Hi, my name is Vivek Narasimhan and with my colleagues David Mowatt and Humberto Lezama we are excited to take you behind the scenes to meet one of the best kept secrets in the next version of Office and SharePoint: the Office Store. This is an exciting time to be an Office or SharePoint developer! If you haven’t had a chance to download the Office 2013 Preview or explore the new world of apps for Office and SharePoint at the developer center, do so right away. While you can read about the details of the Office Store on the developer center, we want to give you a tour of how we think about the value of the store for both our user and developer communities.
Why did we build the Office Store?
For three reasons: integration, simplicity and developer opportunity.
We know our users spend an incredible amount of time using the Microsoft Office suite – think of how much time you spend reading through email, writing reports, analysing data, preparing sales figures or sharing proposals with your team. We also know that many critical tools and many critical information sources live on the web or in applications outside of Office. We’ve built the store so you could integrate the very best of the web with the powerful features of Office and SharePoint.
A great example of this is Outlook 2013 (or outlook web access) connected to Exchange. If you are sent a part number or an address via email, you shouldn’t have to open another application to get more details. If you are sent an email from a contact, you should be able to see their LinkedIn details or their sales history right as you read the email. Even better, you should be able to interact with and take action on these other applications right from within the Office clients.
We’ve also focused on making it really easy to get, install and use apps. In the Insert tab of the ribbon choose “Apps for Office” and you’ll see apps from the Office Store. Users can learn more about apps in the store (and read reviews), acquire (or buy) them, and start using them straight away. All apps that are listed on the Store get extensively validated so users can trust them. Since these apps are all based on web-standards, they load straight away – there’s no need for IT to pre-load them. If you use a new machine, just sign-in with your Microsoft account and all your apps will be there. Best of all, when you send a document that was created using an app (like an infographic in an Excel spreadsheet), a reference to it travels with the document so the recipient can start using that app too. Improving your productivity (and your co-workers’) has never been so simple!
With over a billion people using Microsoft Office the developer opportunity is huge. Whether the app is focused on content management, data visualization, financial management, project management, sales & marketing, HR, education, travel, social…(The list really does go on and on!) there are an incredible number of individuals or teams who are looking for solutions to meet those needs. If you take SharePoint as an example, we’ve made it real easy for users to search for and find apps that will make their sites work for them. This is an opportunity to reach out with tailored solutions for specific verticals from Manufacturing to Legal, or with enhanced tools from scheduling to collaboration, or with those apps that everyone wants from maps to weather.
Got even more questions on the app experience or opportunity? The store on Office.com (http://officepreview.microsoft.com/store) is your destination for finding and acquiring the best apps, and reading more details about each of the apps. We have some cool apps that you can try with the preview version. All you need is a Microsoft account and the preview version of Office, SharePoint or Exchange.
We know that in all this enterprises have different needs around how employees acquire and purchase software. So we’ve built powerful controls in the Office Store that allow an administrator to control access by using customizable purchase workflows. Early feedback shows that enterprises are excited about app discovery through the Office Store and the additional controls only re-enforce the safety and reliability of the Office Store.
To complement the Office Store, we have also created an internal distribution mechanism in SharePoint called the App Catalog that allows enterprises to build in-house apps or source them from partners and distribute them to employees within the organization. Finally, rich telemetry will help IT understand which apps are being used.
What does this mean for developers?
For developers building productivity apps or any other kind of apps that users need, there’s an opportunity to repackage existing solutions (especially if you’re already hosting and running web services to power your solutions) or create new apps that deliver real user value. You can read from Howard’s, Rolando's or Brian’s blog posts how to get started.
Once you do have an app to submit, we’ll enable you to reach a huge audience, make money (or reach users) and continually enhance the app.
