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Microsoft debuts cloud app model for Office, SharePoint

Thor Olavsrud | Aug. 13, 2012
With Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013, Microsoft says it will make it easier than ever to develop, deploy and manage Web-based apps that extend the power of its productivity and collaboration.

One app, called Bing Maps, maps the data to a world map inside the spreadsheet at the click of a button, and visualizes it as a heat map with proportionally sized bubbles over each country representing its performance in the games. Mousing over a bubble drills deeper into the data, displaying the number of gold, silver and bronze medals the bubble represents.

Another app, this one for Outlook, allows you to take notes on an email you've sent or received. The note is attached to the contact in question and comes up whenever you interact with that contact, creating a lightweight CRM function. Developers can use the same tools to build SharePoint apps, like a workflow add-on or conference room reservation system.

Developers can choose to release their apps for free or sell them from the Office App Store. Riley notes that Microsoft is not mandating pricing levels, but he says the paid apps will sell for a premium over many mobile apps because of the power of the tools and the richness of the experience.

New Tools for Administrators

But the new model isn't just about creating a new opportunity for developers around Office and SharePoint. It also provides new administration tools.

"We have designed apps to improve forward compatibility to avoid future migration blockers, to support versioning to make it easier to update and maintain, and to run in isolated processes in order not to impact Office and SharePoint performances," Jones says.

"We've made a huge investment around the overall lifecycle maintenance of these apps," he adds. "There's a very clear set of ways to manage the apps in your enterprise."

For instance, administrators will be able to audit all of their Office installs to see what apps are installed, and they have the power to turn off particular apps if necessary. Administrators have the choice of allowing their users full access to the Office App Store, or turning off that access and only allowing users to choose apps from an enterprise catalog.

Additionally, administrators can allow users to buy their own apps, or turn on a request process so administrators must approve app purchases. If a particular app is like to prove useful to many employees, the administrator can buy licenses in volume.



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