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Microsoft expands Teams with meetings apps and low-code tools

Microsoft today announced the general availability of Teams apps for meetings. For those who prefer a low-code approach, Power Apps for Teams, the Power Automate app, the Power Virtual Agents app, and Dataverse have also hit general availability. These announcements come on the heels of Teams passing 115 million daily active users (DAUs) last month. This is a pandemic-induced explosion, given that 16 months ago Teams had 13 million DAUs.

Microsoft Teams is the company’s Office 365 chat-based collaboration tool that competes with Slack, Facebook’s Workplace, Google Meet, and even Zoom. Indeed, Microsoft is in a virtual meeting war with Google and Zoom. Teams has seen 200 million meeting participants in a single day, Google Meet has seen more than 235 million meeting participants, and Zoom has seen 300 million meeting participants. (Unlike DAUs, “meeting participants” can count the same user more than once.)

Since 2018, Teams has been the company’s fastest-growing business app ever, long before lockdowns started juicing up remote work and learning numbers. In May, Microsoft’s Jeff Teper told VentureBeat Teams “will be even bigger than Windows.” Microsoft wants Teams to be a platform. And what makes Windows a successful platform? Apps.

“The trend we really continue to see from our customers is that they need more than the meetings, calling, and chatting from Teams,” Teams general manager Nicole Herskowitz told VentureBeat. “They’re really looking for a new home for work. They want to bring together the apps, the business processes, all into the place where work is happening. And work is happening now in Teams. And so that’s really only extended our investments in Teams as an extensible platform to bring together all of these experiences into one place.”

Teams apps for meetings

In July, Microsoft debuted a developer preview for third-party apps integrated into Teams meetings: before, during, and after video calls. That functionality is now generally available, meaning third-party apps can do a lot more, including add a tab to meeting invites where Teams users interact before a meeting begins, display content and notifications during Teams calls, and track action items after the meeting concludes.

Teams already lets you bring apps into chat and channels. Now you can bring them into meetings, as well.

As part of the launch, Microsoft is rolling out 21 new Teams apps for meetings: Asana, Bigtincan, Buncee, Decisions, Monday.com, HireVue, Phenom, Pigeonhole, Microsoft Forms, Lucid Agreements, Polly, Slido, Wakelet, Range, Priority Matrix, QBO Insights, SurveyMonkey, xMatters, Soapbox, Talview, and Teamflect.

These new apps for meetings will be in the Teams App Store, which already lists more than 700 Teams apps. Microsoft partners and third-party developers built these custom apps using the Microsoft Teams Toolkit for Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code. (There are also enterprise Teams apps built by IT departments with the SharePoint Framework, but Microsoft declined to share how many.)

Teams and Power Apps

If those developer tools sound too complicated, Microsoft wants you to use its Power Platform to build Teams apps specific to your business. The business tool is supposed to let anyone analyze, act, and automate across their organization. In this case, Microsoft’s pitch for the Power Platform is that anyone at your company can use its low-code tools to build apps, workflows, and chatbots and deploy and manage them — all without leaving Teams.

Power Apps for Teams hitting general availability means users can build and manage low-code apps directly in Teams to simplify work. “We’ve made that canvas much easier so that you don’t have to work across the app studio and Teams,” Herskowitz said. “It’s all unified into that Teams experience. What maybe would have taken 15 minutes now takes seconds through that truly integrated experience in the context of Teams.”

The Power Automate app for Teams hitting general availability means access to a simplified workflow designer and templates to help anyone automate routine tasks. This app is for creating new workflows in a low-code way directly in Teams.

The Power Virtual Agents app for Teams hitting general availability means being able to build and deploy bots to support a range of scenarios like IT help desk, operations FAQs, and HR issue resolution. This app is for building custom solutions based on your company’s specific processes or information.

Finally, there’s Dataverse. In July, Microsoft unveiled Dataflex, a relational database that lets business developers create, deploy, and manage Power Platform apps and chatbots without leaving Teams. Because it’s Microsoft, the company then renamed it to Project Oakdale and is now renaming it again to Dataverse. But all you have to know is that the built-in low-code data platform is supposed to surface key business data for building low-code apps with AI, performance, and security benefits out of the box.

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