Microsoft Sheds More Light on Upcoming Office 365 Features

Major new feature additions are in the pipeline for Office 365, some of which were demonstrated at last week's Live! 360/SharePoint Live! conference in Orlando, Fla.

The new features include several APIs and SDKs aimed at driving existing SharePoint users to Office 365. The demos gave a close look at how building and administrating collaboration applications will change dramatically for IT pros, developers and end users alike.

Because Microsoft has made clear that organizations running applications developed in native code for SharePoint won't be able to migrate them to Office 365, the company is trying to convince customers to plan for the eventual move using its new app model. Microsoft is hoping that by offering compelling new capabilities through its "Office Everywhere" effort, organizations will find making the move worthwhile.

The APIs and new Office 365 features demonstrated include the new My Apps user interface, also called the App Launcher. My Apps is available immediately as a preview after what Microsoft described as a brief delay. My Apps gives users a customizable interface to applications they use, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, contacts, mail and files. They can also add other Microsoft services, as well as those of third parties.

Also demonstrated at the conference was Microsoft Graph. According to senior Microsoft product manager Jeremy Thake, it was the first Microsoft Graph demo given in the United States since Microsoft unveiled the technology at October's TechEd Europe event, where Microsoft also released the preview of the new Office 365 APIs.

"The Microsoft Graph is essentially allowing me to authenticate once and then go to every single endpoint across Microsoft. And not just Office but Dynamics to Azure and anything I've got running Windows, such as Live, and whatnot," Thake said during the demo, noting that the plan is to tie the feature to third-party services that have registered for Microsoft Graph. "It's an access to those things from that one endpoint. This is a really powerful thing that isn't out yet. It's in preview. It will be coming next year."

Consultant Andrew Cornell, organizer of the SharePoint Live! track at Live! 360, said the release of the APIs and Microsoft Graph bode well for the future of Office 365 and SharePoint.

"It opens so much more of the company data, not just so much more of our data that we're using in Microsoft services from a uniform endpoint for other companies to interact with and provide additional value on it," Cornell said during the closing conference wrap-up panel. "That's going to be tremendous. That [Microsoft Graph] API is being pushed by the [Office] 365 group but it's a Microsoft thing -- it touches everything we do."

Also demonstrated for the first time was the new Azure Active Directory for JavaScript, announced at TechEd Europe and now in preview. This eliminates the need to call the Office 365 APIs from ASP.NET MVC using managed code, the only supported approach.

"What this allows me to do is grab a token, totally client-side, and then run with that request," Thake said. "It's grabbing the client ID and it's asking for the endpoints, and then all I'm really doing is...the simple HTTP request on the front. I'm posting the token in the header here, which is the token I got back from Azure Active Directory, and I'm just using the URL that I've built to call the API, using that header. And this is totally just using JavaScript to the Azure Active Directory library."

Where this is beneficial is if you are already doing angular JavaScript development with single-page applications, with no server-side back end, Thake explained.

"Once we get these new [Azure Active Directory] libraries for JavaScript, I won't need to go to that Web API to get to the Office 365 APIs. I just can call it directly," he said.

Thake demonstrated numerous other APIs, including a discovery service and the new Android and iOS SDKs, among other things.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.