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'Insider' Testing Program Launches for Microsoft 365

Organizations can now sign up to test drive the Microsoft 365 suite via a new "Insider" program.

The Microsoft 365 Insider Program promises to help careers and "help make your business more competitive," according to its sign-up page. Organizations can use the beta software releases of the program "as part of your deployment to make sure you're ready for the future of Microsoft."

Not much is known about the Microsoft 365 Insider Program beyond the description on the sign-up page. The existence of the page was noted on Friday by veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley in this article.

Microsoft already has a an Office Insider Program, but the new Microsoft 365 Insider Program is being aimed at users of "enterprise-specific Windows, Office client and Office server products and releases," Foley noted, citing a Microsoft spokesperson. Likely that may mean that Microsoft will be seeking testing and feedback on service update releases, such as for Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Microsoft Teams and others.

The Microsoft 365 Insider Program is being run by Windows Insider Program head Dona Sarkar and team. Sarkar described it as "an evolution of the Windows Insider Program for Business," according to Foley's account. In the future, the Microsoft 365 Insider Program will add elements such as Microsoft Intune test builds, Sarkar indicated.

Microsoft is keeping its various Insider programs separate for now, but it's already contemplating changing the name of the Microsoft 365 Insider Program to "Microsoft Insiders," Sarkar told Foley.

Microsoft also has a Microsoft Edge Insider Program for developers to test its browser releases. Last week, Microsoft announced that Edge will get rebuilt using open source Chromium project technologies.

The concept of "getting ready for the future of Microsoft" may seem like an odd message to send to organizations that simply purchase the rights to use Microsoft's software to accomplish various tasks. Organizations might more typically expect Microsoft to be getting ready for their needs, as least from a traditional customer service perspective.

However, such messaging is consistent with past Windows 10 as a Service messaging from Microsoft, where the software releases have been sped up for organizations.

For instance, Microsoft expects organizations using Windows 10 to regularly perform tests of beta software releases via Windows Insider Program participation. Purchasers of Microsoft's software should set up Windows 10 "testing rings" within their organizations, where some people will use potentially flawed software and then spend time reporting errors back to Microsoft.

That's Microsoft's Insider Program concept for Windows 10 users. Possibly, it's planning the same kind of program for its online services customers, as well.

About the Author

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

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