Windows, despite being one of the most popular proprietary software on the planet, is an open platform. Anyone can create and distribute programs that run on Windows and do it more or less any way they want, including direct downloads, proprietary app stores like Steam and Epic, or distribution through Microsoft’s built-in Microsoft Store. In a blog post outlining a commitment to a set of principles for this store, Microsoft doubled down on its commitment to support old-school standard software installations.
The blog post is long, but the gist of it from the perspective of supporting open and unrestricted installs can be found here:
We will continue to allow developers to choose whether they want to deliver their apps for Windows through our app store, from someone else’s store, or “separately” directly from the Internet.
The context of the post is quite clearly the ongoing discussion – and litigation – over closed and semi-closed app store platforms on mobile. This was publicly disputed between fortnite publisher Epic, creator of Android Google and Apple, custodian of its fully enclosed App Store. You could also argue that closed digital storefronts for consoles, including Microsoft’s own Xbox, fall into the same category. Microsoft says Xbox consoles aren’t the same type of “specialty computing device,” so those principles won’t apply. Xbox will continue to be platform locked.
The reaffirmed commitment to supporting free and open source software on Windows contrasts sharply with macOS, where Apple is pushing more and more developers to the proprietary App Store since switching to ARM-based hardware. It’s also probably a relief for many Windows users, who have been watching Microsoft push users to Windows 11 and its Edge browser more aggressively over the past few months.
Some more relevant highlights from the blog post include:
Microsoft will allow third-party payment processors and communication systems in the Microsoft Store, avoiding the main problem of Epic-Google-Apple lawsuits
Microsoft will not require developers to provide more favorable terms for apps in the Microsoft Store than in other stores (note that the language here means they MAY require developers to provide terms JUST AS favorable)
Microsoft will allow developers to communicate directly with customers to find out pricing terms and offer other products or services
Windows will continue to support third-party app store platforms such as Steam
The above principles will apply to the Microsoft Store on Windows, not to the Xbox platform
Microsoft also claims that as the new publisher of the popular Call of Duty series and others after the Activision Blizzard acquisition, it will continue to make existing series available on PlayStation “beyond the existing agreement and into the future”, and that it is interested in supporting Nintendo consoles in the same way. It’s a bold stance to take from a company that both owns its own gaming platform and has essentially bought itself out to become one of the biggest publishers on the planet.
Michael is a former graphic designer who has been building and modifying desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction and salsa verde, in no particular order.