Microsoft unveils Loop – and a new collaborative Office document
Microsoft this week unveiled a new productivity app, Loop, which combines elements of documents, spreadsheets, and presentation apps into a single collaborative space.
“Technology is indeed Microsoft’s vision for the future of Office, breaking down rigid barriers between different types of file formats, allowing content to be deconstructed into modular components that can easily be shared between applications, making it easier creating collaborative content, ”said Angela Ashenden, senior analyst at CCS Insight.
While the app itself is new, Microsoft has been leading the way in Loop for some time with its Fluid Framework. Announced two years ago, the Fluid Framework breaks down barriers between Microsoft 365 applications, allowing application components such as tables, charts, and lists to be integrated into different applications and updated in real time. by multiple users. For example, changes to an inventory list board or updates to meeting notes in OneNote will be instantly visible if the component is also integrated in Outlook or Teams.
These Fluid components, now called “loop components” or “loops”, are one of the three key elements of the new application. These loop component building blocks can be integrated into a loop “page” that serves as a shared canvas, containing a variety of sources of information relating to a particular team project, for example. The Loop Pages are then organized into Loop “Workspaces,” which provide an overview of multiple documents.
Microsoft has said the Loop components will be available in Microsoft Teams, Outlook, and OneNote later this month. The company has promised more details on the availability of the standalone Loop app “in the coming months.”
A “massive change of mind” for the market
“The launch of Loop is a bold move by Microsoft,” said Raúl Castañón, senior analyst at 451 Research, a division of S&P Global Market Intelligence. “Word processors are long overdue for a new approach. “
Castañón sees the Loop application as a complement, rather than a replacement, to traditional document editing applications. “Rather, it is a tool for use cases for which word processors weren’t designed, with capabilities for real-time and asynchronous collaboration, integration into record keeping and automation systems. workflow, ”he said.
The all-in-one document is a concept that has already found success with startups such as Coda, Airtable and Notion; Quip, acquired by Salesforce in 2016, also sought to modernize office documents. And earlier this year, Google introduced its smart web “building blocks”; the concept is similar in that it links information between Workspace apps such as Docs and Sheets with simple polls and checklists updated simultaneously between apps.
(Google Wave, released in 2009 and closed the following year, could be considered a precursor to some of these tools, although it was considered ahead of its time.)
While it makes sense for Microsoft to embrace new document types, Loop represents a significant change that Office application users may take time to adjust to, Ashenden said.
“The technology is still in its infancy, and it won’t soon supplant Office apps in most people’s workflows. But it shows that Microsoft recognizes the need to lay the groundwork for a post-office world, ”she said.
“Promoting Loop as a low-profile app will help grow its audience, get feedback from early adopters, and understand the appetite and the best direction to take,” she said. “But it’s a massive mindset change for the market.”
Dynamics 365 Loop component on the way
In related news, also touted a new Loop component that connects Dynamics 365 records to applications in the company’s Office 365 suite.
Connecting its business apps to productivity tools, such as the ability to integrate Teams chat into the Dynamics 365 Sales app (announced earlier this year and currently in preview) has been a growing priority for Microsoft.
The new Loop component, also announced to Ignite Microsoft this week, builds on the idea, allowing users to retrieve a customer record directly in Teams, for example, and edit information such as changing the status of a sales opportunity in “in progress”, while highlighting which user is making changes.
The Loop component is expected to be available for public preview by the end of 2022.
Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.