Microsoft has quietly released an Groups app for Windows phones in the past week. But the gestation time for this solution was epic: the firm first discussed Groups way back in March 2014.
At the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas and Convergence in Atlanta in March 2014, Microsoft revealed that it would extend a Yammer feature called Groups throughout Office 365.
“The value of enterprise social goes up exponentially when people organize themselves into smaller groups focused on a specific process or deliverable,” Microsoft general manager Jared Spataro wrote at the time. “This simple Groups Experience is so powerful, in fact, that we’re making it a cross-Office 365 concept that will unify people, profiles, conversations, email, calendars, and files across the entire set of Office 365 applications. Creating a group anywhere in Office 365 will automatically provision a corresponding inbox, social feed, calendar, and document library that group members can use to get the job done.”
When I spoke to Julia White at that time, she told me that Groups was essentially Yammer and Exchange collaboration, and that it solved an age-old problem where the capabilities people needed to collaborate were found in different tools. At the time, Groups were expected to ship by late 2014.
And so they did … but not on Windows phones. In September 2014,Microsoft announced that an initial Groups release on the web was then available. “We’re introducing Groups in Office 365 so you can easily connect with the colleagues, information and applications you need to do more,” Spataro wrote.
The recent release of Groups for Windows phones appears to be the first such release on mobile, though it comes a full year after the web release and over 18 months after Microsoft first announced the functionality. As you might expect, it is a mobile implementation of the Groups feature in Office 365 for commercial customers.
“With Groups you can easily participate in group email conversations, share photos and ‘like’ a message, or @mention a person or a group, work together using the shared team OneNote’s notebook, view and co-author Office documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) shared with your group, and discover and join Office 365 Groups relevant to you,” Microsoft explains.
To be clear, this feature has nothing to do with Rooms, the recently-canceled, consumer-focused Windows phones feature.
You can download Groups for Windows Phone 8.1 or higher from the Windows Phone Store. An Office 365 commercial account is required.
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