June 1 is the New Date
The writing team for the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook is working hard to complete the fourth edition. We originally planned for a May 1 launch, but realistically I do not think we are going to be done until the middle of the month. With that in mind, we are now heading for a June 1 date. Slippages happen in the software business!
Given that we published the third edition on June 1, 2016, releasing the fourth edition on June 1, 2017 seems appropriate. A year is a good interval for an edition of a constantly-refreshed book. It is an eon in Internet time, especially given the development cadence of cloud services like Office 365. This is the only book of its type available on the market today. Others have tried to do something similar, but we have seen nothing appear.
More Skype for Business Content
Part of the delay is due to the sheer effort involved in writing, part because Microsoft has not released some features that we want to cover, and part because of the need for new material to be reviewed by our fearless technical editor. Another exciting factor is a decision that we took to include a new chapter devoted to Skype for Business. The author for that chapter is well-known Skype MVP Ståle Hansen, a very welcome addition to the team.
Why a New Edition
I have received some questions from readers to ask why we feel the need to replace the third edition. After all, it is popular in the market and has received great reviews on Amazon (Figure 1), all of which makes us happy.
Although we have been updating the third edition on a weekly basis since its release in June 2016 (see the change log for details), there is a limit to what you can do to keep a book refreshed within the structure laid down by the chapters. Given the number of changes we have made to incorporate new information, including the release of major new applications in Teams and StaffHub, we think we have explored the limits of what we can do in the current structure.
Fourth Edition Changes
Our plans are to:
- Remove a pile of obsolete material, chiefly around the compliance and search area where Microsoft will no longer allow tenants to create workload-specific searches from July 1, 2017. There is obsolete material elsewhere too and we will remove it as we go through the content.
- Include new content covering the Office 365 data governance framework, Skype for Business, and other topics.
- Expand coverage of existing topics. We have always offered extremely good coverage of Exchange Online and we know that we need to do better in SharePoint, OneDrive, and other apps.
- Lay the foundation for other changes. For instance, we know that we have to move from V1 of the Azure Active Directory PowerShell module (the Msol cmdlets) to V2 (the AzureAD cmdlets). This is not a straightforward process. We have over 200 example commands in various chapters of the book and the V2 module does not yet offer full feature equivalence with the V1 module. In other words, you cannot simply swap out a V1 command for a V2 command.
- Restructure the chapters to create a more natural flow for the content. We are also taking the chance to split up some of the mega-chapters (like Office 365 Groups) and to bring material together where topics are spread across multiple chapters today.
Remember that we are dealing with a 950-page, 450,000-word book and that all the material must be edited and reviewed after it is written (or moved). In short, it is a big task, but we will deliver, even if we delay the release a little.
In the interim, we will continue to update the third edition. Some of the updates are not as detailed as we want, but we will tell you in the text where we are holding content for the fourth edition. We hope that you find the updates keep the usefulness of the book. Once we publish the fourth edition, we will cease updating the third and begin the process of applying weekly updates to the fourth.
Competition is good because it usually drives an increase in quality. We look forward to seeing what Microsoft Press delivers in its much-delayed second edition of the Inside Out title, now apparently relaunched with a new writing team and a publication goal of September 25, 2017 (according to Amazon.com). Microsoft Press aims to deliver a “current book service.” According to their FAQ, this means that:
“Microsoft Press will update the content periodically, depending on the frequency of significant updates to the software. Changes will be made for 12 to 18 months following first publication date.”
However, the updates are online only and cannot be downloaded to eReaders. In comparison, our approach is to:
- Offer frequent updates for the duration of the book. With the change to a June 1 publication, we are now on an annual release cycle. Normally, we update weekly.
- Always publish fully-built books. We want people to use our content, so we integrate new material and changes to build complete PDF, EPUB, and Kindle versions that we make available to subscribers. We do not offer online (web-only) copies.
- Offer updates to new editions. We appreciate the support of our subscribers. To acknowledge their support, we allow subscribers of the EPUB/PDF versions to upgrade to new editions at a very low cost. We cannot offer the same facility to Kindle readers because Amazon does not support this kind of offer.
Let’s hope that the Office 365 developers do not make the book instantly obsolete through the announcements they will make at the Ignite conference in Orlando that same week. It will be interesting to observe how they cope with the number of changes that happen inside Office 365, especially when Microsoft makes announcements about new apps, features, and developments thick and fast, which is what usually happens at Ignite.
Those who want to continue with us on this journey of documenting Office 365 will soon receive the chance to upgrade to the fourth edition and so continue to receive updates. We quite understand if others wish to stay with the third edition, but we hope that you will consider our offer to upgrade is reasonable for the value you get from the book.
Now back to work to complete the book…
Tony, Paul, Michael, and Ståle (and Vasil, our TE)