Microsoft unveiled new Groups options at its Construct digital convention this week designed to boost worker collaboration and productiveness, with deeper app integrations for video conferences and new co-editing options among the many modifications.

Collectively, the strikes are aimed toward increasing Groups as a platform for work, stated Angela Ashenden, a principal analyst at CCS Perception, permitting customers to deliver a broader set of apps and processes into the Groups setting.

Among the many updates is “shared stage integration,” which brings third-party instruments, reminiscent of whiteboard or design apps, into the central Groups assembly display — what Microsoft refers to because the “predominant stage.”

The shared stage integration, at the moment in non-public preview, follows the launch final November of Groups Apps for Conferences, which allowed builders to attach 20 third-party apps into the Groups assembly interface, although these have been accessible by way of the facet panel solely.

The combination of third-party apps into Groups follows related strikes by Microsoft’s rival Zoom, which introduced integrations for its personal video assembly platform on the Zoomtopia convention final 12 months. “Though it wasn’t first to market in asserting assembly apps for Groups … Microsoft has doubled down on its funding on this space and has been in a position to capitalize on its expertise to maneuver comfortably forward of the market,” stated Ashenden.

Different developer-focused updates embrace the power to create customized scenes for Groups’ Collectively mode (anticipated to be out there this summer season), “media APIs” to construct companies round audio and video streams, and “assembly occasion APIs” to automate some workflows by way of occasions reminiscent of a gathering’s begin and finish. Microsoft promised that extra occasion APIs will likely be out there later this 12 months.

Microsoft additionally introduced that its “Fluid elements” will likely be accessible by way of the Groups chat interface. Introduced at Construct in 2019, the Fluid Framework is aimed toward eradicating obstacles between collaboration and productiveness apps. This implies separating components reminiscent of tables, charts, and lists and permitting them to be linked in numerous instruments and up to date in real-time.

Fluid elements in Groups will permit customers to, for example, replace add “subsequent steps” to a shared to-do listing, which may concurrently be accessed and edited by a colleague utilizing Outlook.

“That is a part of a broader funding that Microsoft has been making in rethinking the well-established doc creation idea, though it’s taking time to turn into a actuality, having first been introduced two years in the past,” stated Ashenden.

“It is also an space of accelerating competitors, with startups Coda and Airtable driving the preliminary idea, adopted by Quip and most just lately Google by way of its good canvas bulletins.”

Fluid elements in Groups are at the moment in non-public preview.

The cross-platform integrations are a part of a wider transfer to attach Groups with exterior apps to be able to scale back the necessity to change screens, stated Wayne Kurtzman, a analysis director at IDC. That is an space the place Microsoft has been taking part in catch-up with its opponents.

“Microsoft is shortly transferring Groups into its subsequent chapter the place the software program you want is built-in into Groups: an space that has been difficult for them when competing with Slack,” he stated. “If Microsoft leverages their household of applied sciences to maneuver extra work to a ‘single pane of glass’ and take away context switching, this could possibly be thrilling to see an improved person expertise augmented with native intelligence from Azure.” 

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

By Rana

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