2014-10-31 Office 365 App Launcher.jpg

Our final dip into the Microsoft TechEd Europe meeting in Barcelona this week comes in the shape of new APIs for Office 365. These will enable developers to create applications that build on and tap into the Office 365 platform.

While the release of new APIs outside of a very small developer community is rarely going to stop the presses, the long-term implications for the ongoing development of Office 365 with this announcement is significant.

Interesting Timing

It’s either ironic or deliberate that Microsoft should announce this just after Google created a stir with the announcement of its new email service, Inbox. It seems every time Google makes an announcement, Microsoft has one to match.

While the new API’s don’t exactly respond to the Inbox announcement, Microsoft also announced this week that as of next spring, Outlook.com will support third-party apps. That will allow developers to share their apps with Outlook.com's 400 million active users.

But developers won’t have to wait until next spring. They can start building apps now for Outlook Web App and can work with Outlook.com once the program comes into effect. Pretish Abraham, principal program manager lead for the Outlook team, explained:

This time, we’re extending the developer opportunity to include Outlook.com support, which will allow our customers to use your apps in their every-day personal life, increasing their productivity even further. Think about it: Whenever a customer reads or composes an email or calendar event, your app could be there, helping them get the job done."

But that’s only the Outlook.com part of this week’s announcements, which was introduced — and this is irony we were talking about earlier — at this year’s Inbox Love conference in Mountain View earlier this week. 

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Office 365 Development Center

Microsoft waited for the heavy weights at TechEd to outline its full developer vision for Office 365. There are three principal announcements:

  • General availability of new Office 365 APIs for mail, files, calendar and contacts
  • New mobile SDKs for native app development, and
  • Visibility for developers’ apps through the new Office 365 app launcher

This all reflects the hand of new CEO Satya Nadella, who at the recent Gartner IT/Symposium described Office 365 as “the most strategic API for Microsoft."

The upshot of the TechEd announcement is that developers using the new APIs for mail, files, calendar and contacts will have access to the more than 400 petabytes of data and services across Office 365 in any application. This includes everything from a travel reservation app that connects to Office 365 calendars and contacts to a sales automation app that fully integrates with Office 365 mail and files.

The announcement is for mobile developers, too, because Microsoft is also launching an iOS SDK, as well as a new version of the Android SDK supplementing the Visual Studio SDK for developers.

One other tidbit of information worth noting here is that Microsoft claims to have created a network of 3.4 million developers since the launch of Office 365, all of who have extended SharePoint and Office way beyond their native capabilities.

Examples include PayPal, through which people can now create and share invoices without ever having to leave Excel;  Poll Everywhere, which provides PowerPoint the ability to display audience feedback in real time with visuals; and DocuSign for Outlook, which provides e-signatures for emails and attached documents. In fact as of now, there are 1200 apps in the Office Store that have all been developed on Office 365.

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IFTTT Office 365 App

It will be interesting to see where this goes as the possibilities provided by Office 365 are absolutely enormous. It also hints at the rapid development of Office 365 for task and in ways that were never considered when it was originally released.

Photos from Microsoft.