Why we need a SharePoint 2013 marketplace


I’ve been working in SharePoint now since SharePoint 2003 and am a 3 time SharePoint MVP. I eat, live, sleep this stuff. When I found out that there would be a marketplace in SharePoint I immediately thought “opportunity”…and to be honest “SharePoint Fart App”. In all seriousness this is an amazing opportunity to get Microsoft ISV Partners exposure to SharePoint users both in Multi-Tenant environments like Office 365 and in Full-Control environments. I expect the usual suspects to be a part of this and it’s great to see Kodak and Pingar already in the SharePoint marketplace with apps from AvePoint, GimmalSoft, Lightning Tools, Nintex “coming soon”.

The marketplace is also a great way for new development teams to get in the game too. Anyone can sign up to submit applications to the marketplace. There is a rigorous validation process…trust me, I’ve been through it with the AvePoint MyView app. I’m glad it’s in place because it enforces the quality of the apps in the marketplace.

The history of marketplaces

If we look back at other marketplaces in the technology space, you can see an amazing amount of success. In my opinion, the best example of this is the Apple iOS marketplace. Mainly because of the adoption of the iPhone and iPad.

If you look at Microsoft’s history with marketplaces:

  • The Azure marketplace has been around for a while and not been too successful because the demand for the data market to date has been low.
  • The Zune music marketplace in my opinion has been the most successful. I am a huge consumer of Zune Pass for unlimited music. The app rocks and is now evolving into Xbox Music across all platforms.
  • The Xbox360 marketplace is something I have consumed a lot of with the amazing app support from media perspective.
  • The Windows Phone marketplace hasn’t had the adoption I would have liked as a consumer but I am hoping that Windows Phone 8 will improve the adoption by ISVs in building applications due to the improvements.
  • The Windows 8 marketplace is obviously in consumer preview right now but again I’m shocked that the adoption of apps has been low. In comparison to the apps in the Mac OSX marketplace is a lot less. I’m not sure why this is the case as the new development model is a lot more open with both XAML/.NET and HTML5/JS approaches.

So as you can see, Microsoft has a lot of marketplaces already…and guess what…none of these share the same platform which is a little bit of a concern.

Who can we expect to be in there


As I mentioned before Kodak, Nintex and Pingar are already in there and AvePoint, GimmalSoft, Lightning Tools are coming soon. Here is what they had to say about it.


I’d hope to think that the other key ISVs in the SharePoint space will get in there too: Axceler, Bamboo, BA Insight, K2, MetaLogix, MetaVis, Newsgator, Vizit and lots more. In some cases, vendors, like ourselves will have to build new apps rather than moving their existing solutions into the marketplace. This should lead to some awesome innovation leveraging the SharePoint platform to help business users improve their productivity.

What can we expect in there?

At AvePoint Labs, we’ve been working hard to come up with new ideas for apps for the marketplace. If you’ve read my application model article, you’ll understand some of the limitations that are there around site collection scope and below. This will affect the type of apps that are available.

For instance, AvePoint are re-known for the infrastructure management platform, DocAve, which relies on cross farm cross web application management control. For DocAve to work in the new app model, the app would need to be installed in every site collection and granted full control permissions. Something that the UI out of the box is not going to handle well. Therefore Full-Trust Solutions on a Full-Control environment is a better fit. We will be offering an approach to this in the marketplace in the future though.

Personally I think to start with the marketplace there will be a few types of apps:

Site template starter kits

I can see a lot of opportunity for people to build out sub sites and bundle these as apps to be purchased in the marketplace. I’ve already heard people talking about going after particular verticals here such as “Doctors surgery” solutions.

Branding solutions

With the improvements in themes in SharePoint 2013, you can be sure that people will work out a way to deliver these via the SharePoint-Hosted apps. Theme packs really didn’t take off in 2010 like I thought they would so let’s see how that evolves over time. There are some blocks on uploading masterpages, but there are ways of overriding CSS files which I’m sure some clever guys will work out.

Web Parts

There is already an app for World Clock and Weather app. I expect a Stock Ticker app to be close behind this also. The big limitations with making web parts available this way is that there is no API to automatically add a web part to the parent site collection homepage at the moment. The metro tiles on the site home pages can’t be manipulated by the apps to add the web part there. So all that you can do is have it show in the “Recent” in quick launch or show it in Site Content and make the user click through to it. Unfortunately this does move away from the concept of mashing up apps on the homepage of your site unless they add it manually. I can see this as a huge blocker here.

 Light integration

Pingar’s app is a great example of UI Custom Action integration into the ribbon to show how their external service can be called on the client side and leverage the client object model with trust to automatically classify list items in a list. The OAuth trust has been leveraged here to really highlight the power of given an app trust in a site collection to delegate control to the app. You’ll see this from other ISVs like Kodak, HP, DocuSign etc. in Document manipulation.

