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Microsoft announced the spring update to its Power BI and Power Apps platform today with a significant enhancement, a new common data service that enables companies to build data-based applications from a variety of data sources. This is part of a wider strategy that is designed to remove some of the complexity associated with gathering, processing and incorporating data into applications. Microsoft is essentially giving customers access to the same set of tools and services it has used internally to build Dynamics 365, its enterprise suite of tools that includes CRM, marketing automation and field service along with enterprise resource planning tools (ERP). While the company has been allowing third party developers to build application on the platform for about 18 months with its Power Apps tools, they haven’t been able to take advantage of the data under the hood without some heavy lifting. Microsoft aims to change that with the Common Data Service. Diagram: Microsoft “What that service means, practically speaking, is that it’s not only a place to store data, but a model (schema) that is stamped out there with everything you would need to build a business app around [elements] such as contacts, events, customers [and so forth], Ryan Cunningham, Microsoft program manager for Power Apps explained. This allows the programmer to take advantage of pre-built relationships and rules and how they should be enforced without having to code them from scratch. Cunningham points out that they tried to make it fairly simple to build the apps, while still providing a level of customization and the ability to use Microsoft data or data from another source. That’s where the Common Data Store comes in. He says that developers can take advantage of the 200 connectors that come pre-built out of the box and connect to all that data you’ve been collecting in the Microsoft products, but they aren’t limited to the Microsoft data. “You can still build custom applications on top of the platform, and get the benefit of the platform we’ve built our tools on,” he said. The Common Data Store is part of a much broader set of announcements around the spring releases of Dynamics 365, Office 365 and Power BI platforms all announced today.