Microsoft Positions Fluid Framework to Challenge Google
by Jim Lundy and Adam Pease
At its Build event on Tuesday, Microsoft announced that Microsoft Fluid Framework, which has been under development, will be going open-source and also be available for MS Outlook and Office.com. The announcement comes with another visual preview of Fluid Framework on the Microsoft official site. Microsoft emphasized the utility of its Fluid components offering, demonstrating its value for real-time collaboration. In this blog, we review the Microsoft announcement and its implications for the enterprise document management market.
What Is Microsoft Fluid Framework?
Microsoft compares its new Fluid components to lego pieces. Everyone who has worked with Microsoft Office is used to seeing the charts, graphs, and lists that can be composed with tools like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. What will be new with Fluid is the capability to move created components to any location on the web. Components can be inserted in-line in webpages, documents, and emails. Fluid Framework components make it possible to quickly create charts or diagrams in Outlook and deliver them to associates in an interactive form.
With Fluid Framework components, Microsoft aims to cut through the time spent creating documents to support daily tasks. The offering pushes towards a new model in which business-critical content—such as a task list—can be created in a user’s current collaborative environment without requiring a switch to a different application to create and save a document. And unlike the charts currently produced with tools like Microsoft Excel, Fluid component charts will be dynamic, not static, meaning they will receive live updates.
Fluid won’t Replace Word – But it Challenges Google
Fluid is not meant to replace Microsoft Word. After years of challengers, Word remains the best enterprise tool for creating documents, particularly legal documents. Instead, Fluid positions itself to challenge Google’s monopoly on cloud document co-authoring and sharing. The Google G-Suite digital platform with Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, has been a favorite of enterprises for its out-of-the-box support for real-time collaboration on documents. Google Docs, Spreadsheet or Slide users can easily edit a document together without worrying about conflicting versions or lost work.
Fluid Framework attempts to take on this challenge by providing a web-based framework to enable real-time collaboration on data structures. It promises low latency for these data structures, which synchronize with endpoints to provide users with up-to-date information. Developers who build applications through Fluid Framework can easily enable dynamic in-line charts that stay updated with information from their data sources.
Microsoft is open-sourcing the new feature rollout to encourage developers to experiment with the toolset. For some Office.com users, Fluid will go live in the next few months in a forthcoming Microsoft update. For Microsoft, Fluid Framework components are only one demonstration of the broader framework’s capabilities, which they hope developers will go on to work with.
In summary, Microsoft’s Fluid Framework announcement is a bid to challenge Google’s dominance in shared content editing. Fluid components reveal some exciting new ways to collaborate using Offices services, but it remains to be seen if this open-source framework will be picked up by developers.