Enhancing existing functionality

Something that happened a little bit in 2007/10 was for ISVs/community to bring out solutions that enhanced existing functionality. For example, the CKS: Enhanced Blog Edition made the blogs more useable for public facing web sites. I can see a lot of apps being added to site collections and the app reaching out and tweaking subsites within it to make them better. One key thing here is that an app can’t go into other app subsites.

Business Applications

For the more sophisticated applications, typically that will already exist, I can see that remote-hosted apps with the Immersive Full Page approach will be a perfect approach to take. It will be interesting to see how existing web application platforms hook into SharePoint and take advantage of the OAuth trust between itself and SharePoint. Great examples of this would be how Dynamics CRM could hook into SharePoint and leverage the OAuth trust to drop documents into the parent site collection for the app.

Financial reward

The apps in the Preview must be free, and therefore I imagine some companies will wait until the launch of the marketplace where they can charge for apps before they release them. In terms of how much apps will cost…this will depend on the licensing models available. Currently there is no public information on this and I’m hearing this will be announced nearer the time.

It’s certainly going to open up a new sales channel to direct sales for Small Businesses that most ISV’s work with right now. The exposure to small ISV’s is going to be huge, most of which were not in any TAP and I would imagine scrambling now they have the Preview bits to build out their products. I’d expect to see a lot more apps in the next three months with this scenario.

Most current ISV’s licensing models are derived either by the size of the SharePoint farms (number of servers in farm). This model mirrors how Microsoft license Full-Control environments. Most of these licenses are obviously large investments for EPG customers, not something you’re going to throw on your corporate credit card and require a purchase order. Big EPGs are going to be buying direct from ISV’s for a long time to come due to being able to negotiating deals.

As ISV’s are looking for big deals, the marketplace isn’t going to be appealing unless they come up with killer commodity apps and therefore the focus may stay on direct sales and deploying their products via the solution model to the Full-Control Environments that EPG customers typically have.

The subscriber model in Office 365 has also been mirrored with ISVs with customers who are used to this model already. All of these models currently in SharePoint 2007/10 are hard to enforce and rely on an element of trust or code to validate the license.

I’m intrigue to see how some of the apps already mentioned in this article tackle licensing and don’t cannibalize their existing market and licensing model.

Community involvement

CodePlex has been around for a long time and the development community have engaged in submitting source code and add ons for SharePoint. The quality of the solutions in CodePlex vary from amazing (SPServices, CKS:Dev) to unstable. There is no vetting process in there and you have to be extremely cautious in using these. I hope that a lot of these developers will make their solutions in CodePlex available into the marketplace for free to get them more exposure. Apps can be given for free, so this is extremely compelling for adoption.

Trusting apps

One discussion that was had at a Boston User Group SharePoint 2013 panel with Andrew Connell, Rob Bogue, Asif Rehmani, Randy Drisgill, Marc Anderson and I. Something I raised was the concept of when you see apps in the marketplace place by the usual suspects like AvePoint, Pingar, BA Insight, Lightning Tools and Nintex…you’ll immediately trust them if you need to grant them “Full control’. But I see an issue in smaller unknown vendors on this trust front. A good example of this is that in the remote-hosted apps model, Microsoft will approve your application package that points to your app hosted in a web application remotely to SharePoint with full control. But there is nothing stopping a vendor from modifying that web application to do something different with its full control rights once approved.

Discoverability of Apps

The other big concern that keeps being discussed is how Microsoft are going to weight the apps in the marketplace. There is a rating system built into the apps that is used to display the apps and there are categories when you submit the apps.


I have been told that there is more logic in there to make sure the popular and high quality apps are surfaced for higher discoverability. Needless to say we can expect the “SharePoint Fart App” to appear, but hopefully no-one is going to make a fortune out of it like the iOS one ;-)

Country Availability

Another thing to point out is that it has not been confirmed what countries the marketplace will be available in. Most ISV’s will have a core market in North America, followed by EMEA and AsiaPac, but this will affect some ISV’s who target countries who aren’t use the marketplace and they’ll have to stick to their current model of selling software.

Wrap Up

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds and who invests in being there for launch. I’d love to hear from people on their experience with the marketplace and what apps people are working on. I’ve started a #SPYam group specifically around this so please let me know if you’re interested.

Please make sure you check out my social bookmarks on all things SharePoint 2013 and development and if that’s too much, try my 5 star rated posts sub set.

Feel free to cross post this today and link to it on NBSP.


For everything SharePoint and Office 365 from the community for the community!