Third-party app developers now have something to crow about after Microsoft opened up its Microsoft Teams to integration on a variety of third-party apps. Microsoft’s change of mind means that app developers can now tweak their creations to work on Teams meetings while video calls are taking place and both before and after meetings. Apps from third parties will now additionally have the ability to display notifications during a call, plus their content. This marks a decided improvement from what these apps were previously permitted on Microsoft Teams.
Interviewed by The Verge, Michael Lesiczka, a Microsoft Teams group product manager had this to say: “Applications can span across chat and collaboration and easily have a workflow that expands into meetings now.” In plain English, this means that Teams meetings will now be much more fun and fluid.
Courtesy of the new changes to Microsoft Teams, apps are now enabled to put their tabs on meeting invites, with Team users choosing to utilize that in interacting with the app if they are feeling up for that. More, meeting participants can now drag apps into live calls. This might take the form of apps that display information to meeting participants via the sidebar or a bot that alerts users to events during a Microsoft Teams’ meeting. The new integration will also feature options for apps to show up as buttons on the meeting control board.
Before, folks who wanted to share apps and the like on Microsoft Teams were obliged to make use of the screen sharing option, which was less than optimal. The new features in place will now improve the overall user experience in a broad range of ways. Developers have long sought improved Team integration with their apps but had little success. Now, it seems that some or all of their prayers have been answered.
Another Microsoft Teams group product manager named Archana Saseetharan was recently interviewed by The Verge and had this to say on the issue: “One of the key pieces of feedback is, ‘Okay, we can integrate and enable scenarios in these other areas, but in meetings, we want to be playing there as well.’’ “We are enabling new APIs and SDK capabilities for developers to integrate and target these new areas. It is the same development process, the same publishing process, the same validation process. Everything is the same, but you have these three new capabilities to go target.”
Lesiczka expounded further: “We’ve seen a ton of excitement about this.” “Partners have been asking us about plugging into meetings, so there’s a lot of excitement about this.”
The newly announced third-party app integration features will be available for testing sometime this month.
A World of COVID
Microsoft has been honest in admitting that this recent sea change, just like other recent tweaks to Microsoft Teams is driven by the changing global situation caused by the current COVID pandemic. Says Saseetharan: “The whole focus on remote work has accelerated our delivery on this”
Apart from improved third-party app integration, Microsoft is unveiling what it calls a “Together Mode” that aims to enhance the meeting atmosphere by transforming co-workers to virtual characters. Should this new Together Mode work out as its designers intended, it could boost employee productivity, which is vital for firms everywhere in the current remote working environment.
Saseetharan notes thus: “Every single feature that you see us announcing is to amplify meetings … we’re thinking about extensibility of all of them.” “Everything that Teams is doing has an extensibility play to it, and how we amplify the possibilities for developers to plug more and more deeply into the product.”
A Brave New World
Should app developers make full use of the new Microsoft Teams features, this could well lead to virtual meetings that are unprecedented in scope and capability. But Microsoft is not the only tech firm that is making use of the somewhat unique opportunities presented by the current pandemic.
Google for example is working to integrate a diverse array of its platforms into Gmail as a way to combat the influence and reach of the likes of Slack and Microsoft Teams. Facebook for its part is not playing dead in this arena and has teased future remote work capabilities that will utilize a deadly combo of augmented reality and virtual reality. Slack on the other hand has grand ambitions of making it’s Slack Connect the best way for businesses to talk with each other and work together.
Microsoft dearly wants to keep up with and eventually surpass the competition and to that effect is widely expected to roll out even more features on Microsoft Teams before the end of the year. Whether it succeeds and becomes solidly preeminent will be up to its ability to read the market faster than its competitors can, plus a healthy dose of luck.