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Microsoft low code branches into lightweight GUI widgets

Building features into Teams, Outlook without JSON coding possible with new Cards play

Microsoft has pledged to make building new features into Teams, Outlook, and other common apps easier with the introduction of low code development for Cards.

The Redmond software giant currently offers Adaptive Cards, a framework for putting snippets of UI into popular apps.

By putting Cards in low code environment Power Apps, Microsoft promises a lightweight approach to build and send micro-apps to share, collect, and connect data, and make critical biz decisions within Teams or Outlook.

Professional developers could build Adaptive Cards by using a JSON framework to create a declarative user experience and bring business logic to determine what happens to the data downstream.

With the new preview, Cards offers the same ability inside a low code PowerPoint-like visual experience. So-called citizen developers can also use Power FX, an open source language for low code development, which is based on the Excel expression language.

The "Card" can be shared using a link, which an agent in, say, Teams can pick up and expand into an interactive user experience.

For Microsoft applications, the back-end data is shared via its Dataverse platform that sits behind Dynamics and Power BI, but more than 800 connectors allow Cards to handle data with applications in SAP, Oracle, ServiceNow or Salesforce, for example.

Orchestration of Cards can also be controlled from Power Automate, Microsoft's automation tool.

Ryan Cunningham, product lead for Microsoft Power Apps, told us pre-build Cards were already available in Power Automate. "But if you want to customize it, you must know how to write JSON and so forth. Now this will allow local users to customize and orchestrate when and how their Cards are sent using Power Automate. You're not just sending them kind of manually, you can send them automatically based on underlying business logic. That's a big deal for sort of orchestration."

The new features available in preview also include coauthoring in Power Apps, which allows devs and business users to edit applications in real time using the Microsoft Office-like experience simultaneously, the vendor said.

Microsoft has made inroads in automation and low code, benefiting from the market interest in the breadth of its personal productivity portfolio combined with its Power platform, a trend which has seen consolidation in the implementation partner market.

The market is crowded with specialists such as UiPath, Blue Prism, and Appian, and application companies like SAP and Oracle also striving to include these features in their environments. Microsoft will be looking to achieve in low code what it has already done with automation, where Forrester determined the Redmond software giant to be the only serious rival to pure-play vendors. ®

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