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Microsoft Open Sources Fluid Framework, Details Other Microsoft 365 Changes

Various Microsoft 365 solutions, including the Fluid Framework, Project Cortex and Microsoft Teams, are getting a number of new perks, Microsoft announced this week at its Build conference.

For starters, the company plans to make its Fluid Framework document collaboration solution available as open source code for use by application developers, although the release timing wasn't described.

Microsoft had first introduced the Fluid Framework at last year's Build event, and began rolling it out as a preview to some Office 365 users in January of this year. It's been described as Microsoft's "new plumbing" for building out collaborative applications, such as co-authoring documents by multiple end users at a large scale. It uses existing Microsoft technologies for the purpose, such as the Microsoft Graph, the SharePoint Framework and Office add-ins.

Microsoft encouraged developers to use the Fluid Framework to make their applications collaborative.

"If you replace your static data structures with Fluid data structures, your app instantly supports real-time collaboration," Microsoft's announcement promised.

Project Cortex New APIs
On the developer tools side for Project Cortex, Microsoft unveiled "new developer APIs for Project Cortex and Managed Metadata Services (MMS) in Microsoft Graph, along with new integration with Language Understanding service in Azure." Those capabilities are available now available as a private preview.

Project Cortex, introduced at the Microsoft Ignite event last year, "will be generally available in early summer 2020," Microsoft indicated. This so-called "knowledge network" solution for Microsoft 365 users has been available as a private preview since that time, but it reached the "release candidate" stage in April. 

Project Cortex creates its knowledge network by combining existing Microsoft technologies. It uses the Microsoft Graph for search, artificial intelligence for information structuring, and SharePoint Online for content and collaboration.

When it gets commercially released, organizations will have to opt into using Project Cortex, Microsoft has previously indicated.

Microsoft Teams and Power Platform Additions
Microsoft Teams tenancies will be getting access to customizable templates, which are expected to arrive "in the next few months," Microsoft announced.

The templates, used to customize a Teams implementation, will have models for "common business scenarios," namely "event management and crisis response," Microsoft indicated. There also will be industry-specific templates such as for "a hospital ward or bank branch," it added.

Microsoft Power Platform tools, which include Power Apps, Power BI and Power Automate for business application developers, will be getting enhancements. There's also a "Power Virtual Agents" solution, described here, that's listed as if it is a part of the Power Platform.

Microsoft announced that it is planning to release a Power Virtual Agents app in the Teams App Store "soon" that will help Teams users more easily "create and manage chatbots in Teams," although the timing wasn't described.

Power Apps will be getting an "Add to Teams" button to more easily add custom applications, which will be available "soon." Power Automate (formerly known as "Flow") soon will get new prebuilt templates for Teams, plus the ability to "create custom message extensions."

Power BI now has the ability to share reports in Teams with a "Share to Teams" button.

Microsoft 365 Apps Enhancements
Microsoft also described some application enhancements for Microsoft 365 users.

The Bookings app is now integrated in Teams, which lets organizations set up "virtual appointments" with consumers.

The Shifts app for managing temporary or shift workers in Teams has new Graph APIs that are "now generally available," enabling integration with "external workforce management tools." Microsoft is also bringing new templates to use with Shifts that will do things like automatically approve shift requests.

The Microsoft 365 App Launcher now includes a "new Microsoft Lists app," which works for tracking and sharing information from within Teams and SharePoint. It'll also be available via a "soon-to-be-released Lists mobile app," Microsoft promised.

Microsoft is furthering Teams broadcasts with a "new Network Device Interface (NDI) support and Skype TX interoperability" capability. It's designed to add "professional broadcast capabilities within Teams" via a streaming app or production tool. It'll be available next month, adding support for one-on-one interviews, as well as news broadcasts with professional capabilities such as "caller queuing and connection quality management," Microsoft indicated.

Outlook for Windows, Mac and mobile devices now lets users "view and reply to Yammer conversations, polls, questions, and praise without leaving their inbox," Microsoft indicated. In addition, the browser-based Outlook on the Web can help users type faster and more accurately as it now has a "text predictions" feature.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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