Microsoft envisions the next generation of applications

Over the past two years, Microsoft has released a host of new tools and technologies to help developers, including those at Microsoft, create “the next generation of apps.” Microsoft has planned something for all app creators, whether they are non-professional developers or seasoned and seasoned developers.

And executives are convinced that these types of applications in large numbers are exactly what customers need today, especially in this age of hybrid work. But is there an overall strategy that ties it all together?

We got a glimpse of what Microsoft was trying to do from this Microsoft marketing slide from a few years ago:

And here’s the newer, Microsoft Cloud-centric version:

“Collaborative Apps”: an evolving vision

Microsoft has variously described a concept called “Collaborative Apps.” When Microsoft executives first used the term, Teams apps appeared to be apps designed for use in Teams and acquired from the Teams app store.

Today, Microsoft executives use the term “Collaborative Apps” much more broadly: It can be apps in Teams or components of Teams in your apps. But that’s not all. Given Microsoft’s intent to more closely link its Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365 franchises, “Collaborative Apps” also applies to Dynamics 365. Collaborative apps can be apps built into Dynamics or Dynamics components built into your apps. .

How should developers and users make sense of this evolving vision of collaborative applications?

Before the first annual Microsoft Power Platform conference kicked off on September 20, I had the opportunity to speak with Jeff Teper, the newly appointed president of collaborative applications and platforms, and Charles Lamanna, vice president of Enterprise Applications and Platforms.

At the conference, Jeff Teper’s keynote is titled “Building Collaborative Apps with Microsoft 365 + Power Platform.” At the same time as the event started, Microsoft announced a new “Power Up Skilling Program” to help individuals enter the low-code space through a three-month guided program, Cards for Power Apps and the opportunity to co-author with ” co-authoring inside Power Apps” to simultaneously edit apps in real-time using an Office-like experience. New maps (coming “soon” in public preview) and the ability to craft together (coming next month in public preview) are even more pieces of the shared app puzzle.

Collaborative applications: the argument

A collaboration application, in its simplest form, “is an application that helps people work together on a business process,” said Jeff Teper. A business process can range from submitting a schedule to filling out a form (as well as much more complex and advanced interactions).

Developers can use whatever tools they are comfortable with to write a collaborative application. Low-code tools from the Power Platform family are great, as are Visual Studio, TypeScript, JavaScript, and other professional development options. And they can connect to data sources from Microsoft and its partners and competitors using the Microsoft Graph programming interface, the Dataverse shared data service, and Azure data. Fluid Framework and Loop sync components, adaptive maps, custom connectors, and Azure Communication Services—the chat and meeting capabilities that Microsoft uses in Teams—are other optional elements available to developers. Collaboration apps can integrate with Teams, Office, Dynamics and/or custom business apps.

Central to the evolving vision for Collaborative Apps is Power Platform, Microsoft’s collection of low-code tools aimed at turning business users into developers. (Microsoft officials also position Power Platform as an important part of its overall Microsoft Cloud vision and strategy).

“We are not inventing our own development tool for Office or Microsoft 365. We are betting on the Power Platform,” said Jeff Teper.

New templates for creating app

At the Microsoft Build conference earlier this year, officials announced the ability to create Loop components by updating Adaptive Cards. As a reminder, Adaptive Cards is an open card exchange format that allows developers to exchange user interface content in a common and consistent way. Developers can turn adaptive maps into loop components or create new loop components based on adaptive maps. These adaptive board-based loop components can be displayed using Microsoft’s IA Context IQ editor and functions. Today, Microsoft announced that Power Apps developers can create maps using Power Apps Designer and even take advantage of Power Fx integration. Developers can use the designer to create surveys, data collection, surveys, and other types of more advanced applications.

“But it’s not just about the Power Platform inside Office,” noted Charles Lamanna. “There is also Office inside the Power Platform. »

It is in this context that the announcement about co-author in Power App Studio falls. This feature uses the same underlying infrastructure that enables co-authoring/co-presence in apps like Word and PowerPoint, he noted. And at the Build conference earlier this year, Microsoft unveiled collaboration controls in Power Apps, which let developers drag and drop Microsoft 365 collaboration features, such as chats, meetings, files, and Teams tasks, into custom apps built with Power Apps.

The tech company is experimenting with these new app-building models on its own, Charles Lamanna said. Viva Sales, the first “role-based” Viva app designed to help salespeople capture data and integrate it with Teams’ chats, calls and Outlook messages, is a prime example of a collaboration app, he said.

“We practice what we tell our customers,” adds Teper. “The model we propose is to use the data in Microsoft 365, to use Office as a kind of shell, but to use the Power Platform to build the business processes. This is how we built Viva Sales. »

Charles Lamanna says Microsoft learned the best way to build an app inside something like Teams. And “copy-paste a browser-based app as an iframe into Teams,” while possible, is not the best option. More interesting things happen “when you take a kind of big, monolithic web application and deconstruct it into a bunch of smaller workflows and micro-applications for Adaptive Cards.” By bringing the apps together in this way, “engagement skyrockets because that’s how people are used to responding to messages and emails,” he said.

Roads lead to the cloud

Since all roads at Microsoft today lead to the Microsoft Cloud, no definition would be complete without some insight into how the Cloud platform fits into the Collaborative Apps strategy and vision. Microsoft’s argument is that by building on the full Microsoft stack, developers and customers will benefit from the built-in security and management capabilities that come with it.

Jeff Teper calls for action as follows: “Build collaborative applications with Power Platform and, where useful, integrate them with Microsoft 365Teams, Office, etc. And you’ll get better, more manageable apps faster.”


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