A couple of weeks ago at TechED Europe, Microsoft announced cross-platform APIs and SDKs for Office 365. Specifically, the release of mobile SDKs has enabled developers to integrate Office 365 features into third party Android and iOS apps and thereby ensure Office remains relevant and accessible in today’s mobile world.

With over 70% of Fortune 500 companies using Office 365 in their organisations, as well as millions of consumers, the announcements will have a big impact on the way people use Microsoft’s software. The new SDKs will allow users to access data from their Office 365 products in the third party app, without having to jump into the Office 365 stand alone application.

There are three key components that make this announcement exciting for both developers and end users:

  • APIs enable developers of third party apps to provide users access to their Office 365 data, including mail, calendars, contacts, users and groups, files, and folders. This can all be done without leaving an app.
  • Single sign-on with Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), meaning once a user signs in, the app can access any of the Office 365 API services.
  • It’s completely cross platform, so it works with web applications using .NET, PHP, Java, Python, or Ruby on Rails, or apps for Windows Universal Apps, iOS, Android, or other device platforms.

As developers, we are now able to deepen the enterprise solutions we create by accessing and integrating with the business’ Office 365 data across all mobile and web platforms. These new capabilities, should open up huge opportunities to provide a more seamless user experience.

By using REST-based APIs for mail, files, calendars and contacts, the data is easily accessible, without having to constantly ping a server to get data. It’s a clever move by Microsoft, making Office 365 much more compelling as it provides more reasons to stick with Microsoft.

These announcements have opened up the potential for many new use cases. For example, third party travel apps that connect with users’ Exchange calendar and sales apps that integrate with files and emails through Microsoft Exchange Mail and Sharepoint.

According to Microsoft, there is over 400 petabytes of data used by users in Office 365. By allowing users to access what they need, when they need it, apps can become more intelligent and more integral to everyday business tasks.

IFTTT, an online automation service is the first big name to take advantage of the new APIs. With the use of the new APIs, IFTTT will have the ability to connect over 130 different services with Office 365 mail, contacts, calendar and files. This means that as a user, you can create a chain reaction, so that if an email is received from a certain email address, found through Office 365 data, a pre-determined text message can be sent (or add it to another third party app.)

For companies who have created their own bespoke apps, based around operational improvements, they can now make apps far more intelligent by adding the services employees require. For example, sales teams can access pre-prepared presentation slides ahead of a meeting – without jumping in and out of apps, or having to create a completely custom repository.

This release comes a week after Microsoft announced its partnership with IBM, bringing together their enterprise software regarding Microsoft Azure and IBM cloud. As the power of Office 365 is centred around its cloud capabilities and accessing data on the move, the increase in integration of third party apps is likely to advance Microsoft and IBM’s aim to increase the use of its software and cloud-hosting services amongst business customers.

Microsoft’s release of cross platform API’s and SDKs has the potential to change the way we interact with our apps. The adoption of Office 365 has been swift, selling eight times faster than its predecessor. For Microsoft, this new release is sure to boost that even further, as enterprises realise the potential of adopting or upgrading to Office 365 to allow developers, like Mubaloo, to integrate their apps with the software.

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