New SharePoint development model triggers hopes, questions

ISVs and enterprise developers ponder new opportunities created by a revamping of the SharePoint platform

By , IDG News Service |  Unified Communications

Greg Moser, a SharePoint architect at Magenic Technologies, attended the conference in part to become acquainted with the new app dev model and said it will be a learning curve for his company, which develops custom SharePoint applications for its customers.

"It's a big change for traditional SharePoint developers who are used to the server-side tools," he said.

Magenic will have to determine how well this new model will fit in with its business and its focus, as well as with its customer needs. "That's a lot of unknowns but it's also exciting, and it makes a lot of sense now with the cloud focus of Microsoft and of many other software providers," he said.

The company doesn't do shrink-wrapped applications, but the app store could steer it in that direction, by giving it access to a potentially massive audience and new source of revenue, he said. "I'm sure it's something my company's management is considering," Moser said.

Quest's McNulty sounded a similar note. Even if Quest decides the SharePoint store isn't a good fit for all its existing applications, it sees an opportunity to use the store to move into new markets by creating new applications based on the application store demand and type of customers, two elements McNulty expects will evolve and change as the store grows.

"The market is going to form the view and we need to stay aligned with the way it's going to go," he said.

Quest's first application for the store is a new one called Social Hub, which integrates social media content and feeds from services like LinkedIn and Twitter within SharePoint. "The process of creating Social Hub taught us a lot about this new app model," he said.

Now that the SharePoint app dev model is based on standard Web technologies like HTML, CSS3, REST and JavaScript, the SharePoint platform is getting the attention of new ISVs.

One example is HelloFax, a San Francisco startup that created versions of its e-faxing and e-signature applications for SharePoint 2013, an effort it wouldn't have considered doing for previous editions of the Microsoft product.

"We don't have a SharePoint developer on staff. None of our developers has a Microsoft certification of any type," said Joel Andren, head of business development and marketing at HelloFax.

It took HelloFax less than three weeks to adapt the applications for SharePoint 2013, and it did it all in JavaScript. "We would have never built a SharePoint application under the old framework," he said.

The applications, which so far have appealed mostly to "prosumers" -- individual professionals -- now have a good chance of attracting an enterprise audience they haven't been exposed to, Andren said.

"This opens us up to a new group of people who can use our service," he said.

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