Microsoft Allows Subscription Pricing for Office Store Apps

Starting Tuesday, Microsoft independent software vendors (ISV) will be able to submit subscription-based Office Store apps via the Seller Dashboard.

By next month, SharePoint and Office customers will be able to purchase Office Store apps on a subscription basis, according to a blog post by Dene Cleaver, Microsoft's senior product marketing manager for Office.

Since its launch last year, Office Store customers could only purchase software with traditional perpetual-use licenses. By offering subscription-based apps in the Office Store, Microsoft believes it will increase the appeal of its Office 365 service and for using SharePoint in the cloud.

Two-thirds of the applications in the Office Store are SharePoint apps, given participation from ISVs and developers, Cleaver said.

"We hope the ISVs and developers can drive innovation and update their apps, and I think it allows them to price accordingly so they can continue to drive value," Cleaver said.

Apps developed for the Office Store can work with Office 365, SharePoint Online and SharePoint 2013. However, these apps will not work in earlier versions of SharePoint, including SharePoint 2010. "The app model [on-premise] is tied to SharePoint 2013," Cleaver said.

One early supporter of the new model is Microsoft partner Adlib, provider of an app called PDF Publisher, which is software that publishes multiple documents in any format into a single PDF document. It can also encapsulate the documents into an internal report.

PDF Publisher began as an application that ran on a premise-based server. Adlib President and CEO Peter Duff said the company's cloud-based version offers many of the key features provided in the server implementation.

"We're based in the Windows Azure cloud and we can integrate that directly into Office 365, as well as on premise," Duff explained of the new subscription-based version of his company's product. He added that he believes there's pent-up demand for SharePoint apps that can be purchased on a subscription basis.

"People can utilize our technology on a subscription basis without having to implement significant costs associated with on-premise hardware and software and operating systems and things like that," he said.

A rich portfolio of apps in the Office Store will be critical to swaying organizations to move to Office 365 and SharePoint Online, according to analysts, who note that many developers are eager to offer them on a subscription basis.

"Today, it's just pockets of legacy apps that have moved to the app store," said Ben Curry, managing partner and a principal architect at Summit 7 Systems, a Huntsville, Ala.-based Microsoft partner, consultancy and solutions provider.

Many of Summit 7's clients have turned to Nintex, a SharePoint workflow provider that is frequently mentioned as one of the first key ISVs to embrace the Office Store with the trial version of its Nintex Workflow Online app. "Clients who love Nintex on-premise are now loading the app version. It's an easier model to keep update," Curry said.

While Microsoft says there have been 1 million downloads from the Office Store, few are using it in a big way. "I think that will change," Curry said. "As the app store grows, demand will grow."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.