It’s true, we are a long way off from seeing serious uptake of SharePoint 2013. In fact, most organizations are still using SharePoint 2007 despite the advantages that 2010, and 2013, are offering. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take some time to consider how this latest version of SharePoint will change the way we implement new applications within our companies.

SharePoint as a Platform

We could simply implement SharePoint as a simple team-based collaboration tool, that’s probably the most common use of SharePoint. And it would work perfectly fine. But that’s not using SharePoint to its fullest extent. SharePoint isn’t a product, it’s a platform. And as a platform, it is both customizable and extensible.

While Microsoft focuses on ensuring core collaboration, document management and social capabilities are built into the platform, it depends on partners and other third party application developers to build applications that enhance these basics with richer functionality.

It’s these applications that take SharePoint to the next level, and with SharePoint 2013, there’s a new flexible licensing model that has changed the whole idea of distributing these applications to end users.

Your SharePoint-Based Apps

SharePoint 2013 changes the way third party vendors can offer applications to you. With the new cloud app model, apps are now self-contained, and can offer distinct pieces of functionality that either add to, or extend SharePoint’s core functionality.

Mike Ferrara gives a great overview of the new SharePoint App Model, so there’s no need to go into the details here. It’s this new licensing model and how data is shared between SharePoint and third party apps that interests me.

An Overview of the SharePoint 2013 Licensing Model

The new licensing framework is optimized for services and is all about protecting application content. This is an opt-in framework, but if offers some great features that developers can take advantage of.

For starters, Microsoft provides the Office Store for licensed apps. It also offers APIs and services that developers use to retrieve, verify and act on license information. This allows developers to include code in their apps that enforce the legal use of their application. App license categories for SharePoint based apps are Free Trial, Paid and Site (for Office apps, it’s Free, Trial and Paid).

If the app is going through the Office store, it must go through a validation process, but if it’s internal to the organization it doesn’t need to (this is called side loading apps).

SharePoint 2013 provides an administrative interface for app license management. Licenses are downloaded to a specific SharePoint deployment (managed through App Management Shared Services) and it’s through this interface the app purchaser manages how the app is used, assigning a license to a particular user(s), farm, or deployment ID, or delegating the management of the license to others.