Openness and Microsoft are becoming increasingly easy to say
in the same sentence. That increasingly ordinary conjunction of those two words
was underscored at the Microsoft SharePoint Conference this week. Microsoft announced
new APIs and Visual Studio tools, new ways to make vast numbers of users aware
of (and able to download) your apps, and new ways for developers to build apps
that you can integrate across the whole Office 365 (O365) product array
(Office, Exchange, SharePoint, Yammer, and Lync). You can learn the details of
these announcements by reading Arpan Shah’s blog http://blogs.office.com/2014/03/03/create-apps-for-office-365/.
But what struck me when I spoke with the O365 director of
technical product management, was Shah’s focus on community (which used to be a
puzzling and foreign word when I worked at Microsoft in the early 2000s) and
openness. As Shah said, “I come back to the notion of community and Office 365.
There’s a lot of potential to power great apps. The goal is to be open to
imagine and build great solutions. We want to inspire people to build apps for
mobile and devices.” And as the video in Shah’s blog emphasizes, that desire
extends to apps, “across all mobile
It’s that word “all” that catches my attention. And in
particular, I’m looking at the announcement of the availability of the Android
SDK for Office 365 and Windows 8 libraries (http://msopentech.com/blog/2014/03/03/new-open-source-sdk-for-android-brings-office-365-apps-to-life/),
which takes advantage of the new Office 365 APIs, including Files, Lists, Mail,
Microsoft is inviting developers to create apps that span
the Android platform and Office 365 and Windows 8. In itself, that’s an
interesting bow to supporting the reality of heterogeneous business
environments in which users bring their own devices and expect to be able to
use them for work, as well as personal pastimes.
What I find more interesting is that supporting “all”
devices is a great way to extend the reach of Microsoft technologies. All the
more so because this is more than an isolated instance of recent announcements
about a competing platform. Last week at the Mobile World Conference in
Barcelona, Samsung announced that the company is working with Microsoft to
bring Microsoft’s enterprise security and management technologies to the
Samsung KNOX platform (see Samsung’s press release http://www.samsungmobilepress.com/2014/02/27/Samsung-Works-with-Microsoft-to-Address-Android-Enterprise-Security-and-Productivity-Needs-1.)
Samsung’s enterprise users will be able to take advantage of Microsoft’s
Windows Server 2012 R2 Workplace Join capabilities, Windows Intuine, and
Windows Azure for cloud printing of Microsoft Office documents.
These developments seem to indicate that Microsoft is moving
in a direction that seems not only logical to me, but mandatory for the
company’s future success: I can imagine a business model for Microsoft that has
Microsoft software available to run on many platforms and allows all platforms
to take advantage of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise management technologies.
In fact I’ve always wondered why this was never the company’s direction anyway.
Although my speculation about Microsoft’s direction and
scenarios for ubiquitous Microsoft products, is not directly related to the
main thrust of the SharePoint Conference I attended, I think it’s
fascinating to see these somewhat minor announcements accumulating and potentially
adding up to something much bigger.
Let me know if you think I’m off base.