Microsoft has unveiled an app store for MS Office 2013, to support the one billion users of its ubiquitous productivity suite. The app store is designed to provide utilities and add-ons that make working in Office easier.
In a blog post on the Office store, Vivek Narasimhan wrote: “Whether the app is focused on content management, data visualisation, financial management, project management, sales & marketing, HR, education, travel, social…there are an incredible number of individuals or teams who are looking for solutions to meet those needs.”
“We know our users spend an incredible amount of time using the Microsoft Office suite. We’ve built the store so you could integrate the very best of the web with the powerful features of Office and SharePoint.”
The Office Store is now in beta but there are no apps available yet in the UK version. In the US, car rental firm Hertz has developed an app for Microsoft Office, which allows users to rent a car through Outlook. Another app, Kodak Capture Office Software, allows users to add paper business documents to any SharePoint document libraries with a single click of a button. Text analytics specialist Pingar, has developed a Metadata Extraction App, which it claims takes the pain out of adding metadata to documents.
Developers can start building apps using tools that can be downloaded from dev.office.com. Completed apps are uploaded and registered via sellerdashboard.microsoft.com. Microsoft has provided a cloud-based developer tool, Napa to support the development of Office store apps. A full version of the Napa tool is built into Visual Studio.
According to Forrester analyst, Sarah Rotman Epps, Microsoft Office is a $20bn business for Microsoft. However, she noted in a recent report that Microsoft now faces more competition and less influence over the channel (retail and enterprise) where post-PC (such as tablets and smartphone) software is purchased
Given the popularity of Microsoft Office, the idea of an Office App store, may help to cement Office as a corporate platform. Up until now, it has mainly been regarded as a productivity package with word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool etc. While there is an application programming interface and software developer’s kit for Office, these have mainly been used to integrate Office with enterprise software. An Office Store app, should, in theory, require less developer effort, which should attract a wide range of developers to build add-ons for Office.