Build 2016: Office 365 Integration Goes Deeper Than Just Office

Microsoft's Qi Lu and his team showed off a few new developer features that will make Office 365 integration a much easier prospect, including Skype SDKs that open up communication capabilities.

In keeping with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's theme of the Conversations as a Platform concept from Build 2016 Day 1, Qi Lu, Microsoft Executive Vice President of the Applications and Services Group, took the stage after Scott Guthrie's portion on Azure to talk about lots of the developer enhancements available in Office 365 and Skype integration.

While much of the demonstrations that Lu's team provided seemed to provide a user's perspective, the demonstrations always went back to how developers could take advantage of the tools. Here's a summary of his announcements:

Microsoft Graph APIs and add-ins: Formerly the Office 365 Unified API, Microsoft Graph has deeper integration with Office 365 with a number of new APIs that are available now. The apps can be distributed by embedding into the ribbon or through the Office 365 App Store.

Lu had an assist from Starbucks CTO Gerri Martin-Flickinger, who demonstrated an Outlook add-in that her developers created that allows the mailing of Starbucks gift cards within Outlook. But the integration was deeper than that, with Martin-Flickinger showing how meetings could be scheduled via the add-in, with an embedded map popping up instantly in the message to show meeting locations at nearby Starbucks stores, and the instant pop-up of the gift card on a mobile phone simulation when making a coffee purchase.

Another app demonstration using DocuSign showed how a document can span an organization for approval and signatures while keeping in mind user schedules in real time (for example, the DocuSign app could check whether an approved signer was out of the office), and storage of larger docs through OneDrive.

Office 365 Group Connectors: A few days before Build 2016 opened, the Apps and Services Group made the Office 365 Connectors developer platform generally available. Now that developers can write and publish custom connectors, the group has followed up by opening up the portal for submissions. Besides custom connectors, developers can also provide Office 365 developer teams with access to dozens of connectors for Github and Stack Overflow, to name a few. Microsoft's Jason Johnson, in a blog post, shows how easy it is to build a connector: "Just post messages to a webhook URL and use JSON to generate a message in the Office 365 Groups shared inbox. These messages take the form of rich connector cards that can be customized to create unique experiences and scale to include a variety of content, deep links, and actions." The connector then just needs to be registered with the catalog to make it available to users.

Skype for Business App SDK and Skype Web SDK: Nadella referenced Skype often during his Day 1 talk as a prelude to what Lu and his crew demonstrated in more detail in his talk. They showed a few proof of concept scenarios for app building wherein Skype had more integration within Office apps, such as being able to set appointments through the Calendar or native embedding of live and recorded video within e-mail messages for archiving or follow-up. The SDKs allow a wider set of possibilities for developers.

And finally, Microsoft also announced a Build 2016 road show, which will be a smaller version of the show that will hit select cities worldwide, including Barcelona and London. Registration on the Build 2016 Web site is expected to open on April 25.

Lu's talk is available on demand here.

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