Ever since Spring 2018 when the XRM and PowerApps platforms merged on a commercial level, I’ve found myself spending an ever increasing number of hours per week involved in licensing discussions and scenario planning. My initial exploration of the platform licensing back then came to the conclusion that many of the crucial details for actually determining what you can & can’t do with PowerApps licenses vs. Dynamics 365 CE licenses were simply not available at the time. Obviously this was not an ideal starting point for Microsoft to start pushing their Power Platform into new business areas that should see it capture the next 10 million developers from outside the traditional CRM field. But still, it is the legacy that came with the underlying platform that was designed to be sold as Sales, Service, Marketing etc. solutions delivered via traditional enterprise projects via partners that mostly had started back in the Microsoft Business Solution (MBS) days. What can you do about that, huh?
This year at the Inspire 2019 partner conference, Satya Nadella framed the role of Business Applications and Power Platform in particular with the following numbers:
(Click here to watch this segment of his Inspire 2019 Corenote.)
If there are indeed 500 million new apps that will be created in the coming five years, then those sure ain’t gonna emerge from the MBS style business model and development methodology. Today the world is full of both cloud service providers that offer low-code/no-code tools for building your own apps very rapidly, as well as savvy power users who are interested in seeing if they could take their Excel workbook desktop wizardry to the next level with these cool new tools that promise to deliver modern apps for this smartphone era. Since MS has obviously identified this new business potential that Power Platform can unlock for them, are they going to let the prior licensing model of Dynamics 365 stand in their way? Probably not.
It just so happens that Inspire 2019 was also the place where the upcoming licensing changes for both Dynamics 365 and Power Platform were introduced to the partner audience. Since Inspire is a public conference that anyone can attend, it also meant that any customers paying attention to the Microsoft ecosystem are already aware of the changes announced to take effect on October 1st, 2019. The slide decks for both sessions are available for download on the Inspire website for a more detailed look. On the PowerApps blog there is also a summary of these changes, which is nice. What’s really nice is that the comments section is open, which often isn’t the case for corporate announcements related to licensing (is it even a “blog” if there is no reader interaction opportunity given?). The product team has been responding to a lot of the feedback around the topic, which makes me optimistic about the possible fine tuning of the licensing model to align with what the outside world thinks about it.
Pay per App
As with licensing always, there’s far too many details in the Inspire 2019 news to cover in one blog post. Maybe I’ll eventually do a revised version of my “Demystifying Dynamics 365 & Power Platform Licensing” session from January, but right now I want to focus on one aspect: the price of an App. This is something the new PowerApps licensing model highlights in particular:
In short, what Microsoft will do in October is to retire the earlier PowerApps P1 and P2 plans and introduce new “Per App” and “Per User” plans. Nothing (major) is going to change with how the rights bundled into Office 365 and Dynamics 365 licenses work. The “Per User” plan will be the same price ($40) and mostly the same capabilities as the earlier P2, whereas the earlier “lite edition” of PowerApps P1 at $7 will be discontinued completely.
“What?!? How can they just take away the $7 plan and push everyone to buy a license that’s almost six times the price of that?” Yes, this is the hardest part about the changes, no doubt. I was a bit surprised to see this as the direction where Power Platform is heading, given how the citizen developers who’ve been playing around with the seeded Office 365 PowerApps license should rather be pushed into learning more about CDS, solutions and all those “real” application development tools that P1 previously offered. Nevertheless, after letting the new model sink in for a few days, I believe that this pricing mechanism makes a lot more sense than the earlier version.
A fundamental problem with the current P1/P2 divide was that it attempted to draw the line on app complexity. There were limitations like the inability to attach real-time custom business logic (workflows, plugins) on entities that were used by PowerApps P1 license holders. This was particularly problematic when operating within CDS environments that also serve as the Dynamics 365 CE app database (yes, they’re all CDS now): any developer or 3rd party app registering a plugin step on an entity like account would instantly have put all P1 users attempting to access it out of compliance with the license terms. Also the rights on “complex entities” and “restricted entities” differed between P1 & P2. Sounds complex? Yup. I had to write a blog post for demystifying these PowerApps “starter” plan capabilities just to get my head around on where the lines were drawn.
Something that would have eventually become a big problem with the old P1 definition was that it only allowed the users to run Canvas apps. Sure, those pixel-perfect mobile-first applications are what most people think PowerApps is made of, but that is a view of the world that needs to be deprecated. Model-driven apps are just as important area of what Power Platform represents (on CDS in particular), but that capability was reserved for P2 license holders only. Given that Microsoft is aiming to remove all of these artificial limitations between app types and eventually get all PowerApps customers to Run One UI, keeping P1 users locked from this future app convergence simply wasn’t a viable option anymore.[Read more…]