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Posted by on Feb 12, 2024 in Everything Else

Microsoft to license Microsoft 365 document collaboration to Microsoft Teams competitors

Microsoft to license Microsoft 365 document collaboration to Microsoft Teams competitors

Microsoft has announced a new partner program for third-party ISVs that will be of considerable interest to some of Microsoft Teams’ biggest competitors: the Microsoft 365 Document Collaboration Partner Program.

From Microsoft: “The Microsoft 365 Document Collaboration Partner Program allows eligible communication and collaboration ISVs to integrate Microsoft 365 experiences into their communication and collaboration platforms.

There are some interesting features of this new program:

  • it’s a closed, application-only program, open only to companies that offer either “real-time online meetings” and “instant messaging and/or audio and video calling, all as primary parts of a single business offering”.
  • successful applicants will need to pay an undisclosed amount to stay in the program, through a combination of initial and annual fees.

It’s not clear exactly what capabilities are available as part of the program but there appear to be two components:

  • the ability to embed Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents that are stored in SharePoint or OneDrive for Business into a webapp.
  • a “live app” experience for PowerPoint Live and Excel Live. Presumably this is similar to the two features of the same name currently in Microsoft Teams.

One of the first beneficiaries of this program will be Zoom, who are “looking forward to collaborating with Microsoft on this initiative”.

It’s quite something to see this gushing comment appear on a Microsoft Tech Community blog post:

“Zoom’s platform delivers limitless human connection. It is a leader when it comes to communication and collaboration, serving a diverse customer base from small businesses to large enterprises and government organizations…”


To be clear, that quote isn’t someone from Zoom being quoted – those are Microsoft’s own words.


Why is Microsoft doing this? On one level, there is an argument that Microsoft is meeting their users where they are and accepting that, after 7 years, if people aren’t on Teams yet then they might never be, so instead it is bringing its rich enterprise document collaboration capabilities to them.

I wonder though if the more likely reason is to head off any potential future investigation or worse from either the EU or the FTC. By providing a route for Microsoft’s direct competitors to gain access to user documents they are making it very hard for those competitors to argue that Microsoft is using one part of its business (enterprise document store) to provide an unfair advantage to another part (communication & collaboration). Even if that route in practice is fairly hobbled and expensive to go down.

But the real “why” I have here, is why develop this technology and then not open it up to everyone? Why restrict it solely and very deliberately to Microsoft Teams competitors? I can think of many use cases where being able to open, show and collaborate on a document held in Microsoft 365 in a third party application would make for a great user experience, but unless something changes that option won’t be open to 99% of developers.

Interested parties that meet the requirements are invited to apply via a Microsoft Form.

Written by Tom Morgan

Tom is a Microsoft Teams Platform developer and Microsoft MVP who has been blogging for over a decade. Find out more.
Buy the book: Building and Developing Apps & Bots for Microsoft Teams. Now available to purchase online with free updates.

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