Microsoft PowerApps running on a PC, phone, and tablet.
The world of Microsoft Office is going to get a lot bigger with today’s introduction of Microsoft PowerApps, a new tool for business users that lets literally anybody design an app, from scratch, without writing any code.
As software continues to eat the world, there’s more demand than ever for mobile apps in every facet of our lives.
But while the consumer app market just keeps growing and growing, the number of business apps just isn’t keeping pace. Meanwhile, users are stuck using their old legacy software, tied to their desk and an old-school mindset.
“Where is the explosion of business apps?” asked Microsoft Corporate VP of App Platform Bill Staples during a press event.
The big problem, Staples says, is that the need for business apps is outstripping the availability of developers by as much as five to to one, citing stats from the research firm Gartner. Moreover, a lot of enterprise data is stuck in legacy servers, in addition to a new breed of cloud services.
Enter Microsoft PowerApps, which starts to take names for its waitlist today.
Microsoft PowerApps can take data from cloud services like Microsoft Office 365, Dropbox, and Salesforce, plus data from legacy Oracle, SAP, or Microsoft on-premises systems, and make all of that information accessible via a stupid-easy app creator.
Design your app on a PC, and use it anywhere. In a demo, Staples used it to make a dynamic price list of goods and services for a mobile salesperson, with prices that change on the fly on the smartphone.
The actual experience of making a PowerApp is a lot like making a PowerPoint slide, with a lot of drag-and-drop. Just slide the elements into place, and you have yourself an app. There are even templates and sample apps for inspiration.
It’s designed to be simple, not requiring any technical expertise — if you have a business problem, just build an app to solve it. PowerApps even handles hosting and running the app.
“It runs on any device and allows anyone to create a business application,” Staples says.
Actually accessing the apps is supposed to be easy, too. Just launch the PowerApps app on your phone, choose the custom app you want from a list, and go. If you make an app and want to share it, you can just invite collaborators, like you would with a Google Drive document or Dropbox file.
And on the IT side, Staples says that PowerApps follows the same data and security rules as the rest of the corporate network, since it’s all accessed from that one central PowerApps portal. Plus, the IT department can take PowerApps and connect it to any other system, with a little bit of elbow grease.
With this announcement, Microsoft is riding a wave right along cloud titan Salesforce of opening app development to the masses. If developers aren’t making enough business apps themselves, these tech giants say, it’s time for the actual users to start plugging some gaps.