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Wednesday December 7, 2011 3:17 pm

Microsoft details its Windows App Store


Microsoft on Tuesday brought its Windows 8 road show to San Francisco, where the company previewed its upcoming Windows Store for app developers and media. The key ingredients of the Windows Store are easy app discovery from within and without the online marketplace, built-in app trials with quick upgrade paths, support for both x86 and ARM-based hardware, and a flexible business model, Microsoft's Antoine Leblond said.

The Windows Store will open in beta in late February of next year in conjunction with the Windows 8 rollout schedule. That trial period will feature free apps only and app submissions will be by invitation only, Leblond said.

The software giant has a long way to go to catch up with the likes of Apple and Google in developing an online marketplace for what Microsoft calls "metro-style" apps, but IDC analyst Al Hilwa said the Windows Store was a step in the right direction.

"There is a lot to like in the new app store," Hilwa said. "I like that Microsoft is launching the app store early and that enterprises will be able to side load apps as needed and that Microsoft is promising hopefully early support for this process in its management tools. For developers I like some of the second-generation features baked in and ready to roll, such as in-app payment system, the advertising network, and the developer analytics features."


Leblond alluded to the competition with Apple's App Store with a number of quips along the lines of taking "a bigger bite of the apple" in regards to growing the Windows Store. But he was also quick to remind those gathered that the 500 million or so Windows 7 licenses that Microsoft has sold to date is more than all of the Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Android-based devices that have been sold, combined.

"There are 1.25 billion Windows PCs on the planet," he said. "There are 400 million new x86 PCs coming onto the market in next 12 months. These are huge, huge, huge numbers and that is unprecedented reach for you guys."

Flexible Business Model
Leblond also sought to differentiate Microsoft's flexible model for the Windows Store from what he described as rigid rules for developers in Apple's App Store.

"Some stores force you into a business model that's good for them, but we make it easy for you to innovate not only with your app but also with your business model," he said. To that end, Microsoft will make it easy for developers to build features like in-app purchasing into their apps but won't have rules for or against doing so.

Easy discovery of apps was a prime concern for Microsoft in building the Windows Store. "As the apps catalogue grows, the challenge of finding them and for you, selling them grows, becomes increasingly difficult to do," said Microsoft's Ted Dworkin.

Within the store, sections like "Spotlight" and "Games" are big, bright, and easy to scroll through, with app destinations always just a tap or two away. Screenshots and app descriptions are similarly simple to find and navigate. As consumers use the store more frequently, personalized recommendations start showing up for them.

Outside of the store, Microsoft lets search engines index Windows Store content. Sites with Windows Store apps will be able to add a simple markup for Internet Explorer 10 and Windows 8 that tells the Windows Store the app is available there.

Minimizing Malware?
Leblond also discussed the growing problem of malware in Google's App Marketplace. He said Microsoft's transparent terms and advanced metrics for developers would minimize that happening on the Windows Store.

The software giant will make the Windows Store and the apps in it available in more than 100 languages with availability in 231 markets around the world. Microsoft will enable local pricing in 40 individual markets and will accommodate developer payments in 20 currencies.

"The scale of support at launch in terms of markets, countries, and languages is very impressive," Hilwa said. "Whether the new [Windows Store] model leads to more secure or higher quality apps is hard to call because we have seen poorly regulated app stores like Android's have some of the same quality and security issues of the existing PC model.

"Judging by how Microsoft has run the Windows Phone store, I would expect a much more rigorous procedure. Here, in the app approval process, Microsoft is walking the fine line to provide more openness, speed and predictability than Apple and more control and supervision than Google. It will remain to be seen if the execution lives up to this balanced promise, but the formula sounds right."

Microsoft claimed that the Windows Store would deliver the most money possible to developers who build apps for it. Developers will be able to price their apps anywhere from $1.49 to $999, and they'll get 70 percent of revenue for new apps, a number that jumps to 80 percent once an app makes $25,000 in the Windows Store.

Microsoft kicked off its first Windows Store app contest on Tuesday as well. Developers can submit their apps to Buildwindowscontest.com for a chance to be one of first eight apps on the site, plus a year of free hosting, and two years of free store membership.

This article, written by Damon Poeter, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.

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