It’s been about a month since Microsoft’s Build Conference 2019 wrapped up and boy oh boy was there an impressive amount of news released. Today I hope to just recap some of the bigger items released from the conference and talk a little about how some of this might impact us in the SharePoint space. Did you watch the build conference online? Microsoft does a good job at making the conference available to home viewers, adding to the list of stream viewing opportunities this year…viewing from Twitch.
Overall, the main theme of the keynote from Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, was around Artificial Intelligence and Azure becoming “the world’s computer”. In typical Satya fashion, he eloquently navigated the technical landscape and vision for Microsoft in the coming year to be full of inspiring and ambitious goals of empowerment for developers of all skill levels.
Let’s take a look at a basic list of topics that were discussed at Build and dig into some of the more exciting ones. Here are in no particular order, some of the big topics discussed this year that I think could impact us in the SharePoint community:
- The AI Theme
- A new Full Linux Kernel in Windows 10
- Chromium-Based Edge Browser
- Internet Explorer Mode for Edge
- Edge browser for macOS
- Fluid Framework
Let’s start with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how we might speculate its impact in the SharePoint space in the coming year(s). One of the most focused features in this space currently seems to be around Microsoft’s Cognitive Services. If you’re not familiar, Cognitive Services on Azure provide a developer with tooling and capabilities to create custom models or very complex code without requiring a strong skill set in that area already. These services are around the senses like speech and vision but also include things like language and search decisions.
I have a feeling that here in the very near future we’re likely to see the use of cognitive services against our SharePoint data. Doing some quick thinking about how one might implement this service could look something like a listview with a custom column written in SPFx that provides sentiment analysis of the records data or maybe some keyphrase extraction from the text in the record. Another interesting area might be in the area of Search cognitive services and utilizing the Personlizer capability that could potentially provide some personalized experience to a web part for really tailoring the SharePoint experience to each individual user and what’s important to them.
Linux Kernel in Windows 10
If you aren’t hip to the awesomeness that is the “new” Microsoft, even the most skeptical and biased are re-assessing Microsoft offerings in the open-source space as brought on by the “Nadellaissance”. Anyways, another very interesting move of Microsoft in recent years is the inclusion of Linux developer community tools in Windows 10. Things like Bash shell on Windows, or native OpenSSH in Win 10, and even including Ubuntu, SUSE Linux, and Fedora in the Windows Store. At Build, Microsoft announced another addition with its plan for delivering a full Linux kernel directly in Windows 10. Microsoft will provide an in-house custom-built Linux kernel to coincide with the newest version of the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) in this summer’s Windows Insiders builds.
If I were to make a correlation between this Linuxy world of tooling and capabilities, I’d guess that we’ll see our SharePoint and Office365 CLIs used here. The CLI’s are cross-platform and can be used in Windows, macOS, or Linux using Bash, PowerShell, and soon the Windows Terminal. Some might argue, that the Bash interface is much more intuitive and efficient than some of the Windows counterparts. Regardless, you’ll have your choice.
Chromium-Based Edge Browser
This news and feature announcement segment at Build is by far some of the largest for impact on the Microsoft audience as a whole and not just the developer groups. I’ll quickly summarize this by saying that the Chrome browser…It runs on an open-source code base called Chromium. You might be familiar with it by using the Google Chrome browser. Well…Microsoft is going to rewrite the Microsoft Edge browser to leverage the Chromium open-source project as its base. Meaning…Edge and Chrome will now be very similar browsers, with flavors from their respective owners sprinkled on top. Ultimately though, Microsoft is now contributing to the Chromium open-source project and has already added some things there that have been adopted by Google as well.
This is big news for a few reasons, for us in the SharePoint space. SharePoint Online (Office365) certainly has a stronger leaning toward web standards and modern design practices for optimal user experiences. Our on-premises counterparts have a lot of these capabilities so long as they’re on a modern version of SharePoint (2016 SP2 or 2019). But there are many legacy servers out there in the world running older versions of SharePoint, and changing the primary browser in Windows could have some impact. Well…They’ve accounted for all of that and will be shipping a version of Internet Explorer in the Edge Browser. You’ll be able to toggle the IE mode in Edge as we understand it today.
As web developers, SharePoint developers, and HTML hackers…We’re familiar with the age-old battle of designing our content for two primary browsers. This move by Microsoft, could very well put this behind us and allow us to move forward with a focus on content design and functionality as opposed to compatibility. We shall see. Also of note, Microsoft Edge (Chromium) is now available in beta for macOS. For those of us on Apple computers, we can now potentially in the future, access legacy websites using the Microsoft Edge browser in IE compatibility mode. That’s very interesting.
The Fluid Framework was by far the most hair-raising event at Build for me. The demonstrations provided on this new capability were very exciting and a move in the direction of strong collaboration improvements that get teams pumped. Microsoft describes “Fluid Framework” as a “developer technology” that modularizes content from the web and apps into customizable and real-time capable components. That’s a lot to digest. Do you know how co-authoring documents works? Well, this allows for co-authoring of pieces of content across interfaces. Let me give an example of a demonstration they gave at Build. Let’s say I’m authoring a document in Word Online. In my word document, I’ve got a table that requires some values to be entered and this content is something we as a team need to work on together. Using the Fluid Framework, it was demonstrated that I could copy that table and paste it into a Teams channel/chat. The table that’s now in our chat tool, can be edited and manipulated in real time with the users also authoring from Word Online. INCREDIBLE right?!?!?
Microsoft says that this technology also ties into the recently announced “intelligent agents”. These agents can perform various tasks like fetching content, providing suggestions, identifying experts, and translating data. This looks to be the beginning of the refinement of capabilities around AI/ML inclusion in the Office 365 ecosystem.
There were so many more awesome announcements delivered at Microsoft Build 2019 that are exciting and inspiring. I’d love to hear from you if you had any thoughts about any of the announcements made and their impact on the SharePoint community. It’s an epic moment in time right now to be in this space and we truly believe that there’s an opportunity to make meaningful and impactful solutions for organizations that leverage some of the most cutting-edge technologies being delivered today. If you’ve got any questions about our roadmap as a solutions company or want to chat with a fellow SharePoint…Hit me up.