Channel Watch

All Eyes on the Windows Store

What Microsoft's partners learn about the new Windows Store when it opens this month may have major implications for the future of Windows.

February will be a big month for anyone with a vested interest in Windows. In other words, for the entire Microsoft partner community.

As RCP's Gladys Rama details in her comprehensive 2012 Microsoft Product Roadmap, the beta for Windows 8 is slotted for late February. Microsoft will also open the Windows Store in late February, and that's a potentially important development, too.

I'm probably making a bit of a leap to say that February will be a big month for the partner community when it comes to Windows. Given Microsoft's track record, it's safer to say March will be when partners and other testers actually get to download the code or take a tour of the Windows Store. The word "late" in Microsoft's usage normally implies at or near the last possible day of the time period. It's a leap year so they've given themselves a longer February to deliver.

Here is why the Windows Store is such a big deal. The question is whether Microsoft can generate enough excitement around its more unified platform -- PC, tablet, smartphone, home entertainment system -- to re-establish itself at the center of the technology universe. Will Apple and the mobile-first competitors run away with the computing market? The Windows Store will be under the microscope because the app count will serve as a proxy for partner and developer excitement around Windows 8, especially on the Metro-style app tablet side.

Plus, the size of the Store will be fairly easy to compare against the size of the Apple iTunes App Store, and similar stores for the Amazon Kindle and other Android-based tablets. (This is the same reason that the apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace -- last reported at about 50,000 or 10 percent of the iPhone apps count -- is an important metric. The Windows Store will be even more strategic to Microsoft's future.)

Microsoft gave a preview of the Windows Store at the Consumer Electronics Show, and the demo on stage during CEO Steve Ballmer's keynote made it look clean, inviting and easy to navigate -- all good signs.

There won't be many apps at first -- expect mostly free apps created by Microsoft and some very close partners. But the opening of the Windows Store in 100 languages and in more than 200 markets worldwide will create an important opportunity for partners to check out the future of the Windows ecosystem and see where they might fit.

It's an important opportunity to get familiar with the way the Windows Store will work. In combination with the beta release, partners should soon have a clearer idea of how much work it will take to make an app available on Windows tablets, PCs and phones and get that app seen by millions of potential customers worldwide.

What are you looking for in the Windows Store? Let me know at [email protected] or sound off in the comments below.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.