More than a year after plans for closing the Microsoft Stores for Business and Education were discussed internally, Microsoft is notifying customers of the first steps toward their seeming dismantling.
Microsoft Store for Business customers reported receiving an update today, March 11, telling them that all paid apps will no longer "be available for acquisition" from the Stores for Business and Education as of April 14, 2021. (Thanks, @hoyty, for the heads up on Twitter.)
Users who already have apps they got through these stores will be able to use and receive updates to them, according to Microsoft's note to users. But no new paid apps will be possible through these stores as of that April date. After that date, users who want additional applications or licenses will need to work with app publishers, Microsoft says.
The note to customers also says that access to the Store for Business and Store for Education, going forward, will require users to have an existing Azure Active Directory account. No anonymous browsing of these Stores will be permitted.
I asked Microsoft if today's announcement is the first step toward the dismantling and closing of the Stores for Business and Education. No word back so far.
Update (March 12): Officials pointed me to the same verbiage about the block on paid apps that they've added to the Docs site. A spokesperson said: "We have nothing further to share at this time."
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 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 for the past couple of years, 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. The need for dedicated app stores on Windows became less pressing as a result.
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 had been trying to come up with a concerted strategy, I've heard. As of a year ago, That strategy did not call for Microsoft to drop the Web version of the Microsoft Store.
It does sound as though the team that owns the digital stores decided that the Store for Business and Store for Education definitely would be deprecated. There was talk that June 2020 was the target, but that was pre-pandemic.