Don't forget: Microsoft is (supposedly) working on a Windows app store, too

Don't forget: Microsoft is (supposedly) working on a Windows app store, too

Summary: What should Microsoft do with Windows (if anything) in light of today's Apple announcements around a new app store and OS directions for its Macs?


I'm seeing some Windows users ridicule (and a few quietly pining for) Microsoft to do what Apple announced today: Create an Apple-like App Store for Windows.

Supposedly, that's in the works, as some may recall from Windows 8 slides that leaked earlier this year. Remember those early-concept Windows 8 slides -- the ones everyone believes Microsoft shared with its hardware partners (even though Microsoft still has not confirmed their veracity)?

According to those slides, one of the primary form-factor targets for Windows 8 will be slates. And at the same time as Microsoft ships Windows 8, it will have one or more app stores. (It sounds like the plan was each OEM would have its own branded app store that would possibly be populated and maintained primarily through Microsoft.)

What kinds of apps would be in Windows app stores? Presumably anything from paid software apps, to low-cost or free Web apps, games, utilities and the like.

Here's the problem I foresee for Microsoft, however. The company has decided to prohibit its OEMs from creating Windows Phone OS-based slates and tablets by creating a limit on screen size (of approximately four inches) for Windows Phone OS devices. That means there won't be Windows Phone OS slates (at least not for the time being). So those apps that developers are writing for Windows Phone 7 won't be backward compatible on Windows 7/8 slates or tablets... will they?

Here's what Microsoft could do to head off that potential problem. There are rumors the Softies are planning to build into Windows 8 some kind of hypervisor virtualization technology that would prevent backward compatibility issues from plaguing  Windows, going forward. If that happens, could a Windows Phone version of Angry Birds -- if and when such a thing ever actually materializes -- run on a Windows 8 slate without tweaks? Hmmmm. Very interesting....

Of course, the other downer for the Microsoft faithful in all this is Windows 8 is supposedly a 2012 thing (again, Microsoft hasn't given any kind of an official date; that's just a general consensus). By that time, Apple will have a Mac store chock-full of apps, no doubt, and millions more iPad users in its fold.

[poll id="42"]

If you had a chance to give your two cents to the Windows team after today’s Apple announcements, what would you suggest?

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Yearly updates to Windows, more open feature development

    What Microsoft can learn from Apple is making the updates smaller, more User Experience enhanced and faster roll-outs, by that meaning stuff like announcing the Windows App Store now, gaining enhancements, tweaks and as many developers as possible on it for launch.
    • RE: Don't forget: Microsoft is (supposedly) working on a Windows app store, too

      @TalTara - erm, you DO know that Microsoft ships regular updates to all its supported products, right? That's what Windows Update is for: At least once a month, Microsoft ships fixes and patches for security, reliability and performance issues. If the issue is important enough, it gets shipped "out-of-band" as a high-priority update.

      Most of Microsoft's supported products get a new service pack once every 12-18 months which rolls up all previous patches and fixes, along with any other important features and improvements.
  • Who cares? MS is slowly Dying.

    And can't die soon enough!
    • Only in your mind.

      itguy08 . In reality, no so much.
      Once again, too bad for you. :(
      John Zern
    • RE: Don't forget: Microsoft is (supposedly) working on a Windows app store, too

      @itguy08 LOL! I love you delusional folks who seem to honestly convince yourselves that MS is dying. I mean, SERIOUSLY? HAHAHAHAHA!<br><br>Even if only for the Xbox ALONE, Microsoft is going NOWHERE. People like you seem to think Microsoft is only comprised of the products that fail and/or are new to market. Well, guess what? The money they make off of their successful and flagship products totals more than you seem to be capable of comprehending. I'm sorry, but that's just sheer ignorance to not only think MS as a company is dying, but that they *should* in the first place. Wow.<br><br>Nice article, MJ. :) <br><br>-Stephen
      • Oh, good point with the XBox and is actually relevant here

        MS already has an App Store on the XBox.
      • I wouldn't call the Xbox division a success.

        @StephenChapman The Xbox division didn't start making money until 2008 - $524 million in 08 and $169 million in 09. It seems like a lot, BUT... They were already 4 billion in the hole before the launch of the 360! Tack another billion to that to cover the RROD fiasco and another billion to cover operating costs from 05 to 07. Does that seem like a success to you? In all honesty, I wouldn't be surprised if they drop the Xbox division.
      • RE: Don't forget: Microsoft is (supposedly) working on a Windows app store, too

        @StephenChapman I wouldn't say that they're dying but Microsoft IS a few generations behind. i.e. Mary Jo's telling us what Apple did with "system 9" in order to release OS X: use a hypervisor for backwards compatibility.<br><br>My favorite thing about my Mac is it's ability to cut and paste PDF data natively! I tried doing that today on a PC and, from what I could tell, I couldn't copy and paste PDF into Word unless it became "rich text" and, unfortunately, that meant losing my images and formatting! I could buy more software, like Acrobat, but why? because, if I did that, my PC would surely cost more than a Mac!<br><br>So I'm hoping that Windows 8 delivers as much value as a Mac does; if that happens, PC's will become more expensive because "you get what you pay for!"<br><br>So, Steve Balmer, here's your new ad: "Windows brings you as much value as a Mac!"
      • RE: Don't forget: Microsoft is (supposedly) working on a Windows app store, too

        @mrminnman - you can copy content from a PDF and paste it wherever you want in Windows too - so long as the PDF's author has not chosen to prevent copying. That's a restriction Adobe chose to implement. I sincerely hope that whichever PDF reader you're running on your MAC correctly honors the document author's choices about what can be done with their content?

