PowerApps Launch
Written by Mike James   
Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Recently Microsoft discontinued LightSwitch, its almost-no-programming app creation system to replace it by PowerApps, another almost-no-programming app creation system. The PowerApps service is now generally available and we know the price. Is this not just generally available, but generally interesting?

Microsoft is doing what it does best, dropping one technology for another not obviously any better. However, PowerApps is designed to make money and get people using Azure.

The basic idea is that you can put together a user interface using templates plus a drag-and-drop designer if you want something customizable. You can populate the UI controls using something that resembles spreadsheet formulas and standard data sources.

Going a little beyond this, you can use Microsoft Flow which is a sort of an If This Then That type clone and Power BI which displays data. You can create custom data sources and, if you really want to get complicated, you can create a workflow with BizTalk - a service that seemed to be going nowhere until PowerApps rediscovered it. You can also create Power Apps using SharePoint and link into SharePoint lists. 




What is really interesting about PowerApps is the approach taken to run them on mobile devices. You have to download a host app that then runs your Power App on iOS, Android and probably some time in the future on Windows Mobile.

Although there isn't much information on the technology used by PowerApps it seems likely that the host app is a WebView and the system is an implementation of the same approach used by PhoneGap/Cordoba and other similar HTML/JavaScript hosting apps. Examining the list of functions available, there are some that interface with the device, e.g. acceleration reads the accelerometer. 

This raises the question of why Microsoft isn't making the inner workings available to us? If programmers could get inside the system and build Power Apps using HTML and JavaScript this would be Microsoft's biggest app platform and be closer to being "universal" than their Universal Windows Apps, which essentially only run on Windows 10. Perhaps in the future, if Power Apps become a big hit, Microsoft would have the option of opening up yet another alternative way of creating HTML/JavaScript apps that run like native apps. 

If you you have an Office 365 or Dynamics 365 account, you might be able to sign into PowerApps for free. If you can't then you need one of the two PowerApp plans, $7 per month per user or $40 per month per user. You only get the common data service with the two paying plans and the more expensive option gives you higher allowances on data storage and additional features. There is a 90-day free trial and at some point in the future there may well be a developer plan. 



More Information

Announcing general availability of PowerApps

Related Articles

Microsoft Turns LightSwitch Off 

SharePoint Going Mobile


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Last Updated ( Thursday, 17 November 2016 )