While last year it was SharePoint 2013, this year it appears
that the hot topic for conferences is SharePoint
Apps. In addition to hearing from Olaf
Hubel in his keynote speech about how apps are a part of the Future of Work and Jason Himmelstein about Achieving Better Business Productivity Through Apps
for Office, Jeremy Thake, Senior Product Marketing
Manager for Microsoft, also had something to say regarding apps and the new
his presentation titled Transitioning
Your SharePoint Solution Model to the New SharePoint App Model, Jeremy discussed some changes that are inherent
to adopting the app model, as well as what Microsoft’s vision for the future
Jeremy began his discussion of the app model by delving deeper into Microsoft’s vision. Specifically, Microsoft’s primary goal with
moving to the app
model is to modernize the SharePoint platform. Historically, SharePoint development has
unfortunately been behind the curve when compared to development on other
Microsoft products. However, with the
introduction of HTML5 and CSS3, we’ve been able to adopt a newer, more modern way
to enhance SharePoint quickly and efficiently.
In order to understand the future of
SharePoint development and the app model, it’s important to understand a bit about the
evolution of the application. Similar to
Jason Himmelstein, Jeremy noted that with each release of SharePoint, there has
been a different specific attitude towards the application:
- 2003 – What is an application?
- 2007 – Everything is an application!
- 2010 – Choose the right application.
- 2013 – Redefine the application as an “app.”
First introduced at SPC
2012, the app model was sold as
a new way to extend and interact with SharePoint. One of the biggest draws to the app model is that, unlike SharePoint
customizations in earlier additions, SharePoint
apps for SharePoint 2013 “live” OUTSIDE of the SharePoint server. In the past, customizations on the
server took careful thinking to build upon SharePoint (and oftentimes were the
cause of full farm crashes), while SharePoint
apps use isolated app client-side code in order to run. In turn, apps are able to be very clear about
what they do and what functions within SharePoint they affect (lists and
libraries, Active Directory, etc.).
Paramount to the evolution of the app model, according to Jeremy, is incorporating user
feedback. While the model has its strong
points, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to perfect it. With continuous improvements based
on feedback happening daily, Microsoft is working tirelessly to change the
mindset of SharePoint developers in order to grow the app model.
Perhaps the most significant way in which Microsoft wants to
change SharePoint developers’ mindsets is to get this community to stop being
specifically “SharePoint developers” and instead view themselves as “Microsoft
Office developers.” Since the
development architecture for Office 365
apps is the same as that of SharePoint
apps, Jeremy notes that there is a great opportunity for developers to
broaden their skill sets and consider designing for other Microsoft clients
such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
Although the app
model thus far has been popular and widely embraced, there are of course
some natural concerns from adopters.
Once, major area of contention was the security of utilizing apps and the
app model. With the apps being housed outside the
on-premise SharePoint server, how can we be confident that the app is
secure? According to Jeremy, Microsoft
has taken great steps to ensure that apps provide the utmost security and are
breach-free. Specifically, before any
app can enter the Microsoft
App Store, the app is put through a rigorous review process. Additionally, vendors are required to agree
to a strict set of Terms and Conditions, with violators’ apps being
automatically removed – and banned – from the App Store.
While it will most likely be some time before the app model is universally adopted, there
are definitely a great number of early adopters that have embraced and are
championing the new model. In the
meantime, Microsoft has been busied with empowering developers and providing
the tools needed to drive the app model. Specifically, developers are encouraged to
visit the Microsoft Office
Dev Center, as well as to follow the Developer
blogs in order to stay up-to-date on the latest app model news.