In this age of online commerce, and especially when selling digital subscription services, one might think that the online storefronts of large corporations would contain accurate product descriptions. Or that at least it wouldn’t take many years for incorrect information to get fixed.
Neither of these assumptions are correct when dealing with Microsoft 365 admin center’s online store, a.k.a. the “purchase services” tab. The detailed information that is shown to customers who are looking to purchase Power Apps licenses is not valid in this portal. It hasn’t been valid for close to 4 years now.
During the past couple of years, I’ve tried every imaginable channel for contacting Microsoft about this. I’ve reached out to MS partner forums dedicated to licensing information. I’ve posted into Microsoft MVP program related forums dedicated to MS Business Applications licensing information. I’ve reached out directly to the product team who owns Power Apps.
Nothing has helped in getting this information fixed. Which means that I must assume it will never get fixed. The only way to communicate about this to the people who suffer from it (customers, partners) seems to be in writing a blog post like this.
Let’s take a look at the online commerce experience for someone who’s got a Microsoft 365 tenant and wants to purchase Power Apps licenses directly from Microsoft. In this scenario we want to specifically understand the options provided in the subscriptions called “Power Apps per user plan” and “Power Apps per app plan”.
Finding Power Apps products from Microsoft 365 admin center
The first hurdle will be in finding the products. One might think that Power Apps would be listed under the “Business apps” category (since there isn’t a category called “Power Platform”). However, we only find the Power Apps per user plan from that category.
Let’s try a text search. Searching for “Power Apps” (or the old name variation “powerapps”) gives us the results we were after, yet in a surprising place:
Why on earth would the per app plan be categorized under “Power BI”? Well, for the same reason I need to write this blog post. The product information under Microsoft 365 admin center is simply wrong in many cases. This specific miscategorization has been in place for several months now, as an example.
Comparing Power Apps product features in Microsoft 365 admin center
Now what we’ve got the 2 Power Apps SKUs (“stock keeping units”) on the same results page, we can tick the “compare” box on them. Upon opening the comparison page, this is the result we get:
There is absolutely nothing right about these product features. Even the product name and icon in the comparison section are outdated. They refer to the old SKUs of PowerApps Plan 1 and PowerApps Plan 2, which were replaced by the Power Apps per app plan and Power Apps per user plan on October 1st, 2019.
The problem is, someone responsible for the commercial information managed in the Office 365 / Microsoft 365 online store didn’t understand this change was not simply a rebranding. You can’t just replace “Plan 1” with “Per App” and get away with it. Someone truly missed the memo of Charles Lamanna when he announced the change on July 25th, 2019.
“We are also removing feature and capability differentiation across the paid, standalone PowerApps and Flow user-based plans. All customers will be able to benefit from the full features of the services, regardless of which plans they purchase. Key concepts like complex entities, or model-driven applications, will no longer be available in only some of the licenses.”Taken from “New licensing options for PowerApps and Microsoft Flow standalone paid plans” on Power Apps product team blog
Let’s look at the list of features that are presented in Microsoft 365 admin center ~4 years later and see what errors we can spot:
“Access to Dynamics 365 restricted entities.” It used to be read-only for Plan 2 and no access for Plan 1. Today, the entities (nowadays renamed “tables”) categorized as restricted are read-only for any Power Apps license. Also, everything else has full CRUD rights.
“Create and run canvas apps using common data service for apps”. First of all, “Common Data Service (CDS) for Apps” as a term was replaced with
Dataflex …sorry, Dataverse, quite some time ago already. Both Per App and Per User today have identical right to using this, unlike what the comparison table claims.
“Create and run model-driven apps using Common Data Service for Apps”. Showing this as not available in Per App is entirely false. As anyone reading the memo from Charles would have spotted: “Key concepts like complex entities, or model-driven applications, will no longer be available in only some of the licenses.”
“Create and use entities with Business Rules and async workflows”. Available in both Per User and Per App licenses, unlike what the product comparison table says.
“Create and use entities with code add-ins”. Sigh… See above.
“Create and use entities with real-time workflows”. Oh come ON! See above.
“Create databases in Common Data Service for Apps (per user)”. Ooh, what an ancient relic this line is! Saying that Power Apps per user plan allows you to only create 2 databases has no basis whatsoever in the current licensing model. Customers can create as many Dataverse environments (meaning CDS / XRM databases) as their available storage capacity permits. Furthermore, today anyone can create up to 3 Developer environments for themselves, without having any premium Power Apps license.
“Model your data in Common Data Service for Apps”. Does anyone still want me to explain to them that there’s no difference between Per User and Per App entitlements here? No? Good. You got the memo then.
For those of use who have been tracking the platform evolution of MS Business Applications over the years, it’s pretty much business as usual to encounter MS materials and information that reference outdated versions of products. The names change, the icons change, the licensing models change – this happens all the time and we’ve come to expect it already.
If you don’t have prior experience on the commercial aspects of Microsoft’s product stack, though – this can be highly confusing. Imagine that you’re trying to compare different low-code application platform vendors and the information provided by the online store is like what we’ve seen above. Not the best way to build trust and convince customers that the pricing model is transparent.
Why does this happen then? Why aren’t the product details updated in customer facing portals? Well, I don’t think anyone intentionally wants to mislead the audience here. I believe it’s simply a reflection of how inside a huge corporation like MSFT it can be very difficult to coordinate such updates. Every time some product gets “reimagined” there must be a million places that would need attention internally at Microsoft (us partners surely feel the impact, too). Sometimes the friction in the systems may just be too great to overcome, such as in commerce engines like Microsoft 365 or technical dashboards like the Azure portal.
Power Platform products and pricing