Sing a little song, do a little dance, get ready for relentless collaboration.

Microsoft has released Office 2016 for both Windows and Mac — a productivity suite that Microsoft exec Kirk Koenigsbauer promises will usher in an era of seamless teamwork.

Addressing How We Work

We told you before — and Microsoft is telling you again today: If you still believe "none of us are as dumb as all of us," then the modern workplace is no place for you.

Research earlier this year by CMSWire and David Coleman, founder and managing director of Collaborative Strategies, found office life has transformed us to multi-tasking team players, working on eight projects simultaneously.

Office 2016 — while recognizing individuals usually start and end their work in Office — was designed to address collaborative workplace projects, including the "messy middle that involves a lot of discussion."

Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office Client Applications and Services team, described the new release as a "suite of integrated apps and services that removes barriers and empowers teams to do and achieve more." It will be familiar to anyone who has been using the consumer preview released in May.

He specifically highlighted:

  • Real time co-authoring, already available in the web version of Office — which lets you see what others are writing immediately, as it happens
  • Skype for Business in your client apps, allowing you to IM, screen share, talk or video chat right in your docs
  • Office 365 Groups, with a shared inbox, calendar, cloud storage for group files, and a shared OneNote notebook "to keep the team productive"
  • Office 365 Planner, with the ability to create new plans, organize and assign tasks, set due dates and update status

Microsoft is also releasing GigJam in private preview today. A service that associates data from multiple sources on-demand, using some of the analytics technology it had developed for Power BI to make everyday data queriable by voice and accessible through touch, it will become part of Office 365 in 2016.

office 2016 collaboration

Beyond Collaboration

The subscription version of Office 2016 also comes with built-in data loss prevention to reduce loss of sensitive data. It does this by giving administrators tools to create, manage and enforce polices for content and document sharing.

There are a lot of other new additions, including Tell Me, which helps you find the right Office feature or command, and Smart Lookup, which brings insights from the web right into your documents; an inbox organizer in Outlook called Clutter, Excel 2016 with integrated publishing to Power BI and the addition of Sway to the Office line-up.

Office 2016 Release Cadence

Today’s release is the culmination of three years of work for Microsoft. In that time, the company’s entire strategy has changed dramatically because of CEO Satya Nadella's focus on the cloud.

While users can buy Office 2016 as a one-time product, Microsoft has been aggressively marketing the cloud version that comes with Office 365 since for the past year.

“With this release, we’re also shifting the cadence of Office on Windows to feel much more like the cadence we have on the Office mobile and web apps, which release every month with new value,“ Koenigsbauer wrote.

“So, going forward, Office 365 customers will now enjoy new features and capabilities delivered continuously in the Office desktop applications as part of their subscription. It’s a new day for our desktop apps.”

As a teaser, he points out that for those who subscribe will get significant updates to Office Delve by the end of this year, including Office 365 Groups insights and discovery as well as a new personal analytics.

There will also be upgrades to Excel that will include new charts, formulas and connectors and Cortana, Microsoft's personal assistant, will ultimately be connected to Office, too.

Nadella Speaks

For Microsoft, Office 2016 is a big step in its productivity strategy. In fact, it’s such a big release that Nadella outlined his perspective on it and where it fits in the overall Microsoft strategy.

It called it all about re-inventing productivity in the blog post about the release. Admitting that this is a “bold ambition," he also cites Microsoft's Mobile First, Cloud First strategy that he introduced almost two years ago.

Office 2016 was released to change the nature of work based on "three key dimensions," he wrote.

The first dimension is mobility,which is not about devices, but "the human experience of work."

"Your work cannot be bound to any one device or location. You must be able to get anything done on any device you choose, anywhere you choose,” he explained.

The second dimension is conversations — collaborative tools that enable shared outcomes no matter where or what device collaborators are working with.

The third dimension is Intelligence — a service that uses the “knowledge you and your organization need to drive productivity.”

Microsoft has taken the traditional Word, PowerPoint and Excel apps and enabled them to work on the fly with newer solutions like OneDrive, Sway, Sunrise, WunderList, Outlook, Skype, Yammer, Delve and Power BI.

With Office 2016, the subscription model introduced with Office 365 has matured. From now on, there will be smaller incremental upgrades to improve use and functionality.

Office 2016 apps are available in 40 languages starting today.

If you want to buy Office 2016 rather than subscribe to Office 365, it costs $149 for the Office Home & Student, $229 for the Office Home and Business and $399 for Office Professional.

Title image by Bảo-Quân Nguyễn.