Microsoft Gives Peek Inside Windows App Store

Besides revealing the approximate release date of the Windows 8 beta, Microsoft on Tuesday unveiled details about its forthcoming online store for selling Windows 8 Metro-style applications.

Windows Store will open in late February to coincide with the Windows 8 beta release, said Antoine Leblond, vice president of Windows Web Services, who gave a talk in San Francisco on Tuesday about the new Windows Store developments. Leblond said the Windows Store will only serve up free applications during the beta test period.

Microsoft wants to entice developers to add their Windows 8 Metro-style applications to the store via a contest offering. App submissions for the contest are due by Jan. 8 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time.

Market Prospects
Microsoft claims that Windows Store will connect developers to 231 markets. However, participation by developers in Windows Store is right now limited to this language and country list, which included far fewer than 231 markets at press time.

Microsoft's announcement suggested that Windows 8 developers will be able to reap revenues from Windows 7 upgrades. Microsoft has sold 500 million Windows 7 licenses to date, so that would seem to be a potentially large market to tap. However, as noted by Matt Rosoff in a recent Business Insider article, most Windows 8 purchases typically will come from new machine purchases, not from upgrades. That's just traditionally been the way Microsoft has sold new Windows copies.

An IDC report confirmed that view. It predicts little activity in the Windows 7 to Windows 8 upgrade cycle in 2012 (read "IDC: Microsoft's Mobile, Tablet Strategy Will Hurt Windows 8 in 2012"). The big test for Microsoft will be executing on its ARM-based Windows 8 strategy to compete with Apple in the tablet market, according to IDC. Apple, of course, already has an online Apple Store for developers to sell their software. Like the Windows Store, Apple puts restrictions on developer apps sold through its online store.

Windows 8 Metro-style apps are largely based on HTML 5. Consequently, there may be greater opportunity for developers to port their apps between the two operating system platforms and between the two store platforms.

Windows Store will be wholly separate from the Windows Phone Marketplace in terms of requirements and costs. Windows Phone apps could be recompiled to run as Windows 8 Metro-style apps without too much difficulty, in theory, especially if they are based on HTML 5 markup. Some have wondered if customers who bought a Windows Phone app would have to buy it again for Windows 8 devices if they wanted it on that platform. In response to a question along those lines, a Microsoft spokesperson said that the company had "nothing to share at this time."

Windows Store and App Management
Microsoft announced that it will support enterprise apps as well as consumer apps in the store. However, any enterprise apps found in Windows Store will be Metro-style. A Microsoft spokesperson explained that "the Windows Store will be for Metro-style apps only, so regular desktop-style apps will not be available through the store -- they'll continue to be sold the same as they are today."

"Desktop apps" in Windows 8 are the classic Windows 7-like applications that run in chromed windows with traditional menu systems that will be supported on x86 machines. Microsoft officials claimed during the September Build conference that apps that ran on Windows 7 will likely run on Windows 8, at least on x86 hardware.

In any case, IT pros will have some control over how Windows Store apps get used in their organizations. IT pros will be able to limit Windows Store catalogs seen by employees, for instance. Group Policy can be used to permit the installation of Metro-style app installations by some users.

Microsoft also suggested that IT pros will be able to deploy the same Windows Store apps to both managed and unmanaged devices, which may prove useful when apps need to be used both at work and at home. It's not clear from Microsoft's description exactly how Windows Store would facilitate such dual installations. Metro-Style apps can be managed through the use of PowerShell cmdlets, according to Microsoft's announcement, but no details were provided.

What's in Store for Developers?
Microsoft laid out the costs for developers using Windows Store. Individual developers will have to pay a $49 annual registration fee; it's $99 annually for companies, according to Microsoft's Windows Store announcement. Microsoft will take a 30 percent cut off app revenues sold through Windows Store. However, when $25,000 in revenue is reached for an app, Microsoft will discount its take to 20 percent. The payout schedule to developers isn't being publicized at this time, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

Windows Store comes with market-friendly perks for developers, according to Microsoft. Searching for apps will be optimized, both through a direct Store link in Windows 8 and index optimization for search engines. Direct links to apps in the Windows Store also will be supported. Some flexibility is available for developers in how they want to sell their apps. For instance, a trial version of a game could allow purchases through in-app upgrades, unlocking all levels of the game. Alternatively, game levels could be sold on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Developers must get their applications screened first before they can be accepted into Windows Store. The application has to meet Microsoft's app certification policies. Some of the screening is technical and enabled through the App Certification Kit and Software Development Kit that comes with the Windows 8 developer preview (download page here). Other screening is more cultural. For instance, the sex and violence is limited in Windows Store apps as no "adult" content is permitted. The app also has to "provide value to the customer." A full list of the app certification requirements can be found at this page.


About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.


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