Microsoft Unveils PowerApps Development Platform

Readmond wants to turn more of its business users into mobile app developers, even if they can’t write a single line of code. To that end, Microsoft Relevant Products/Services has unveiled a preview version of its new PowerApps development platform (Image: Microsoft), which will allow users to build their own native iOS, Android, and Windows mobile apps.

The company said it developed PowerApps to address the “innovation gap” in the business app sector where apps being developed continue to lag behind the needs of business users. The new tool will dramatically reduce the amount of time needed to develop new mobile enterprise apps, according to Microsoft.

Business Lags Behind Consumer

“While companies are increasingly turning to SaaS solutions for specific scenarios like CRM Relevant Products/Services, travel and HR, using services like Microsoft Dynamics, Concur or Workday, most business app scenarios still remain locked on premises, dependent on corporate connected PCs,” Bill Staples, corporate vice president of the Azure App Platform, said today in a statement.

The apps that do get developed usually aren’t optimized for mobile, not easily integrated with other services, and not accessible on the particular devices business users want to use, according to Staples. As a result, business apps continue to lag behind consumer apps in numbers and capabilities.

Staples identified three root causes of the gap between business and consumer apps: a lack of skilled mobile app developers; the rapid proliferation of business data Relevant Products/Services; and rigid mobile device management policies. To address these issues, PowerApps will allow more people to develop mobile business applications without the need for advanced software development training.

Develop Apps with Office Skills

With PowerApps, staff members will be able to create apps that work on any device through an interface similar to the familiar Microsoft Office environment. That will include templates to allow novices to get started quickly and a visual designer to automate workflows. Any employee who knows how to work with Office will be able to create their own apps with PowerApps, according to Microsoft.

To overcome the issue of rigid mobile device management, PowerApps will be able connect to cloud services such as Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Salesforce, Dropbox and OneDrive and on-premises systems including SharePoint, SQL Server, Oracle databases, and SAP. Apps created with the platform can also be shared directly with coworkers via e-mail

In addition to non-IT professionals, Microsoft is also pitching PowerApps to professional developers. The tool will include Azure App Service for creating employee-facing native apps faster with simple data integration. IT departments, meanwhile, can use it to manage apps as well as access to data and critical business systems. PowerApps runs on Azure and integrates with the various Azure-based services.

The preview version is currently available to try for free, but only by invitation. Microsoft has not given any indication of what it will charge for PowerApps once it launches the Standard and Enterprise editions of the tool. However, the company has said it believes the field has the potential to become a billion dollar market.


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