SharePoint 2013 App Marketplace – First Insights

Several community comments and a couple of blog posts speculate that SharePoint 15 will have an App store of sorts. Although everything is speculation at this point, there’s clear evidence now that Microsoft will include such an ‘app store’, referred to by Microsoft as “The Marketplace”.

You probably know that Microsoft released literally thousands of pages of documentation on SharePoint 15 (or SharePoint 2013, as I believe it will be called). Most comprehensive is the less intelligible open specification documentation, although that’s also where the good bits are.

You probably also know that I’m highly focused on learning what’s new on any new SharePoint version and that I write a USP Journal series that details this research and the findings. In the first issue, now freely available to members of the USP Journal mailing list, I wrote about the new App store.

You can read more about the series on the SharePoint 2013 Beta series webpage.

Here’s the first part of what I wrote about the new App Marketplace:

New App Store in SharePoint 2013

It seems Microsoft is planning to include a new App store in SharePoint 2013.

An App store, in cased you have been living in a cave in the previous decade, is a marketplace for applications that are easily installable in the environment. Smartphone users have access to such marketplaces already and sales of applications through such app stores are enormous.

You may not know this, but there’s actually already something akin to an App store in SharePoint 2010. When you’re creating a new site, you have the option of looking at, for example, to find additional downloadable site templates.

However, the current version is barely used and the last time I checked, there was only a single site collection available.

The current App store also works for Sandbox Solutions only, which essentially greatly limits its usefulness for practical applications. Sandbox Solutions, if you don’t know, are limited SharePoint solutions that contain only ‘safe’ functionality, sadly limiting them from many of the powerful features of SharePoint 2010.

Finally, there are no provisions for licensing in the current App store. Naturally, this is a deal-breaker for many vendors as they’re likely not going to want to give away their software without any license control.

The new App store, which Microsoft calls the marketplace, solves all of these issues and looks very promising as a new way of getting and distribution applications both for users and developers.

First, there is a new application model in SharePoint 2013, evident by the inclusion of new classes such as SPApp and SPAppCatalog, plus a range of similar classes. The preliminary functionality seems to focus on deployment of functionality as packages, as well as management of security, licensing, functionality, and custom databases.

Speaking of custom databases, the protocol documentation suggests that custom App databases can be stored in SQL Azure, also known as SQL Server in the cloud.

What’s really cool, however, is that the SDK reveals we will be able to use not just Microsoft as a marketplace, but also other sources. There is a so-called enumeration that lists multiple sources of packages (Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.DatabaseProvider.PackageSource):

  • StoreFront
    The package is from the marketplace.
  • CorporateCatalog
    The package is from a corporate gallery.
  • DeveloperSite
    The package is from a developer site.
  • ObjectModel
    The package is loaded via an object model.
  • RemoteObjectModel
    The package is uploaded via CSOM.

The latter two options mean that we are also able to programmatically add applications to the marketplace using code, even from the client side (CSOM means Client Site Object Model).

The CorporateCatalog indicates that organizations will be able to build their own internal marketplace where they allow their users to add and install only approved applications.

The DeveloperSite option may indicate that you can also go online to retrieve applications, much like you can on platforms such as WordPress, but instead have those application packages hosted on the developer site.

This, however, isn’t the beginning of the ‘how cool is that’ on the SharePoint 2013 marketplace.

This article is an excerpt from the first issue of the USP Journal  SharePoint 2013 Beta series. The issue contains more on the SharePoint App Marketplace as well as additional information, comments, news, and rumors. You can get the first issue free of charge on the issue web page.


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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.