Yesterday, Microsoft announced that an Office 2016 IT Pro and Developer Preview is on its way, allowing businesses to become accustomed to company's next revision of its product suite. The Preview will bring some significant improvements including Data Loss Protection, new Outlook features, Information Rights Management extensions, new Macros and Add-ins, and Click-to-Run enhancements.
Office 2013 introduced new deployment functionality for the product, but using on-premises solutions like System Center Configuration Manager seemed to be an afterthought. Delivering updates from the Office 365 subscription service was an almost impossible task. Workarounds were created and additional functionality added, but the experience hasn't been a good one.
There looks to be light on the horizon. Embedded (if you blinked you missed it) in Microsoft's announcement about the upcoming Preview, the company says…
Enhanced distribution management. We’re improving our integration with System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) to allow IT admins to efficiently download and distribute monthly Office updates using the native SCCM features.
This is great news, particularly for those invested in the Cloud-based Office 365 and the on-premises Configuration Manager. We'll have to wait and see what improved integration actually means in terms of exposed features, but I know Configuration Manager admins will rejoice.
Additionally, it will be interesting to see how these other deployment features play out:
- Better network traffic management. We’re introducing a new Background Intelligence Transfer Service (BITS) to help prevent congestion on the network. BITS throttles back the use of bandwidth when other critical network traffic is present.
- Flexible update management. We’ve created a way for admins to manage the pace at which they receive feature updates and bug fixes while continuing to receive regular security updates.
- Simplified activation management. We’re adding a feature in the Office 365 Admin Portal to allow admins to manage device activations across users.