After Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's introduction to Microsoft Office 13, the mid-afternoon session at Microsoft's San Francisco reveal dug a little deeper into the suite's enterprise offerings, turning up an app-based plugin service that feels like Office 2013's real push forward.
Introduced by Corporate VP JP Hough as an upgrade to previous versions' VBA [Visual Basic for Applications] environment, Apps for Office seems a far more powerful model for customising the functionality of the key components of Office.
Office 2013 on an enterprise level is being sold far more directly as an extenson of Microsoft's existing Office 365 model - so much so that this is Microsoft's chosen brand name for Office in the enterprise field.
Access, Excel, Word and Powerpoint, as well as Sharepoint, were all demoed integrating with Apps for Office plugins, with uses ranging from having Excel intelligently pull financial figures out of a spreadsheet and place them on a live Bing map, to a widget plugged into Word which could carry out web searches on words and phrases, automatically inserting cited information into the document.
With a new API, slimmed down to take advantage of mobile devices, Hough said Apps for Office represents "a significant win for developers and our customers" in terms of the range of possibility available in its HTML 5 and java-based development environments.
Hough also described Apps for Office as being able to "span web applications and client applications."
"The existence of a global marketplace where developers who target that markert have the broadest possible reach, is going to be incredibly popular," said Hough.
He was bullish about its likely sales performance.
"I think it's going to generate a lot of new business," he added.
Apps for Office will support a number of pricing models, which Hough listed as free, trial and paid versions of apps. Furthermore, he said, developers can place Apps in targeted areas of the shop, aiming a financial services app only at those who'll need one, with a relevantly competitive price point next to other similar apps, instead of placing it in the general store.
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