Microsoft has officially opened its Office Store for tools that extend the capabilities of the Office 2013 applications, creating new opportunities for developers while also providing firms with a safe and secure way to deliver approved add-ons to employees.
The Office Store was announced as part of the official unveiling of Office 2013 last month, as the new way for Microsoft customers to find and deploy applets to extend the capabilities of Office and SharePoint.
Now, Microsoft has declared the Office Store open in a posting on its Apps for Office and SharePoint blog, along with a dedicated developer centre where developers can sign up to get started building applets ready for the launch of Office 2013 itself.
The Office Store functionality is also integrated directly into the Office 2013 applications, allowing users to find and install them from the ribbon menu.
However, enterprises and other large organisations will be able to roll out applications, including any custom developed in-house, via an internal app catalogue typically hosted on the corporate SharePoint site.
"In our app model side-loading apps is a valid and supported scenario. For example, an IT department should be able to build and publish apps within their organisation without having to use the Office Store for distribution," said Vivek Narasimhan, product marketing manager for Office and SharePoint at Microsoft.
Microsoft is pushing the Office Store as a further opportunity for developers, and said it has created a flexible licensing framework as part of its new programming model.
This provides APIs and cloud-based services to retrieve, verify, and then act on licence information, giving developers the freedom to build free or paid-for applets, and decide on how these will be licensed.
"We give app developers complete control over how and when they use licensing information in their apps. If you support a trial mode (and we recommend you do), you control how you persuade trial users to buy the full app," wrote Narasimhan.
In effect, Microsoft is providing the licensing checking and enforcement mechanism, freeing developers from the need to build and operate this for themselves.
However, developers will naturally have to pay Microsoft for providing these facilities, and this ultimately amounts to the firm retaining 20 per cent from every transaction.
Justifying this, Microsoft extolled the virtues of the system it has created for developers.
"We decided to create a store that allows you to deliver your solutions seamlessly to a billion customers right within the product, maintain a public profile, collect customer feedback in the form of review comments and get paid wherever and however you want," Narasimhan wrote.
Daniel Robinson is technology editor at V3, and has been working as a technology journalist for over two decades. Dan has served on a number of publications including PC Direct and enterprise news publication IT Week. Areas of coverage include desktops, laptops, smartphones, enterprise mobility, storage, networks, servers, microprocessors, virtualisation and cloud computing.