For people who spend time on computers and smart devices, the proliferation of apps and online services has become a problem. Each service represents its own little island of data or communication.
Microsoft (MSFT)has taken note and is working on a product called Microsoft Flow, designed to better connect diverse services so that you could, if you were so inclined, put all your tweets into a spreadsheet. That example may be a solution in search of a problem, but there are other more useful possibilities.
As ZDNet noted, Flow could be set up so that any email from your boss triggers an SMS notification to your phone, for example. Or you could make sure any updated work documents get deposited in your team’s SharePoint.
On Friday morning, Microsoft posted the official blog on Flow, but this has been a cloak-and-dagger process. On Thursday, an introductory Microsoft Flow web page was spotted by Twitter (TWTR) user @h0x0d. Microsoft news site MSPower User subsequently covered the news, which was picked up by several outlets before the original Microsoft page was taken down. There was also a blog post about Flow from Stephen Siciliano, a Microsoft group program manager, which also disappeared.
Note: All the disappeared web pages have since reappeared. Poof, like magic!
In short, the back story is almost more interesting than the product at this point.
To be sure, Microsoft is not first to this app-integration party. Many people already use If This Then That (IFTTT) or Zapier, which claims more than 500 app integrations, to knit their services together.
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Microsoft started down this road last fall when it announced PowerApps, software meant to make it easier for non-techies to build and connect mobile apps. But PowerApps was Microsoft-centric, whereas Flow looks to extend integration to such hugely popular non-Microsoft services as Slack, Google (GOOG) Drive, Dropbox, and Salesforce.com (CRM), for example.
Note: This story was updated at 10:24 a.m. EDT to reflect that Microsoft has reposted all the web pages it had taken down.