Meet Loop, Microsoft’s new Office-friendly app for project management and collaboration

Microsoft Loop is a new app for its Office productivity suite that lets users collaborate on projects within Microsoft Teams and Outlook.

A gif of Microsoft's Loop interface

Loop will roll out gradually, but will eventually be a standalone app.

Image: Microsoft

As office workers settle into new routines driven by the displacement of the pandemic and the availability of powerful new collaboration tools, Microsoft wants to make sure workers stay in Office.

The company will introduce Microsoft Loop, a new collaboration app that lives inside the broader Microsoft Office suite, later on Tuesday at Microsoft Ignite. Loop will roll out gradually, starting as a series of actions built on Microsoft's Fluid Framework that can be used within Microsoft Teams, Outlook and other key parts of Office, but will eventually be a standalone project-management and collaboration app.

"One of the things you might be wondering is under what circumstances does Microsoft decide we should launch a new app?" Joe Belfiore, a longtime Microsoft executive across its gaming and devices business who is now corporate vice president for the Office Product Group, told Protocol.

"A big 'aha' for us was that a lot of teams of people use applications like Word and PowerPoint incredibly effectively, for finished products," he said. "But the place where we saw an opportunity was to be focused on small-group collaboration around the part of the process where they're thinking and planning and brainstorming, where formatting doesn't really matter that much."

Loop will roll out in three phases over the next year or so. The first elements are called "components," essentially small widgets that can be launched from Microsoft Teams to allow groups to collaborate on tracking the status of a project or voting on next steps.

"These are really our atomic units of productivity that can help you collaborate and get work done right in the flow of your work," said Wangui McKelvey, general manager of Microsoft 365. "So it can be in a chat or an email, or even inside of a meeting."

Later, Microsoft will unveil Loop "pages," which are collections of components based around an event or task that can also incorporate Office files and emails. And Loop "workspaces" will allow teams to work on a variety of projects at the same time using any or all of the apps across the Office suite.

"What we're trying to accomplish right now, is really delivering a new form of Office that embraces collaboration, new media (and) AI in a pretty deep way," Belfiore said.

Image: Microsoft

Keep 'em in the loop

One of Microsoft's oldest products, Office sits at the heart of its cloud computing strategy and is a widely used suite of tools that is starting to expand well beyond its word-processing, spreadsheet and slide-presentation roots.

Microsoft Teams has been the most notable part of that expansion over the last few years, an upgrade to Microsoft's older Skype for Business communications hub that is often compared directly to Salesforce's Slack as a central collaboration tool. Loop is a nod to a newer collection of remote productivity and collaboration tools that exploded during the pandemic, including Notion, Asana, Figma and Miro.

But Loop also echoes another trend changing the way enterprise software is bought and sold. Companies that embraced a wide variety of software-as-a-service tools over the last decade are starting to become overwhelmed with the cost and complexity of managing a dozen or more different tools from different vendors across their networks.

Assuming it works as advertised, Loop gives businesses that have chosen to go all-in on Microsoft Office as their central workplace tool some of the same real-time collaboration features that have become very popular in this era of hybrid work, nicely confined to the Microsoft Office walled garden.

"I hope you'll get a sense that we're really moving things a pretty long way to embrace new forms of communication, new mediums, and that Office really is taking up a new level of value that we can create for our customers," Belfiore said.

Microsoft hasn't decided whether Loop will eventually be included as part of the standard Microsoft 365 subscription package or as part of one of the higher-tier options when the rest of the product ships, Belfiore said.

"It's definitely our intent to create an experience that will have value for any group of people that wants to be planning, creating and brainstorming together. But it really will add even more value when that's combined with the full power of Teams, Outlook or Excel," he said.


Plaid is striking back after Stripe entered its core business

Onboarding customers through identity verification and ACH transfers is a hot sector in fintech, and the two fast-growing fintechs are set to battle it out.

Plaid is looking to help banks and fintech companies with anything related to the onboarding of a customer onto a financial product, said Plaid CTO Jean-Denis Greze.