        BTW - Apple HAD to provide a virtual machine infrastructure when moving from OS9 because they also chose to change processors. If they had not provided a VM solution, no existing Mac-compatible software would have run on OSX.

        Microsoft didn't NEED to do this when introducing later versions of Windows because Windows usually runs on x86-compatible CPUs (unless you were running Windows on DEC Alphas, MIPS or PowerPC CPU's back in NT3.5x / NT4).
  • Anti-trust?

    Would they be able to get away with something like that?
    John Zern
    • RE: Don't forget: Microsoft is (supposedly) working on a Windows app store, too

      @John Zern You're kidding, right?
    • Why wouldn't they?

      @John Zern

      They already have an online store, and an app marketplace for the ZuneHD. All they would need to do is expand on that.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • MS should work with Steam on this one

    Steam is truly fantastic and it is clear that Apple copied their App Store idea from Steam. MS could save a bunch of time and release their App Store [b]today[/b] if they simply worked with Steam. Or just bought it.
    • RE: Don't forget: Microsoft is (supposedly) working on a Windows app store, too

      @NonZealot I find it interesting that the majority of the Steam founders are former Microsoft employees. Imagine if they stayed in Microsoft.
    • Agreed.

      @NonZealot: There is a lot of innovation coming from the gaming world. However, it is a lot easier to play in your own sandbox of choice. But if you want to get all the big players on the same page, this is a completely different animal. One that requires the respect of time to do right.
    • the usual bs

      it is more than obvious that apple copied their appstore idea for the mac from their very own appstore idea for iOS. and yes, yuo have to hand it to the microsoft shills, tey have no dignity left, the moment apple unveils an innovative new feature they cry: me too, me too!
      banned from zdnet
    • RE: Don't forget: Microsoft is (supposedly) working on a Windows app store, too

      @NonZealot - shipping games to a few million enthusiasts is a VERY different ball-game than shipping updates for mission-critical applications to billions of customers around the world.

      Not only that, but billing customers in all supported countries in local currency WITHOUT causing major issues is a REAL challenge. Try talking to someone in Russia about buying games on Steam or to someone in Singapore about being billed in US$ with a horrendous exchange rate.

      These are NOT easy problems to solve.
  • WP7 Marketplace is not just about software

    You can't just scale up a WP7 app to a desktop app. There are underlying services, hardware requiremets etc. The reason WP7 apps are awesome is because the WP7 app interface has specific definitions of "Capabilities", it can also guarantee what hardware is available and how they perform (sensors, gsm, accelerometer, led cameras). All these components that an APP can use is solidified in the interface of the API's that WP7 apps use. These don't exist in the desktop world, or rather there is a hundreds of permutations for each component (eg. hundreds of types of cameras, some with led lighting most without etc). <br><br>The WP7 app is really all about delivering a guaranteed experience for the user, and the developer. Until MS can do the same for the desktop world then there will not be an app store. And if MS did launch a desktop appstore without these guaranteed API's then it will fail because there will be no way to guarantee a level of quality to for apps. <br><br>Alot of work at the OS/OEM level has to happen for a marketplace to arrive on windows desktop

    p.s. Ive built 3 WP7 apps and i know first hand at the power of having a solid API and guaranteed quality level of components (sensors, cameras etc). We need this same level of control in the tablet and desktop world before we attempt a marketplace. Otherwise building apps with guaranteed level of quality will be really difficult!
    • Good points


      You make some good points. Right now, MS' slate plans seem half-baked, and all over the place. How does MS expect to compete against the iPad without an app store? Is MS planning on coming out with an interim app store ASAP to support Windows 7 slates? Will MS allow OEMs to come out with their own slate shells, which will cause a lot of confusion and guarantee that Windows slates won't take off? Will MS come out with a standard, interim shell until Windows 8, which will bring order to Windows 7 slates ecosystem? Quite frankly I believe MS should allow OEMs to only come out with Windows 7 slates (based on certain reference designs) that use a standardized touch input shell, and that these slates should be supported by an interim app store. MS should be able to keep Apple at bay with the above until Windows 8 comes out, when MS can introduce a much better, well thought out touch computing strategy.
      P. Douglas
    • Very well said.

      @liquidboy: This sums up the complexity of the problems VERY WELL. Read and re-read the above! Microsoft is not working with one to three devices.