Microsoft wants the help of outside coders to pep up business meetings and employee communication.
The technology giant debuted Wednesday several ways that third-party developers can build apps to improve Microsoft’s Teams chat service for the workplace, which was introduced in March amid fierce competition from rival chat apps from Google (GOOG), Slack, and Facebook (FB).
At Microsoft’s annual Build conference in Redmond, Wash., CEO Satya Nadella explained that business meetings are not a “one-time thing” but rather require a lot of follow up by employees after they conclude.
It’s this long cycle of prepping, planning, and following-up that Nadella believes Microsoft’s various Office 365 tools like its calendar app can help improve. The Teams app is especially crucial for Nadella because it works as the gateway for people to join online meetings.
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However, Microsoft can’t create all of Team’s features by itself, so it needs outside coders to fill in the gaps. Nadella urged developers to consider building business apps for Teams that siphon data from the so-called Microsoft Graph, a data repository that maps the relationships between Microsoft users, their devices, work habits, and the Microsoft software they use.
By building apps that tap into the Microsoft Graph, developers can create services that function across multiple devices like phones and personal computers, he continued. In that way, users would be able to better stay on top of their business tasks.
Microsoft product marketing manager Laura Jones then gave a demo of a hypothetical-Teams app powered by the Microsoft Graph that works across several devices. It also used information from the career-oriented social network LinkedIn, which Microsoft owns, and connected people into business meetings—even while driving a car.
Because the Teams app was wired to Microsoft’s voice-activated digital assistant Cortana, Jones could command it, via Microsoft’s yet-to-be-released Invoke web-connected speaker, to check for upcoming meetings in her calendar and set out-of-office reminders.
She said the app could also send her notifications through her video game console Microsoft Xbox and the on-board computer of her car, so her work essentially followed her in every aspect of her life.
“With experiences like these, I can turn any device into a productivity device,” Jones said.
She showed how she could conduct a meeting with multiple people, similar to Google’s revamped Hangouts business chat and video apps, while asking a Teams chat-bot to retrieve information for attendees on a designer’s work portfolio.
Finally, she said coders would be able to use Microsoft’s artificial intelligence-powered speech recognition technology to automatically transcribe the meeting into “the language of my choice.”
Of course, this was only a demonstration, but it highlights the type of workplace interactions Microsoft believes will take place in the future.
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Whether Microsoft can convince enough developers to help it build these capabilities and have them work as intended will take more than a conference presentation.