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Microsoft Outs Previews For Office 2016 And Skype For Business

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Microsoft is making St. Patrick's Day a dual celebration for developers and IT enterprise apps teams who boast some Irish heritage and have been eager to get their hands on Skype and Office 2016.

Just about six months after letting the enterprise world know it was changing Microsoft Lync to Skype for Business, Microsoft is officially launching the technical preview today with the new client, service and online service officially available next month. The fun part is between now and then as developers and apps teams can try Skype for Business and get prepped for the upgrade come April.

According to Microsoft, video messaging service Skype is used by more than 300 million people every month. The Skype of Business provides an expanded Lync feature set as well as business-level compliance, security and IT controls. Enterprise users can search and connect with anyone in the Skype network and all its functionality — instant messaging, video calls, online meetings and voice feature — is now baked into the Office platform.

"Our elite launch partners have the highest level of experience, training and commitment to the Skype for Business platform, and are able to deliver on a global scale," writes Giovanni Mezgec, general manager for the Skype for Business team, in a blog post announcing Skype's availability and noting that there's been a five-fold jump in partners deploying Lync in the cloud in the past 12 months.

On Wednesday, March 18, the O365 Network will host a Skype for Business YamJam running from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. EST where enterprise teams can asks questions and get instant help on using the new app. To participate just sign up here.

Microsoft is also debuting the developer preview of Office 2016 IT Pro today, which has been in private preview for several months, according to Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate VP for the Office 365 Client Apps and Services team.

"Now we're ready to expand the program to our commercial Office 365 customers, an important milestone that gives IT pros and developers an opportunity to start testing the upcoming release," writes Koenigsbauer, warning the build doesn't yet feature all the functionality Microsoft plans to include in the final product. "However, through the course of the preview, customers should expect to see new features delivered through monthly updates."

The Office 365 offering features Data Loss Protection for creating and enforcing content authoring and document-sharing policies; "significant technical improvements," to Outlook, including multi-factor authentication as well as faster email delivery and greater storage efficiency.

So far, the technical preview of Office 2016 is getting kudos for its visual refresh as reviewers are quick to note that Office 2016 offers pretty much minor updates. But that's fine as Office 2013 isn't exactly antiquated.

"We're excited about this milestone in our development process and are looking forward to hearing your feedback," says Koenisgsbauer, adding Microsoft will be providing updates between now and the official launch in April. Here's the link to the technical preview site.

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