Microsoft is stepping up its Zoom competition with new Teams features, and Fluid Framework will soon be available to everyone.
Microsoft has announced a number of new features for Teams, its collaboration app, as well as an initial public preview of its Fluid Framework as part of Microsoft Build 2020. Build 2020 is being held entirely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn't mean there will be fewer announcements to excite developers and motivate Microsoft product users.
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Microsoft Teams is stepping up its battle with Zoom for remote collaboration dominance with a number of new features designed to "streamline the development of Teams apps and enable deeper user engagement."
Along with a bevy of Teams improvements, Microsoft has announced big changes for its Fluid Framework. Originally announced in 2019, Fluid Framework is a set of tools for building cross-app collaboration on the web that allows simultaneous collaborators, building block-like files, and bot support.
What's new in Microsoft Teams
Microsoft's all-in-one collaboration platform has been embracing direct competition with video conferencing app Zoom in light of the latter's security issues, which have hampered its explosive growth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Microsoft has already added Zoom-like features such as custom backgrounds, and while the latest Teams updates announced at Build 2020 have likely been planned for some time, many of them also take direct aim at Zoom.
First, Microsoft has added Teams extensions in Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code, allowing developers to build Teams apps using already-familiar Microsoft developer tools.
The Bookings app for Teams, announced in March 2020, has entered general availability as of Build 2020. Bookings is designed for organizations that need to handle appointments for multiple departments and staff, rolling all of their booking and time reservation into the Teams app in order to prevent double bookings and other calendar collisions.
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One of the biggest series of new features in Teams announced at Build 2020 is its new integration with Microsoft Power Platform. There are a number of elements to this addition, and parts of it will be rolling out over the coming months. These include:
- Model-driven app building for Teams using Power Apps
- Power Automate triggers and actions designed for Teams (July 2020)
- One-click "add to Teams" button for Power Apps, Power Virtual Agents, and Power BI tools (June 2020)
- A new Power Virtual Agents app for Teams (July 2020)
- Single sign-on for Power Virtual Agents in Teams (July 2020).
Microsoft is also adding customizable team templates for a variety of team types, including "common team types, such as event management and crisis response, as well as industry-specific templates, such as hospital ward and bank branch." Templates will include predefined channels, apps, and tutorials for team members. Microsoft didn't give a specific release date for the templates, aside from saying they would be available in the next few months.
The next announced feature takes direct aim at Zoom's application as a presentation platform: Microsoft has added NDI support (coming in June) to allow Teams to act as a "virtual state for live events," and interoperability between Teams and Skype TX devices, making it better for live news and interviews.
Lastly on the Teams front, Microsoft has also moved Shifts, its Teams app for schedule management, and its accompanying Graphs API to general availability. Along with its further release, triggers and templates for Shifts will be coming this summer.
Fluid Framework goes open source, gets a new public preview
Fluid Framework is one of the core components of Microsoft's "people-centric" computing strategy.
What Fluid Framework is capable of is a bit nebulous, outside of it being a co-authoring and rapid collaboration platform, but users of Outlook and Office.com will have a chance to figure it out for themselves. Microsoft said that it's going to be sending invitations to Microsoft 365 Enterprise and Education customers enrolled in Targeted Release "soon," though it hasn't given a more specific date.
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Along with a new preview, Fluid Framework is also being made completely open source, which Microsoft said will allow "developers and creators to use key infrastructure from Fluid Framework in their own applications. Coupled with the release of additional developer documentation and tooling, this provides a new opportunity for developers to work alongside Microsoft to create and evolve Fluid Framework as it is developed."
Fluid Framework will be available as a GitHub repository "in the month following Build," Microsoft said.
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