Photo: Plaid

Plaid is moving into identity verification in a crucial expansion beyond its roots connecting banks and fintechs — a move that could put it in more direct competition with Stripe, another company known for its financial software tools.

In conjunction with its Plaid Forum customer conference this week, the company is also announcing two products focused on ACH transfers as it moves into payments.

Keep Reading Show less
Tomio Geron

Tomio Geron ( @tomiogeron) is a San Francisco-based reporter covering fintech. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, covering venture capital and startups. Before that, he worked as a staff writer at Forbes, covering social media and venture capital, and also edited the Midas List of top tech investors. He has also worked at newspapers covering crime, courts, health and other topics. He can be reached at tgeron@protocol.com or tgeron@protonmail.com.

Sponsored Content

Foursquare data story: leveraging location data for site selection

We take a closer look at points of interest and foot traffic patterns to demonstrate how location data can be leveraged to inform better site selecti­on strategies.

Imagine: You’re the leader of a real estate team at a restaurant brand looking to open a new location in Manhattan. You have two options you’re evaluating: one site in SoHo, and another site in the Flatiron neighborhood. Which do you choose?

Keep Reading Show less

Getting reproductive benefits at work could be a privacy nightmare

A growing number of tech companies are extending abortion-related travel benefits. Given privacy and legal fears, will employees be too scared to use them?

How employers can implement and discuss reproductive benefits in a way that puts employees at ease.

Photo: Sigrid Gombert via Getty Images

It’s about to be a lot harder to get an abortion in the United States. For many, it’s already hard. The result is that employers, including large companies, are being called upon to fill the abortion care gap. The likelihood of a Roe v. Wade reversal was the push some needed to extend benefits, with Microsoft and Tesla announcing abortion-related travel reimbursements in recent weeks. But the privacy and legal risks facing people in need of abortions loom large. If people have reason to fear texting friends for abortion resources, will they really want to confide in their company?

An employee doesn’t have “much to worry about” when it comes to health privacy, said employee benefits consultant Jessica Du Bois. “The HR director or whoever's in charge of the benefits program is not going to be sharing that information.” Employers have a duty to protect employee health data under HIPAA and a variety of state laws. Companies with self-funded health plans — in other words, most large companies — can see every prescription and service an employee receives. But the data is deidentified.

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.


VMware CEO Raghu Raghuram: Edge is growing faster than cloud

The now-standalone company is staking its immediate future on the multicloud era of IT and hybrid work, while anticipating increased demand for edge-computing software.

VMware CEO Raghu Raghuram spoke with Protocol about the company's future.

Photo: VMware

Nearly a year into his tenure as CEO, Raghu Raghuram believes VMware is well-positioned for the third phase of its evolution, but acknowledges its product transformation still needs some work.

The company, which pioneered the hypervisor and expanded to virtualized networking and storage with its vSphere operating environment, now is helping customers navigate a distributed, multicloud world and hybrid work with newfound freedom as an independent company after being spun off from Dell Technologies last November.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.


What’s wrong with current Big Tech HBCU partnerships

Big Tech is still trying to crack the code on hiring more Black workers despite years of partnerships with HBCUs.

Pictured is the first cohort in Accenture's Level Up program.

Photo: Accenture

As a business major at Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas, Sean Johnson had been on track to work in finance after graduating. But then his adviser mentioned a program that the historically Black university had with Accenture and Microsoft that was meant to function as a direct pipeline from Prairie View into roles in tech. It changed his entire career course.

Johnson had always had an interest in tech, and the prospect of being able to get a glimpse into the industry, as well as gain real, hands-on experience, appealed to him. By the end of the program, he had a full-time job offer at Accenture.

Keep Reading Show less
Amber Burton

Amber Burton (@amberbburton) is a reporter at Protocol. Previously, she covered personal finance and diversity in business at The Wall Street Journal. She earned an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and B.A. in English and Journalism from Wake Forest University. She lives in North Carolina.

Latest Stories