a task or a project.

A new QuickStarter feature for PowerPoint and Sway will function as a guide when users start creating presentations. Users can input a topic that they're creating a presentation for, and using Bing, PowerPoint will deliver a list of templates related to the topic. QuickStarter can provide curated outlines for any topic, creative commons-licensed photographs, among other things to be used as a starting point for creating presentations.

Microsoft will also update its PowerPoint designer to improve visualizations of data, particularly with bulleted lists, which can be challenging to incorporate into presentations, often appearing bulky and uninviting. On the other hand, Excel will get a new chart type called "Maps," which transforms geographical data on Excel into a more detailed visualization powered by Bing Maps.

Additionally, Microsoft utilized AI to aid businesses and customer transactions through Relationship Assistant, an add-on headed to Dynamics 365 soon. It co-functions with Cortana to generate a comprehensive customer data portfolio that helps businesses make informed decisions in the future.

Only a few of these AI-backed updates are available now, with Excel and PowerPoint slated to receive the new features later this year. Keep in mind that these updates are keenly AI-focused, so don't expect conspicuously mind-blowing features that easily stand out. Microsoft's intention is not to add spectacle, since AI works best unnoticed, calculating astutely behind the scenes to provide intelligent features and suggestions.

The AI updates to Office 365 are part of a much larger initiative by Microsoft. The company intends to seek the help of and convince IT professionals to ensure that digital transformation will optimize business operations and empower customers and employees. To accomplish this, Microsoft is intent on cascading AI technology all over every service that it offers, from applications to services and infrastructure.

Photo: Mike Mozart | Flickr

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