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Microsoft has opened its new Office Store, an app marketplace aimed at adding new capabilities to Office and Office 365 apps, the company announced today.

We suspected the Office Store was on its way due to a July blog post about implementing a new “cloud app model” for Office. Microsoft will incorporate the Office Store into the next versions of Office and SharePoint, but like the Windows 8 App Store, it is now in preview mode so companies and developers can get their apps ready for the full launch of Office 2013.

The idea of the Office Store is to add new functionality to Office apps like Word and Outlook. Product manager Vivek Narasimhan writes:

We know our users spend an incredible amount of time using the Microsoft Office suite – think of how much time you spend reading through email, writing reports, analysing data, preparing sales figures or sharing proposals with your team. We also know that many critical tools and many critical information sources live on the web or in applications outside of Office. We’ve built the store so you could integrate the very best of the web with the powerful features of Office and SharePoint.

A great example of this is Outlook 2013 (or outlook web access) connected to Exchange. If you are sent a part number or an address via email, you shouldn’t have to open another application to get more details. If you are sent an email from a contact, you should be able to see their LinkedIn details or their sales history right as you read the email. Even better, you should be able to interact with and take action on these other applications right from within the Office clients.

Microsoft thinks this is a big opportunity for developers because of the huge number of Office users around the world. Narasimhan writes:

With over a billion people using Microsoft Office the developer opportunity is huge. Whether the app is focused on content management, data visualization, financial management, project management, sales & marketing, HR, education, travel, social … (The list really does go on and on!) there are an incredible number of individuals or teams who are looking for solutions to meet those needs. If you take SharePoint as an example, we’ve made it real easy for users to search for and find apps that will make their sites work for them. This is an opportunity to reach out with tailored solutions for specific verticals from Manufacturing to Legal, or with enhanced tools from scheduling to collaboration, or with those apps that everyone wants from maps to weather.

Companies including LinkedIn, Twitter, and LegalZoom have already added apps to the store. We expect many more enterprise-minded developers to add apps in the next several months.


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