Microsoft unloads Windows 10, Office, and Skype news ahead of holiday weekend

Here's what Microsoft announced regarding Windows 10, Office 2016, and Skype just before the July 4th weekend.

Microsoft Windows 10, Office 2016, Skype
Agiorgio, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

A holiday made for grilling and celebration of independence is coming, but that's not stopping Microsoft. It has announced new information regarding the Windows 10 rollout, plus new versions of Office 2016 and Skype all in advance of the long weekend.

We all know Windows 10 is due July 29, but beyond that, Microsoft hasn't said a whole lot. But on July 2, Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the newly-minted Windows and Devices Group, shared some specifics in a blog post.

Microsoft has been super-aggressive, releasing three new builds of Windows 10 in four days, with notable changes in all three. Myerson said Microsoft is almost at the release to manufacturing (RTM) stage where it will send it to the hardware OEMs to begin building PCs.

The five million Windows Insiders who have been testing Windows 10 for the past several months will be able to upgrade their beta code to the final Windows 10 code on July 29. After that, Microsoft will give it to retailers all over the world so they can help customers who bought new PCs with Windows 8.1 get rid of it as fast as possible.

After that, Microsoft will deliver Windows 10 to individuals who reserved their copy via the notification that appeared on desktops last month. Myerson said users will be notified "once our compatibility work confirms you will have a great experience, and Windows 10 has been downloaded on your system," which I translate to mean the notification tool has scanned your PC hardware and they are making sure everything will work properly.

Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education editions will be ready for download on August 1, which is a Saturday. That's a very unusual day to release those two versions.

Office 2016

With little fanfare, Microsoft updated its Office 2016 Preview apps in recent weeks with a slew of new features. The company announced all of the new features in a round-up blog by the Office team on Wednesday.

Word 2016 now has support for Live Typing, which allows users to see the edits their colleagues are making in real time. This builds on a feature introduced last month that let users see where colleagues were working within a document, but not specifically what they were working on. Excel and PowerPoint are expected to get similar features.

This update also includes the full release of Microsoft's new "Tell Me" feature, which helps users find features or functions inside Office's complex Ribbon menu. Just type what you want to do in the Tell Me box and it finds it. Hopefully it's more helpful than the current help app.

PowerPoint and Excel now have the Insights feature previously available for Word and Outlook. It uses Bing to provide context about highlighted text in a document, so if you see a reference to some person, place or thing in a PowerPoint slide show, for example, Bing will tell you the who/what/where of that reference.

The equation editor in Word, PowerPoint and Excel can now convert hand-written complex mathematical equations into text. Now you can add Calculus equations to a Word document simply by writing it and Word will generate the fonts and symbols.

Office 2016 is expected to be released later this year.

Skype for Business

Microsoft launched Skype for Business earlier this year as the replacement for its Lync business communicator. This week it expanded the communications tools to make it available to Office 365 enterprise users. Features include:

  • Skype Meeting Broadcast: This enables broadcast of a Skype for Business meeting on the Internet to up to 10,000 people, who can attend in a browser on nearly any device. The preview includes integration with Bing Pulse for real-time polling and sentiment tracking and Yammer, to enable attendee dialogue during the broadcast.
  • PSTN Conferencing. Available only to customers in the U.S., this allows people to join a Skype for Business meeting in Office 365 by dialing in using a landline or mobile phone.
  • Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling: Also available only in the U.S., this allows users to make and receive traditional phone calls in their Skype for Business client, and manage these calls with features like hold, resume, forward and transfer.
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