Miller characterized First Release as a customer preview, rather than a beta, because the features offered early will be fully-baked, not in-progress. "Customers who have gone to Office 365 wanted insights into what's coming," Miller said, of oft-asked-questions at Directions' licensing sessions. "Particularly if there's an interface change, they wanted time to alert their users."
First Release will deliver a subset of the new features to volunteers, giving them at least a two-week head start over the general population, Zborowski said. Administrators can opt-in from their Office 365 control panel, but they cannot restrict the upcoming features to a subset of their users. It's all or nothing.
Miller applauded Microsoft's openness, but cautioned Office 365 customers at the same time. "If I had one point of concern it is that it's not a conclusive roadmap, and customers shouldn't view it as a complete picture of the roadmap or release of Office 365 services and technology," Miller said.
"It's hard to say what pushed Microsoft to do this, but I'd say it was a reflection of two things," Miller continued. "First, customers want more insights into what's going on, and second, [Microsoft] is becoming attuned to how this faster release process works, so it's getting better on planning."
Microsoft has posted the Office 365 roadmap on its website.
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