Let’s start with the upload process. In order to upload an app onto the Office Store, you would navigate to the Seller Dashboard. Here you can create a great looking public developer profile, upload apps, create app detail pages, set a price for your app and decide how you want to get paid. All apps that are published to the Office Store pass through extensive checks to filter out malicious and inappropriate content. We know this area has been a source of great pain on other app stores so we have made our policies unambiguous and ready for you to get acquainted with early on in the process. For more information, see the Office Store validation policies. Users will also be able to rate your app. As community rankings rise, so will the position of your app on the store pages through our sorting algorithms. All you need to focus on is building a great app. We will get your app in front of customers.
The lifecycle for an app is easily managed from the Seller Dashboard. You can see how your app is faring (page views, downloads of trials (or free versions) and purchases). If you want to rollout upgrades to an app, you update the app on the Seller Dashboard and existing users will get notified through an in-app notification. The upgrade process itself will be seamless for users, no downloading a new installable. The cloud app model is designed for ease of upgrades. Pay attention as well to the description & iconography you submit, and to the feedback users are giving you via your own site or via reviews.
We designed our licensing framework with cloud apps in mind, where protecting the bits is not as important as protecting the content of the app. Most apps today are connected to services; services provide, transmit, and process content and that is where the real value and expense resides as services cost money to run. Think about it, how long does it take someone to hack the latest phone or tablet? Weeks? Days? Hours? And once a device is hacked it becomes easy to circumvent licensing or security of the app bits. A licensing framework optimized for services would fix this issue.
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 organization without having to use the Office Store for distribution.
So we had to design a licensing framework (described in detail here) that supported two scenarios; protect apps sold through the Office Store while still allow side loading of organizational apps. We realized that there was no single enforcement mechanism that would work for all apps (each app is unique) so we instead created an opt-in framework that apps sold through the Office Store can leverage. It gives developers the ability to include code in their apps to enforce their legal use. The app license framework itself does not enforce app licenses; it provides APIs and services to retrieve, verify, and then act on license information. The Office Store will allow you to upload free, paid, and trial apps. If you plan to sell your app or offer it as a trial, you can build logic in your app that uses the licensing framework to determine whether a user has a valid license for the app, and give access to app features based on the license properties.
What is so great about that? 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: on the Windows Phone Marketplace, we have seen apps with trials bring up to 5 times the revenue of apps without trials), you control how you persuade trial users to buy the full app. At the same time the framework saves you time because you don’t have to implement a new licensing infrastructure (which can be expensive to do a large scale in a secure way). The framework is as robust as the app itself because it doesn’t matter if SharePoint or Office clients are compromised because the app retrieves and verifies information directly against our trusted verification service. The verification system we built in the cloud allows you to architect app licensing on your terms with just a few additional lines of code. Microsoft also monitors issuance and verification of licenses for potential abuse and has mechanisms to revoke licenses if necessary.
When it’s time to get paid, we make it easy for you to get YOUR money. Microsoft will retain 20% from net proceedings on every transaction. We aren’t new to the business of running an online store. There are many stores run by Microsoft and hence we leverage a lot of the same payment systems already in place. As a developer this means you can be paid in many different currencies and payout markets similar to the coverage Microsoft provides for the Windows Phone Marketplace and the Windows 8 store. Your users will buy in confidence from the Microsoft Office store using their Microsoft account. If they’ve bought an app before on Windows 8, Windows Phone or Xbox, their credit card will already be on file. If you do have eCommerce infrastructure on your site and wish to sell through your own site, that’s fine too. Simply list your app as free and link to your own site to enable users to purchase.
Get started now
While we could have created an online store that was a simple website with a transaction system, 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/ however you want.
I hope you are as excited as we are about the Office Store. Here’s what you need to do now:
- Learn how to build an app on our new developer center (http://dev.office.com)
- Build an awesome app !
- List your app on the Seller Dashboard
Welcome to the Office and SharePoint developer family and have fun building great solutions that will be visible to a billion people!
- Vivek Narasimhan – Product Manager, SharePoint
- Humberto Lezama – Program Manager, SharePoint
- David Mowatt – Program Manager Lead, Office Store