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Fluid Framework opens the door to new Microsoft capabilities

Fluid Framework provides multiuser co-authoring capabilities -- offering never-seen-before flexibility. It also has the potential for adoption by outside vendors.

Microsoft Fluid Framework promises to enhance productivity and collaboration on the web by enabling three new capabilities: multiperson co-authoring of web and document content; componentized or compound documents and intelligent agents to provide automation; and services such as text translation, editing suggestions and compliance checks.

This is both an approach and an SDK. Microsoft plans to integrate Fluid Framework into Office 365 experiences such as Word, Teams and Outlook to transform the capability of the applications and make the technology available to third-party developers.

Of the new capabilities, the most powerful is potentially the compound document or canvas that contains content and would traditionally exist across separate Microsoft document formats. In Microsoft's traditional computing model, a document is managed by its appropriate application: Word manages text documents, PowerPoint manages presentation documents, Excel manages spreadsheet documents, Outlook manages email documents and so on. These applications interoperate to some extent through copy-paste or object embedding.

Compound documents enable snippets of content to be easily changed from within different applications. For example, two users would be able to make edits to a Word document simultaneously in real time -- one from part of the document in a chat window and the other within the originating Word document.

Another example of Fluid Framework technology is simultaneous dynamic translation to multiple languages. A use case for this might include global collaboration on a corporate HR manual, developed in multiple languages. The local country team would see the manual in their own language translated in real time from contributions made in other languages and other locations during the co-authoring process.

Fluid Framework could also potentially eliminate the need for multiple document types -- such as Excel, Word and PowerPoint -- and open the door to a single canvas or document format. For example, if you have a PowerPoint document to open but don't have the program on your computer, you would potentially be able to open it in Word instead.

Provided other collaboration tool vendors adopt Fluid Framework, it will be an exciting future for cross-vendor tools, content authoring and collaboration. Microsoft is ahead of vendors in that it has many content creation applications in its offerings, owns the desktop in many businesses with its Office application products and has good adoption of Office 365.

Benefits for users of other vendor applications, if they adopt the Fluid Framework, are clear: plug-and-play of content development across partners, customers and suppliers regardless of applications used by those parties. The benefits for the vendors of other collaboration tool vendors are less clear, and it might be a competitive threat to offer users a migration path to Microsoft Office tools.

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This was last published in May 2019

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