Posey's Tips & Tricks

Microsoft Brings Live Share Support to Teams

The ability to collaborate together goes even further than just on Microsoft apps.

Microsoft's Build conference has always been geared primarily toward developers. And this year's event was no exception. Even though I am not a developer, I did take the time to check out the Build 2022 keynote, which featured an announcement that really caught my attention.

Over the past couple of years, Teams has become one of Microsoft's most widely used applications thanks to everyone being forced to work remotely. By some estimates over 250 million people now use Teams. Being that Teams has seen such heavy adoption, it seems only natural that Microsoft continues to invest heavily in its flagship collaborative platform.

So with that said, think back to all of the Teams meetings that you have sat through over the past couple of years (or even meetings on other platforms, for that matter). How many times have you heard someone utter the phrase, "let me share my screen"?

Although screen sharing has become a staple for almost all online meetings, the experience leaves a lot to be desired. It usually involves one person talking through a document while other meeting attendees try to keep up. More often than not, an attendee will say something like, "wait, can you go back to the section about...".

Thankfully, Microsoft is hard at work trying to make online meetings better by adding a new capability to Teams called Live Share. The essence of Live Share is that rather than just sharing their screen, a meeting attendee will be able to share an entire application. Those who are attending the meeting can simultaneously interact with the application rather than just watching a screen that someone else has shared. For example, the demo from the Build keynote showed several engineers simultaneously using a CAD application through Teams to collaborate on an engineering drawing of a jet engine. You can find the demo here.

Admittedly, the idea of supporting collaborative applications through Teams seems really simple. After all, Microsoft has allowed Office users to simultaneously edit Word documents for years. The reason why Live Share captured my attention in the way that it did was because Microsoft is bringing live, simultaneous collaboration through Teams to third-party applications. Let that one sink in for a minute.

Unfortunately, the introduction of Live Share does not mean that users will be able to use Teams for real-time collaboration in any and every application. Applications have to be written to support the Teams Live Share feature if they are to be used in this way. However, there is some good news.

The first bit of good news is that several software vendors have already teamed up with Microsoft and are working on adding Live Share support. The current list of partners includes Accenture, Breakthru, Frame.io, Hexagon, Parabol, Microsoft MakeCode and Skillsoft.

The other good news is that Microsoft is making it relatively easy for other software vendors to add Live Share support. The company has created a Live Share SDK that will provide a means for software vendors to tie their software to Microsoft's Fluid Framework, which will handle much of the heavy lifting during collaborative sessions.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Live Share SDK does more than just make it possible to use an application through Teams. One of its key tasks is to synchronize audio and video. After all, having multiple people simultaneously working on a document would be problematic if everyone's view of the application was out of sync.

Another thing that the SDK does is to ensure that when an application is shared, meeting privileges are respected. That's important, because for any project, there are probably people who should not have the ability to make changes. You wouldn't, for example, want the intern who was hired last week to make an unauthorized alteration to the engineering diagram that a team has been working on for the last three years.

Initially, I think that Live Share will be met with a tepid response because at first there will only be a few apps that are able to use it. Over time though, I suspect that more and more software vendors will begin adding Live Share support as a way of gaining a competitive advantage over their competition. Eventually, I think that Live Share will hit critical mass and nearly every business application will include Live Share support.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 20-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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