Microsoft is aggressively courting developers with the new Windows Store for Windows 8, which is emphasizing choice, discoverability, and transparency--all things the company asserts is lacking from Apple's offering. Announced yesterday, the Windows Store will launch alongside the Windows 8 beta in late February 2012, giving both developers and users a taste for what it's like to shop for Metro-style apps within the new OS.
Here are the top 8 things you need to know about the new Window Store.
1. Developers get a bigger cut than on iOS. At first, developers will see a similar revenue split with their apps as Apple's App Store: 70/30. But once an app exceeds $25,000 in revenue, Microsoft will let devs keep 80 percent. Given that more than 500 million Windows 7 licenses have been sold to date, the company is stressing that the opportunity is huge--once people upgrade to Windows 8. And the better the apps are, the better the chances that people will want to upgrade.
2. Paid apps start at $1.49, developer accounts cost $49. A day after Google celebrated a billion downloads by offering a bunch of apps for 10 cents, Microsoft said the Windows Store won't sock any paid apps below $1.49. That means no 99-cent specials (or cheaper). The good news is that the Windows Store will have plenty of free apps. In fact, when the store soft launches it will only offer free apps during the Windows 8 beta period. Paid apps will come later. To develop Windows 8 apps, the individual registration fee is $49, but it's $99 if you're a company. Google charges just $25 to register as a developer for its Android market.
3. Apps are easily discoverable. The Windows Store has a very similar look and feel to the Marketplace on Windows Phones, with a clean panoramic interface. As you'd expect, you can search for apps and browse through categories and ranking lists, but Microsoft goes a bit further than the competition with personalized app recommendations and helpful topic pages. Lastly, Windows Store apps will be indexed by search engines, so if you're running Windows 8 you'll be connected directly to the store from a result.
4. Developers can promote apps inside their websites in IE10. If you look closely at the above screenshot to the left of the address bar, you'll see a small app button. Microsoft is making this option available to developers to promote the fact that they offer an app when a user visits the company's website. This feature is exclusive to the Internet Explorer 10 browser, which will ship with Windows 8. If you already have the app installed, this app button will just launch the app.
5. You can trial apps before you buy. Microsoft says it has seen a big conversion rate on Windows Phones for trial versions of apps, and it's offering the same option to developers and shoppers in Windows 8. This is part of Microsoft's discoverability message, as the company argues that the best promotion for an app is the app itself. It will be up to developers to give users enough of a taste to make them want more. In Cut the Rope, for example, you'll be able to play a few levels and then be asked to upgrade. The best part: You don't need to re-download the app if you decide to upgrade. It's just like any other in-app purchase.
6. Microsoft promises more transparency with rejected apps. A lot of developers have expressed frustration about the lack of clarity in Apple's App Store policies, leaving some scratching their heads as to why their apps didn't make the cut. In some cases, like the iTether, an app might get approved only to be pulled hours later. Microsoft is pushing to be a friendlier partner with its Windows Store. The company claims its just-published certification policies will ensure "quality and predictability." More important, the Windows Store blog post promises that Microsoft "will give feedback to developers whose apps are rejected, so they can address the issues quickly and resubmit the app for publication."
7. The Windows Store is enterprise-friendly. Microsoft is catering to its huge base of business customers by offering enterprise apps within the Windows Store. For example, Microsoft showed off an app built by ESRI that's designed for claims adjusters at insurance companies, which leverages Windows 8's GPS support. Enterprises can also restrict certain applications or prevent users from accessing the Windows Store altogether, allowing IT admins to deploy Windows 8 apps directly to PCs.
8. More than one way to pay. While iOS locks you into iTunes for paying for subscriptions and in-app items, Microsoft is taking a more open approach with the Windows Store. For instance, the eBay customers can manage transactions via PayPal, just as they would on the website. And newspapers and magazines can continue to use their own transaction platforms, which is critical for acquiring and retaining subscriber info.