Office 365 Is Now A Programmable Service For Rapid App Delivery

Microsoft is offering new capabilities for building business apps with Office 365 and Windows Azure — part of a larger effort to offer services that can leverage its cloud environment for rapid build-out.

Rapid delivery was one of the themes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer discussed on Wednesday, the first day at the Build conference. On Thursday, Microsoft showed how Windows Azure can be leveraged and turn Office 365 into a programmable service for quickly integrating apps and managing websites. The effort is reminiscent of Google’s work in integrating Google Apps with third-party services.

For example, Microsoft did a demo showing how Visual Studio, as Michael Miller of PC Mag points out, can be used to build a hiring application that “leverages Office 365 features such as documents and presence information.”

The keynotes and demos on Thursday were all about the cloud with an emphasis on the enterprise. Satya Nadella is president of the server and tools division. He gave the keynote and followed it with demos that showed new Visual Studio capabilities, auto-scaling, and how BizTalk can be used to integrate on-premise software with SaaS environments. There were also some looks at data services but not as much as I expected to see, considering the strong offerings from Google and AWS.

Microsoft’s direction is right. The company is pushing Office 365 in Windows Azure. It reflects a deeper emphasis on the Azure infrastructure but also its interest in marketing how it can be used as a platform for developing websites and apps across the cloud and enterprise environments.