During a Microsoft Office 2013 technology preview call Aug. 7, Brian Jones, group program manager for the Office Solutions Framework team showed how developers can write apps that integrate with various office products. While plugins aren’t new (think Evernote integration with Outlook or Internet Explorer), the customer preview version of Office 365/2013 shows that IT managers will need to prepare for a greatly expanded catalog of user installable add-ons.
Some of the new apps take advantage of data providers that Microsoft has included in the Office products. I talked about these providers when I reviewed the Office 365/2013 customer preview. The example I used then was Outlook 2013 and Bing maps. Outlook 2013 has a provider that scans email content for data that looks like an address, contact information or a date. This data is provided to the optional Bing add-on that can pop a map and show the location.
Using the customer preview version, I accessed the Word 2013 customer preview tool ribbon where a new tab “Apps for Office” is found. Clicking on this tab connects to an enterprise app store or the Word app store, depending on IT-administered controls. And then, depending on licensing and user privilege, the user can then choose from and install apps.
One of my first concerns about these Office apps is security. Microsoft provides app isolation, which is one layer, but if an end user grants the app access to his or her Office data, the end user enters into a trust relationship with that app provider. IT managers who oversee regulated data or users with access to sensitive information should put this new app functionality on a shortlist of features that must be fully vetted before moving to the new version of Office.