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Microsoft Delivers a Deep Dive on a Planned Office 365 Revamp

Microsoft this week gave developers and IT pros a deep dive on major new features coming to Office 365, which the company has described as the fastest growing new product in its history. The demos, which include several APIs and SDKs aimed at driving existing SharePoint users to Office 365, gave a close look at how building and administering applications for collaboration is going to 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 the company's new app model. Microsoft is betting by offering compelling new capabilities, which it describes as its "Office Everywhere" effort, that organizations will find making the move worthwhile.

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

Jeremy Thake, a senior Microsoft product manager, demonstrated the new Office 365 platform and underlying API model Thursday at the Live! 360/SharePoint Live! conference in Orlando. Thake said the Microsoft Graph demo was the first given in the United States since the company unveiled it two weeks ago at TechEd Europe, 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 the plan is to tie it to third-party services that have registered to 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 Connell, organizer of the SharePoint Live! track at Live! 360 said the release of the APIs and the 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," he said during the closing conference wrap up panel. "That's going to be tremendous. That [Microsoft Graph] API is being pushed by the 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," he 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, he explained. "Once we get these new AAD 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."

Thake demonstrated numerous other APIs including a discovery service and the new Android and iOS SDKs, among other things. There are huge changes coming to Office 365 in 2015 and it will have a huge impact on IT pros and developers who build to and manage it. It was a huge topic at SharePoint Live! and I'll be sharing the implications of what's in the pipeline in the coming weeks.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 11/21/2014 at 9:02 AM


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