The Rise of the Microsoft SharePoint App Store Represents a Trend in Enterprise Software

Author: Jim Lundy
Date: September 19, 2013
Topic: Workplace
Research Note Number: 2013-29

Issue: What technologies and architectures should enterprises leverage in the workplace?

Summary: Microsoft has embarked on a mission to migrate over 4000 partner apps to a cloud-based distribution model with a public app store that makes it easier for enterprises to find and deploy apps for Microsoft SharePoint 2013.

Since 2011, Microsoft has been on a clear mission: to maintain the growth and popularity of SharePoint, the fastest-growing enterprise application in the company’s history. When Microsoft announced SharePoint 2013, it also began briefing its customers and partners on its app store strategy for SharePoint. This Research Note reviews the current state of Microsoft’s move.

The Strategy

Over the past ten years, Microsoft has grown its SharePoint ecosystem from nothing to become one of the dominant content ecosystems in all of enterprise software.  When Microsoft announced the Office and SharePoint Store last summer at the Office 2013 introduction, Aragon got positive feedback from most of the CIOs in attendance.

Enterprise app stores are poised to become a de facto way to manage software ecosystems. Large software providers that have ecosystems, particularly cloud-based ones, often augment their main products with plug-ins. What has changed is that the plug-ins are becoming apps. The SharePoint app store will run on-premises and allows enterprises to deliver an internal store experience to users. This makes it attractive to enterprises, since we estimate that 96% of SharePoint deployments are still on-premises.

A Natural Evolution of the SharePoint Ecosystem

In SharePoint’s early years (2001-2003), Microsoft only had a few select partners, but over the last ten years it has grown its partner ecosystem to such an extent that it had to add a classification system due to the sheer volume (over 4000) of the partner solutions, which were add-ons to SharePoint.

The Enterprise Reaction: A Welcome Enhancement

Enterprises we talked with were pleased with the rollout of the SharePoint store, part of the Office Store. The main reason many cited was the ability to find, access and deploy additional services for SharePoint.

Key benefits of the SharePoint store include:

  • It makes it easy to find apps via store navigation and search
  • It makes it easier and faster to install apps
  • It reinforces the investment by making people aware of new ways to use SharePoint
  • It provides the benefit of customization without the need to actually customize (using apps vs. solutions – see below)

End User Perspective

End users may be in for a surprise. When applications are added to SharePoint, they can create a different experience than many expect. For example, for many years a large PC manufacturer has used SharePoint and Office for a custom proposal generation system. They were able to develop, test and deploy the solution fairly quickly. Proposal systems are becoming more common today, but this one from Microsoft demonstrates the power and flexibility to leverage standard SharePoint capabilities and develop a unique application for a targeted use case.

Microsoft’s many partners enable such creativity. In the new SharePoint store, their applications will now be surfaced in an easy-to-find way, and they can be deployed without changes to the core SharePoint code (see below).

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