If you feel like you’ve spent the last couple of years talking to your colleagues inside your business’ video-meeting app of choice—be it Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Webex, or something else—you’re not alone. But when you’re in one of these environments, you’re probably talking about stuff you’re working on in other pieces of software. And that’s where collaboration can start to break down.
“We’ve noticed in our use of Teams and other sorts of collaboration tools that what people do is static, non-interactive screen sharing,” says Jeff Teper, corporate VP of Microsoft 365 collaboration. “And that means people can’t really collaborate on the data.”
At its Build conference, Microsoft is unveiling plans to change that for Teams’ 250 million-plus users. The company is introducing Live Share, a new feature for developers that lets them create collaborative software experiences that live inside of Teams sessions. Once built, such software will be available everywhere Teams is, on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and the web.
Live Share is designed to expand on the real-time nature of a Teams call in ways that weren’t previously possible.
All the tools
To demonstrate what’s possible, Microsoft gave me a preview of an ambitious Live Share app from industrial hardware and software maker Hexagon that lets coworkers examine, manipulate, and discuss 3D models together. The presenter can see from what angle each participant is looking at the model and use an onscreen pointer to direct attention. Rather than just passively viewing a static object, everybody can make changes to the model on the fly, as seen in this video:
Along with Hexagon, Microsoft’s initial list of third-party Live Share developers includes Frame.io, Skillsoft (seen in the video below), MakeCode, Accenture, Parabol, and Breakthru. That roster might or might not include anyone whose tools you’re eager to access within a Teams meeting. But Teper says that he expects an array of organizations to build on the Live Share platform, including purveyors of both specialized applications and more widely used offerings. He also thinks that some company will merely extend their existing products, while others will create useful new experiences and charge for them.
“The word ‘leapfrog’ is the most overused word,” says Teper. “But there is nothing else like this that lets a video-meeting sharing experience be truly interactive and gives you the underlying platform so you don’t have to build it all yourself. . . . Developers like both new technology that delivers better experiences, and the opportunity to make money from lots of users. And we have both with Teams.”