SOFTWARE HOUSE Microsoft will an app model to Office 2013 to make it easier for developers to build add-ons and users to find and access them, in the hope of creating a vibrant ecosystem like that supporting Apple's Iphone and Ipad.
While Microsoft Office has long supported add-ons that provide extra functionality, Office 2013, which was released to manufacturing last week, provides a new development model based around web technologies, with an Office Store capability built into each Office 2013 application and Sharepoint to make it easy for users to access them.
"It's the biggest change since we introduced Visual Basic for Applications (VBA)," Richard Riley, director of Microsoft's Sharepoint Product Group told The INQUIRER.
"We want people to go and build new things, so the new model enables a brand new set of scenarios and new ways to interact with content and users from within Office and Sharepoint," he added.
In fact, each app is just a web page that is linked to from the Office 2013 application. This will make it easier to upgrade Office itself in future, while the new style apps are also cross-platform and often able to function in more than one Office 2013 application.
"An app developed for Excel will work with embedded tables in Word. It's all about the content," said Riley.
Because they are web-hosted, apps are associated with the user and the document rather than a particular computer.
This means that if you open a document containing an app within Office 365 or Skydrive using Microsoft's Office Web Applications, you will see the same app and content you added using a desktop Office 2013 application, so the content can follow you around.
This new app model lends itself to the speedy creation of widgets and other simple but polished looking applets, similar to the thousands of apps that are available for IOS devices through Apple's App Store.
Apps already created since the unveiling of the Office Store include an image finder that uses Bing to search for and embed a picture directly into a Word document, and an app for Excel that takes geographic information from a spreadsheet to create an infographic using Bing Maps.