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Microsoft Expands Availability of 'Bookings' Service

Microsoft on Monday said it is expanding the range of Office 365 plans that will have access to its new Bookings scheduling service.

First unveiled as a preview last July, Bookings is a service for small businesses that provides a public-facing Web portal for customers to book appointments, while also providing staff access to a shared calendar for scheduling purposes. Microsoft has since expanded the service from its initial U.S. and Canadian market launch and added integration with Facebook. Mobile applications were yet to come, at that time.

Now, Microsoft is indicating that Bookings soon will be available more broadly worldwide and has mobile apps support. In addition, Microsoft intends to add Bookings to other Office 365 plans than just the Office 365 Business Premium plan.

"We intend to bring Bookings to [Office 365] E3 and E5 customers in the future," Microsoft's announcement stated.

Microsoft announced that mobile apps are currently available for U.S. and Canadian Bookings users. There's an iOS app from the Apple Store and an Android app in the Google Play Store. Small businesses can use these apps for the following tasks, per Microsoft's announcement:

  • View and manage your Bookings calendar.
  • Create and edit bookings.
  • See real-time availability and whereabouts of your staff.
  • Respond to customers with bookings quickly and easily.
  • Get directions to your next booking.
  • Access your customer list.

The last item, "customer list," is something that is automatically generated for an organization as users make appointments.

In addition to using mobile apps, Microsoft Bookings can be launched from the Office 365 App Launcher. The steps are illustrated in this Microsoft support article.

A few other features will arrive in a week or so for Microsoft Bookings users. Microsoft is adding a control in Microsoft Bookings to share an organization's Office 365 calendar. In addition, the calendars of individual employees also can be shared. When those things are done, external customers will be able to see the blocked-out time periods before making appointments. Microsoft also added the ability to add buffer times between appointments.

Lastly, organizations will be able to choose custom-color options for the Bookings page that their customers see. There's also an option to include or exclude a company logo.

Microsoft didn't indicate exactly when the new features would be available. The features are rolling out gradually to subscribers, so they may appear in a "week or two." Global availability of Microsoft Bookings beyond U.S. and Canadian markets "may take a few weeks," Microsoft's announcement indicated.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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