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Microsoft today announced a number of improvements across Microsoft 365, its line of subscription services offered as a part of Microsoft Office. During its Build developer conference, the company took the wraps off enhancements to Microsoft Graph, Microsoft Search Federation, and Organization Explorer, as well as Microsoft Teams, Outlook, and Fluid components.
“The world around us has dramatically changed since the last Build. Every customer and partner [is] now focused on the new realities of hybrid work — enabling people to work from anywhere, at any time, and on any device,” Nicole Herskowitz, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 platform general manager, said in a blog post. “Developers are at the heart of this transformation, and at Microsoft, we’ve seen this evidently through the apps you’ve built on top of the Microsoft Cloud.”
Remote work is on the rise. With the need to manage distributed workforces, organizations have ramped up their usage of videoconferencing platforms. Global Market Insights predicts that the videoconferencing market will grow 19% from 2020 to reach $50 billion in value by 2026. Zoom alone now hosts 45 billion minutes of webinars a year.
“Teams has gone to 145 million daily active users, and there’s a ton of organic interest in figuring out how businesses leverage the entire Teams platform — not just for chat and meetings, but as a digital platform where they can integrate their apps and workflows,” Karan Nigam, director of product marketing for Teams, told VentureBeat in an interview. “We’ve seen a nearly 7 times increase in the usage of apps … within the Teams platform over the last one year, so there’s a ton of organic momentum there.”
Launched last year, Teams apps for meetings make it easier to build apps that let people solve goals and design challenges together. Now Microsoft is introducing features designed to help developers build more unique scenarios, including shared stage integration, new meeting event APIs, Together mode, and media APIs with resource-specific content.
Fluid components in Teams chat are now in private preview and will expand to more customers in the coming months, Microsoft says. These components can be edited in real time and work across surfaces like Teams and Office apps. In Teams, Fluid components allow chat users to send a message with a table, action items, or lists that can be coauthored and edited by everyone in line. Fluid components can also be copied and pasted throughout different Teams chats.
Currently in preview, Teams’ shared stage integration offers developers access to the main stages in meetings through a configuration in their app manifest. This delivers a new surface to enable multi-user flows for meetings apps like whiteboarding, design, and project boards, Microsoft says.
The new meeting event APIs, meanwhile, which are also in preview, enable the automation of Teams meeting-related workflows through events, like meeting start and end. Together mode extensibility — which is coming soon — will let developers create custom scenes for Teams meetings and share them with users. As for the Media APIs and resource-specific consent, they’ll offer real-time access to audio and video streams for transcription, translation, note-taking, insight-gathering, and more when they roll out in the weeks ahead.
Microsoft also unveiled new capabilities for Teams Toolkit for Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code in preview. They aim to make the Teams app development experience easier by reducing the amount of code needed, providing out-of-the-box integrations with Microsoft Azure, tapping into data from the Microsoft Graph, and more. Some of the highlights include Azure Functions integration, single-line Microsoft Graph client, and streamlined hosting to an integrated development environment. There’s also a new Developer portal for Teams, formerly App Studio, that provides a management console via the web or within Teams to register and configure apps.
Lastly, users and IT admins will soon be able to purchase third-party app license subscriptions from the Microsoft Teams app store and Teams Admin Center, Microsoft said. Invoice billing and credit cards will be accepted across both storefronts beginning in preview this summer.
“The hope is that these tools support the customers and partners utilizing Teams as a platform, as well as developers who are thinking of it as a new economic opportunity for themselves and their development cycles,” Nigam continued. “Teams will become a more extensible platform, and our developer partners will be able to utilize new services like meetings in a much … richer way.”
Microsoft Outlook and Search
On the Microsoft Outlook side, Microsoft announced that message extensions are now supported in Outlook on the web, providing a unified development experience that works with both Teams and Outlook. When users write a message, they’ll be able to select a new menu of search-based message extensions to choose from, for example, an extension that surfaces tasks from a project management Teams app.
In related news, developers can now build one Adaptive Card and deploy it across Teams and Outlook, using the new universal Action.Execute action model. Adaptive Cards allow developers to share user interface data so experiences remain consistent throughout multiple apps and services.
Beyond Outlook and Teams updates, Microsoft made enhancements to its Microsoft Graph and Microsoft Search services.
Microsoft Graph data connect, a high-throughput connector designed to copy Microsoft 365 datasets into the Azure tenant, is now offered on Microsoft Azure as a metered service so developers pay only for the data they consume. And updates are arriving in Microsoft Graph connectors, which let organizations index third-party data so it appears in internal search results, allowing information from sources outside Microsoft 365 to be available through Microsoft Search results.
Most enterprises have to wrangle countless data buckets, some of which inevitably become underused or forgotten. A Forrester survey found that between 60% and 73% of all data within corporations is never analyzed for insights or larger trends. The opportunity cost of this unused data is substantial, with a Veritas report pegging it at $3.3 trillion by 2020. That’s perhaps why the corporate sector has taken an interest in solutions that ingest, understand, organize, and act on digital content from multiple digital sources.
To address this need, Microsoft is upgrading Microsoft Graph connectors to let companies add information to employee profiles from more sources, providing a more detailed view of peoples’ work and experience. In addition, new Jira and Confluence connectors will be available later this year, and Microsoft Graph connector data will come to Teams and Windows. Plus, eDiscovery support for Microsoft Graph connectors will be available this summer to let developers use the same tools in Microsoft 365 to search for content in third-party systems.
Microsoft also said Microsoft Search Federation, which creates a unified search experience across Microsoft Azure Cognitive Search and Dynamics 365, connecting systems like Microsoft Search and Azure Cognitive Search, will be generally available later this year. Beyond this, the company introduced Organization Explorer, an embedded app coming to Outlook that can help discover team relationships in an organization. Microsoft says it can help employees explore colleagues and teams and identify skills to help them complete their work.
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