In what must be the biggest update to Excel this year, Microsoft has introduced cloud-powered data types. The feature was teased at Ignite last year and will finally roll out to Office Insiders this month.
There are plans to keep adding to the functionality, but currently, it includes stocks and geography. The pair have “added AI capabilities”, letting the app automatically associate words with relevant data. If the user types a country, for example, Excel will pair it with population, GDP, and more.
This is made possible by the same technology that powers Bing's recent intelligent search features. Microsoft combines AI with Project Brainwave, which uses Intel's FPGA chips for a tenfold increase in speed and model size.
For both stocks and geography, Excel will display information as a rich datatype. You can associate the information with a Map Chart in a single click and see relevant information on each cell.
To pull in a stock, you can simply type the ticker name and use the latest data to inform your calculations. You can also pull in index funds, or type company names to reference stock.
SharePoint and Office 365 Government
Fortunately, Excel isn't the only service to get an update this month. Microsoft is opening its cloud offerings to more places, with a new data center in France, and plans to offer options in the UAE, Switzerland, and Germany. Microsoft has also announced the general availability of Office 365 for government, which seeks to deliver the suite in a secure and compliant manner.
Speaking of Office, you can now connect your Yammer community to any SharePoint site or webpage, while SharePoint now offers a new solution for corporate intranet and personalized search capabilities.
We're interested to see how these features expand, especially Excel, which could really pull in new users with its data types. You can read more about the changes on the Office blog.