Microsoft is adding a host of new capabilities to its Office productivity suite that are aimed at using machine learning to help people get their work done more efficiently. Outlook, Excel, and Word will all benefit, with new features rolling out to a limited set of users in the coming months and then expanding to a broader set of people later on.
Outlook’s web client will provide users with an interface that will automatically offer them responses to questions layered inside emails, while Excel has a new feature that suggests charts and pivot tables. Word will get a feature that will help users define acronyms based on information shared within their organization.
The news is part of Microsoft’s ongoing push to improve its productivity suite for workers by providing them with intelligent services. All of the features are designed to make it easier for people to get work done fast by reducing the complexity of tasks inside Office 365. They’re also designed to attract people to Microsoft’s cloud productivity service, since all of those capabilities require processing on the company’s servers.
The risk, however, is that while these capabilities sound good on paper, they can be a bit rough when the rubber meets the road. Microsoft is planning to roll out these features to a small group of users at first, those who have expressed interest in testing out the latest Office features, before unleashing them on the rest of the world, in an attempt to make sure that they work the best they can.