At Microsoft's Build 2016 developer's conference in San Francisco this week, Office 2016 got a lot of attention. But so did Graph — and Connectors hogged the limelight for the second time in a week.
When it was released last September, Microsoft spent a lot of time pushing Office 2016's enterprise collaboration abilities, and pointed out that as enterprise needs evolved, so too would Office 2016.
Office 2016 ‘Opportunities’
On top of that, because of its links to Office 365 and because Office 365 upgrades are given to users as soon as they are ready — as opposed to holding onto them until a new edition is ready — Microsoft has made it easier for developers to work on Office and push out the improvements.
Here’s how Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team, described Office at the time: “A suite of integrated apps and services that removes barriers and empowers teams to do and achieve more."
Konigsbauer was back yesterday at Build to announce a number of “opportunities” focused specifically on developers, along with upgrades to Microsoft Graph.
For Mac users that have been waiting for some of the add-ins already available to Windows users, Microsoft announced that they will get add-ins this spring. It is also providing centralized deployment and the programmatic creation of ribbons and buttons.
The result has been that developers and companies now have the ability to expand their reach and scale their developments in the context of the Office platform in OS X and Windows.
Office Graph Released
However, in terms of productivity the most interesting of all yesterday’s announcements are developments around Office Graph.
Graph moved out of beta last November, allowing developers to integrate data and intelligence from Microsoft services into their own apps.
At Build yesterday, Microsoft announced that it is expanding the capabilities of Graph so developers can build ‘smart’ apps powered by data and insights from Office 365
As a result, developers can now use the Microsoft Graph to access a users' out-of-office status and recent email attachments. New APIs return “relevant documents” and suggestions for meeting times based on real-time calendar availability.
It is also introducing new Software Development Kits that will make it even easier than ever to access Graph and surface Office 365 data in business solutions using simple drop-in integrations like the OneDrive file picker.
Office 365 Connectors - Again
That in itself is a big move. But Microsoft wasn’t happy with that so it also announce general availability of Office 365 Connectors – again.
If it this announcement seems familiar, that’s because it is. Microsoft announced the GA of Connectors a week ago, a move that was met with a lot of enthusiasm.
Except there was a lot of talk about Slack and how Connectors was Microsoft’s answer to that. Not so, said the analysts. Comparing Slack and Office 375 Connectors is a bit pointless. Buy why?
Jim Brock the founder and CEO of Market. Space, a market intelligence vendor, told CMSWire that after developing an Office Connector, and after building an integration for Slack, he believes that Office 365 Connectors have an edge at the moment.
“Office Connectors have an advantage now over Slack because you can have conversation around particular events that come in from the Connector. In Slack, new external developments tend to get lost in the flow of conversation,” he told CMSWire.
“I’ll bet this matters a lot more to Microsoft’s target market (which goes beyond the software developers who swoon for Slack) probably cares more about that than interactivity, at least in these early days.”
He points out that once you’ve developed the Slack integration, “porting” it to work as a Connector is pretty easy. App providers won’t find it hard to support multiple platforms, which means everyone’s going to be on both, not to mention Hipchat, Cisco Spark and others in the team messaging marketspace
"It’s not like the app wars, where you need separate expertise for Android and iOS and a million different variations. Supporting integrations or connectors will be table stakes for team messaging; it won’t be a differentiator,” he said.