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.
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?
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Jim Kane is the Director of Collaboration and Knowledge Management (KM) at Paragon Solutions. Jim leads the KM practice with a focus on knowledge management and SharePoint-based solutions that support day-to-day business optimization via virtual problem solving, communities of practice, knowledge repositories, role-based communication portals, partner collaboration, and information dashboards. He is co-author of a patent, “Methods of Knowledge Management,” and has over 15 years of experience teaching at the college level as an adjunct instructor. Jim has presented at numerous regional and national conferences on the topics of Knowledge Communities, Adoption Strategies for SharePoint, and Global SharePoint deployments.