Microsoft is continuing to try to clean up its digital app-store mess. Its latest planned move, according to my contacts: Get rid of the Microsoft Store for Business and Microsoft Store for Education.
The Microsoft Store, originally known as the Windows Store, is Microsoft's online app store that is built into Windows 10. In 2015, Microsoft started testing a couple of companion digital stores: The Microsoft Store for Business and the Microsoft Store for Education. The Store for Business and Store for Education were designed for admins who wanted to make applications available to their users outside of the normal Windows Store channel in Windows 10. They allow admins to make Store apps available to their users for volume acquisition and distribution, as well as provide a way for custom line-of-business distribution only inside a particular organization
As Microsoft officials acknowledged last year, Microsoft's original plan to try to convince developers to create Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps that would be updatable and distributable solely via the Microsoft Store failed to materialize. Many developers didn't see Windows -- growth of which is slowing -- as a platform for which it would be worth the time and effort to write new UWP apps and/or adapt their existing Win32 ones.
Microsoft's Corporate Vice President of the Windows Developer Platform Kevin Gallo told me last spring, Microsoft's current positioning is Windows 10 apps don't need to be in the Store only.
"The Store is about commerce. It's another channel for distribution," but not the only way Windows 10 users will be able to get apps, Gallo said last spring.
To date, Microsoft hasn't said anything publicly about what's going to happen to any of its digital app stores. But privately, officials across various teams at the company have been trying to come up with a concerted strategy, I've heard.
That strategy does not call for Microsoft to drop the Web version of the Microsoft Store. I'm not sure what will happen to the Microsoft Store client that's built into Windows 10 right now; my contacts say its future is "uncertain" at this point.
It does sound as though the team that owns the digital stores has decided that the Store for Business and Store for Education definitely will be deprecated. I've heard talk that the end of the current fiscal year, meaning June 30, 2020, is currently the planned deprecation deadline, though I am not sure if is the intended date for informing customers or date for actually axing the Store for Business/Store for Education. (My guess is Microsoft will give business and education users more than a few months' notice.)
Gallo told me last spring that Microsoft was contemplating ways to let users know that Windows apps were recommended and trusted by Microsoft. My contacts say Microsoft is still focused on coming up with approaches via which users could trust, discover and download signed apps without them necessarily being in the Store. I don't know if Microsoft plans to have some kind of service(s) like these in place before it closes the Store for Business and Store for Education.
I asked Microsoft for comment on all this and was told by a spokesperson that the company "had nothing to share."
I believe quite a few business customers are using the Microsoft Store for Business. Some use it simply to uninstall the in-box apps that ship as part of Windows 10 by adding these apps to the Microsoft Store for Business, syncing them to Intune and then directing Intune to uninstall them. There's also a "Private Store" feature that is part of the Store for Business and Store for Education. But I don't think many use this because many business users don't need or care about UWP apps, and because the Private Store's current functionality is quite limited.
Microsoft doesn't seem to have added any new features or functionality to the Store for Business since 2018, at least based on what I see in the Microsoft Store for Business and Education documentation.