World

Microsoft Launches Loop Collaboration Tool

Microsoft announced at its online-only Ignite conference that it will release a new Office application called Loop that people can use to collaborate on projects. The effort shows Microsoft is attempting to provide more value to Office subscribers, which will start paying higher prices next year. That should boost financial results for the world’s most highly valued public company.

Microsoft’s Office subscription bundles already come with Word and Excel, where people can be co-authors on text documents and spreadsheets. And the SharePoint tool gives workers online hubs for accessing relevant files.

Jared Spataro, a Microsoft corporate vice president, said, “Emerging productivity software from those companies can handle content creation, but they’re lacking in communication. Essentially what we’re doing with Loop is we’re blowing up the document.”

Workers can share Loop elements in Teams text conversations. Users can quickly discuss Loop projects by kicking off voice or video calls in Teams, which has grown to more than 250 million monthly active users following the onset of Covid-19, he said.

Loop promises a modern alternative, which is important because Microsoft’s core productivity software increasingly faces pressure from well-funded start-ups such as Airtable, Coda and Notion, which aren’t weighed down by proprietary file formats.

The combination of communication and creation is well-suited to hybrid work configurations, where not everyone is located in the same physical space, Spataro said. The pandemic has pushed many organizations to adopt remote work at a greater scale. Cisco’s Webex, Salesforce’s Slack and Zoom have all developed enhancements to better accommodate hybrid work.

Loop components are the renamed and updated Fluid components — tables, notes, tasks, or even a customer-sales record in Dynamics 365 — that can be embedded in chats, emails, meetings, documents, or pages.

Loop components will be built into existing Office apps across Microsoft 365 commercial licenses, a company spokesperson said. Over time, Loop components will appear in Teams, OneDrive, Office.com, and the Office mobile apps. Microsoft is not ready to talk about licensing/pricing for the standalone Loop app, but the spokesperson added that it will have more to share in 2022 when it rolls out.

Loop looks and works a lot like the Notion project-management/collaboration tool in that it provides a canvas with portable components that can stay in sync across apps while users create as a team. But unlike the Notion app, Loop can be used both as a standalone app/canvas, as well as inside other apps in the form of embeddable components; a Microsoft spokesperson told me when I asked about the similarities. These Loop components will be built into other Microsoft apps like Outlook, Teams, OneNote, and/or Whiteboard.

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