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Ready or not, Microsoft PowerApps is here

Microsoft today launched Microsoft PowerApps, a major new platform that lets anyone build cross-platform mobile applications. Anyone. And for now, it’s free.

Love or hate it, this latest salvo in the no-code tool wars certainly provides the validation that other makers of similar tools have been seeking. I examined no-code tools a couple of months ago, pondering whether giving line-of-business departmental employees the power to build apps was a good thing for IT or not. On that question, the jury is still out. Regardless, the launch of PowerApps renders the question moot. No-code is here to stay.

In a blog entry posted today, Bill Staples, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of application platforms, makes some entirely valid points. “The mobile revolution, together with nearly limitless compute and data in the cloud, has transformed our professional experience,” he writes. Can’t argue with that. He goes on to say that “the apps we use to do business have been slow to keep pace with employee demand.” On that point, I see some room for debate.

Staples’ point is that while SaaS has become the platform of choice for CRM, expense reporting, and other the majority of business applications still run on premises, “dependent on corporate connected PCs.” Is he kicking Windows in the teeth? Not in so many words, but he’s not coming to its defense, either.

The problem, Staples believes, is a lack of mobile developers, proliferation of data that spans on-premises and cloud, and problems with app distribution.

What does PowerApps promise? Plenty. There’s the ability to create personalized apps that unite popular services, including Microsoft’s own Office 365, Dynamics CRM, and OneDrive; along with Salesforce, Dropbox, OneDrive and more.

Here’s the key point for me, directly quoted from the PowerApps website: “Employees can use their Office skills to create business apps tailored to their needs. Pro developers can use Azure App Service to build apps and connections faster than ever.” (That means pros get to use the APIs and others do not.)

You’re bound to be asked about this, so spend a few minutes checking out the resources and signing up for the beta would seem to be a good idea. After you’ve done that, come back here and share your opinions. Is this something you or other executives allow inside the company? Let us know what you think.