Microsoft Partner Event: Project Siena & the Web App Template

On Wednesday 4th June 2014, Microsoft Education UK hosted a truly different Partner event at 1 Wimpole Street London – the home of the Royal Medical Society. The event was for half a day, running from 1 – 7pm including a business lunch with social networking afterwards.

The Education Team ran the event around the development of new tools from Microsoft and the potential that they have in the Education Sector. The first tool, the Web App Template is a framework that uses a web site or web app as a foundation for a Windows Store app. This allows the app to be hosted like a website, but delivered as a store app. There are many benefits of this, mostly around efficiency and the reduction in cost in comparison to developing a native app.

The second tool, Project Siena (code name) is a new technology for business experts. It permits users without any programming, or little to no programming experience to create apps that harness the power of many different data sets and content, as well as web services. To put simply, it is as easy as building a PowerPoint Deck and has unlimited potential, with new features & functionality being added in each revision.

Although the event was primarily dedicated to the showcasing of the tools, it was much more than this. Looking at the bigger picture, the event was designed to not only showcase lightweight developer tools but also excite education Partners about the potential value they can add to their business through the building of resource kits and additional learning materials etc. These materials in turn can then be utilised in partnership programs like Skype in the classroom and add to the interactive learning experience. To reflect this, the partnerships aspect of this was shown through a talk on the program, “Skype in the classroom” which showed partner delegates what the program was and how it operated with teachers and the classroom around the world. It focussed on the aspect of being a partner and what that means, as well as demonstrating meaningful apps that would help extend the SITC experience.


The second half of the event also focused on how to submit apps to the Windows Store and the best practice around the process. Partners were also shown the different analytics tools that are available in the store eco system and how best to utilise this data. The aim of this was to streamline and simply the submission process to the store.

A number of case studies were then showcased by Martin Kearn for the WAT tool & a worldwide publisher, MacMillan, presented & talked about their WAT App, EnglishUP! This app, which is going to market in Brazil, helps users learn English for free. MacMillan talked about how their journey started 6 months ago, discussing what they wanted to achieve and how the Web App Template allowed them to achieve the goals they planned with little work involved and minimal funding. It highlighted how through the use of the tools Microsoft had developed and through the partnerships of OEMs and small companies in Brazil, their app enhanced the learning capabilities of users in Rio through teaching them the English Language.

In regards to whom attended, there was a strong publisher presence, with the likes of Oxford University Press, MacMillan, McGraw-Hill, Hodder Education, Nelson Thornes and Science Photo to name but a few. The aim of which was to show publishers that there are tools available now to either build test/POC apps or utilise the tools as an additional resource medium for release. As well as publishers, there were also software/content developers who were interested in the new development of tools and potential partnerships.

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