Microsoft is offering a new version of its most underappreciated productivity tool for free

Microsoft wants to help us all feel a little more organized and ready for the day ahead, and it's offering a free experience of one of its least well-known productivity apps to do so.

The company has revealed users with a Microsoft account (MSA) can now try a new lightweight version of its Microsoft Lists app at no charge, to see just how it can help them.

Microsoft Lists is designed for small business and individual use, and the new preview version of the app looks to help provide a clear and straightforward view of all your important tasks in one single place.

Microsoft Lists preview

“It’s time to liberate yourself from coordination chaos,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post announcing the news. “Time to clear your brain space and get organized. In short, it’s time to try the Microsoft Lists – MSA Preview.”

Previously only available as part of a paid Microsoft 365 subscription, the company says the new preview app is designed around the core of the existing service, but also adds in a few new tools, including tabbed views, sharing from within a Person column, add images inline and more.

It believes Microsoft Lists can be helpful across a huge range of tasks, from business-focused tasks such as internal events planning, job applications and employee onboarding, to more home-oriented activities such as vacation planning or even recipe collecting.

The app allows users to share all their plans with co-workers, family or friends, and can be customized in a wide range of formats to give users exactly the view or approach they need.

The company is offering 200,000 free trial accounts on a first-come, first-served basis, and you'll need a Microsoft account to sign up. During preview, users can try up to 50 lists, with up to 2,000 items/list, although there is also a 200MB limit for files, video, and image storage per list.

Customers planning to use Microsoft Lists with a business account and personal Microsoft account will need to switch between accounts to see each set of lists.

“We’re excited to see what sorts of information tracking goodness you create during preview, and how you share it all,” the company added.

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Microsoft strengthens 5G cloud offering with Metaswitch Networks purchase

Microsoft has strengthened the 5G credentials of its Azure public cloud platform through the acquisition of Metaswitch Networks.

Metaswitch Networks is a specialist in virtualised network software and voice, data and communications services for operators. Its technology and expertise will be used to expand Microsoft Azure’s telecoms portfolio as demand for cloud-based 5G core services increases.

5G promises ultrafast speeds, enhanced capacity and ultra-low latency that will enable a whole host of new business, consumer and government applications. This is a significant opportunity for mobile operators to increase and diversify revenue streams.

Microsoft 5G

However 5G requires operators to rearchitect networks away from centralised, legacy core infrastructure and towards the cloud. By virtualising network functions, operators can rollout new services more rapidly, dynamically allocate resources to where they are most needed, and bring processing capabilities closer to the point of collection.

The cloud also helps operators reduce their operating costs and lower capital expenditure. In addition to the potential new revenue streams on offer, 5G will also lower the cost-per-bit of transmission.

Microsoft says the acquisition of Metaswitch Networks, along with the earlier purchase of Affirmed Networks, will help it better serve operator customers and partner with telecoms equipment manufacturers.

“The convergence of cloud and communication networks presents a unique opportunity for Microsoft to serve operators globally via continued investment in Azure, adding additional depth to our hyperscale cloud infrastructure with the specialized software required to run virtualized communication functions, applications and networks,” explained Yoused Kahalidi, head of Azure Networking at Microsoft.

“As the industry moves to 5G, operators will have opportunities to advance the virtualization of their core networks and move forward on a path to an increasingly cloud-native future. Microsoft will continue to meet customers where they are, working together with the industry as operators and network equipment providers evolve their own operations.”

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