SharePoint 2013 now presents what were called “web parts” in previous versions of SharePoint as “applications.” When SharePoint 2013 is installed, users add lists and libraries by accessing applications (apps) and selecting the app to place onto a site.

Not only is the app model a new approach for putting functionality on a site, it is a change in the development approach that replaces the sandboxed solutions model in SharePoint 2007. Microsoft has also gone a step further by including both SharePoint hosted apps and cloud hosted apps.

From a user perspective, apps can be accessed via the “edit site” feature, but also (if used by the organization) via an internal “app store” much like iTunes. Theoretically, IT could build apps for specific uses, and could also make apps available as part of an app store for use by any site owners.

For developers, there is a new model for developing and installing apps. Previously, development was loosely termed as developing “farm solutions.” The argument for apps is that they are now isolated, which makes them safer. They are also easier to deploy and maintain, and they are cloud ready. Furthermore, apps don’t run on the SharePoint Server, they are stored on an app server and accessed by SharePoint. Theoretically, this reduces
the load on the SharePoint server. Developers can now have the ability to use Javascript, CSS and HTML to support app development.

Our Take: At face value, the app store approach is an intriguing capability. It represents yet another way to develop, release, and consume applications within SharePoint. There are some critics who feel that this approach is not necessary, and essentially “trivializes” the effort needed to build, implement and ultimately consume applications in SharePoint.

Additionally, as this is release 1.0, there is the potential for “warts” to quickly arise, much like the shortcomings of sandboxed solutions in SharePoint 2010 that were quickly found by developers. Eventually, the development community will clear up much of the angst by uncovering the pain points relative to app development (e.g., modal dialogs) and presentation within SharePoint 2013, so this is really just a maturity issue common with initial releases. The new app model does, however, have some inherent benefits like loose coupling between the applications and the SharePoint infrastructure since the integration is entirely based on iFrames. While at the onset it looks like a step in the right direction by Microsoft, it does bring along a different set of challenges. The question is—does your organization have the willingness to take on the challenge of being an early adopter?

Stay tuned as we release more of this 11-part series from our whitepaper on SharePoint 2013′s newest features right here on our blog for your reading pleasure. But, why wait? You can download the whitepaper in its entirety now.

Let us know your comments, questions and conerns as you read through the document.

Microsoft SharePoint 2013: An Overview