SPC14: Microsoft Courts SharePoint Developers, Promotes Interoperability

Editor’s Note: This is the first post on the Petri IT Knowledgebase from Karen Forster, former executive director for Editorial and Strategy at Windows IT Pro who most recently was a director of Technical Communications at Microsoft in the Cloud and Enterprise business group. Karen is onsite at Microsoft’s SharePoint Conference 2014 in Las Vegas this week, and we’ll be bringing readers her posts direct from SPC14.

“Openness” and “Microsoft” are becoming increasingly easy to say in the same sentence. That ordinary conjunction of those two words was underscored at the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2014 this week. Microsoft announced new APIs and Visual Studio tools, new ways to make vast numbers of users aware of (and able to download) your apps, and new ways for developers to build apps that you can integrate across the whole Office 365 (O365) product family (Office, Exchange, SharePoint, Yammer, and Lync). You can learn more details from all of these announcements by reading a post by Arpan Shah, Microsoft’s senior director of Office 365 technical product management, over at the Office 365 Team blog.

All About Openness

But what struck me when I recently spoke with Arpan Shah was his focus on community (which used to be regarded as a puzzling and foreign word when I worked at Microsoft in the early 2000s) and openness. As Shah said, “I come back to the notion of community and Office 365. There’s a lot of potential to power great apps. The goal is to be open to imagine and build great solutions. We want to inspire people to build apps for mobile and devices.” And as the video in Shah’s blog emphasizes, that desire extends to apps running “across all mobile devices.”

It’s that word – all – that catches my attention. And in particular, I’m looking at the recent Microsoft announcement of the availability of the Android SDK for Office 365 and Windows 8 libraries, which takes advantage of the new Office 365 APIs, including Files, Lists, Mail, and Calendars.

Microsoft is inviting developers to create apps that span the Android platform and Office 365 and Windows 8. In itself, that’s an interesting bow to support the reality of heterogeneous business environments in which users bring their own devices and expect to be able to use them for work, as well as personal pastimes.

What I find more interesting is that supporting “all” devices is a great way to extend the reach of Microsoft technologies – moreso because this is more than an isolated instance of recent announcements about a competing platform. Last week at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, Samsung announced that the company is working with Microsoft to bring Microsoft’s enterprise security and management technologies to the Samsung KNOX mobile security platform. Samsung’s enterprise users will be able to take advantage of Microsoft’s Windows Server 2012 R2 Workplace Join capabilities, Windows Intune, and Windows Azure for cloud printing of Microsoft Office documents.

Office 365 Platform for Developers video (Source: Microsoft).

These developments appear to indicate that Microsoft is moving in a direction that seems not only logical, but also mandatory for the company’s future success. I can imagine a business model for Microsoft that has its software available to run on many platforms and allows all platforms to take advantage of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise management technologies. In fact, I’ve always wondered why this was never the company’s direction anyway.

Although my speculation about Microsoft’s direction and scenarios for ubiquitous Microsoft products is not directly related to the main thrust of the SharePoint conference I’m attending, I think it’s fascinating to see these somewhat minor announcements accumulating and potentially adding up to something much bigger.

Community and its influence and needs are at the heart of my thinking, especially since I’m part of a new web community for IT professionals being launched soon at www.ITUnity.com. You can also reach out to me on Twitter at @karenforster.