Under pressure to defend its enormous Windows franchise from challenges by mobile devices running software from Google and Apple, Microsoft outlined plans for a Windows App Store Tuesday in San Francisco.
Grafting an app store onto Windows isn't the newest idea -- Apple did it first by building an App Store into the latest version of its OS X operating system -- but anything involving Windows is big, and when it comes to luring developers, size matters.
Due to arrive as a public beta in February, Microsoft's Windows App Store will eventually run not only on the x86 processors inside today's PCs, but on PCs running the next version of Windows on the ARM-based processors powering most of the world's mobile devices.
So it only makes sense that Microsoft would adapt a software distribution model that originally appeared on mobile devices: an app store. Microsoft's pitch: it's offering developers a bigger platform, a better deal, and more control than either Apple or Google’s Android can offer. "We're offering a bigger bite of the Apple," Windows Web Services VP Antoine Leblond told a room full of developers and press Tuesday night in San Francisco. “That was a joke.”
Microsoft’s effort to build an app store certainly isn’t. Couple Microsoft’s huge user base -- Microsoft Windows 7 has 400 million users -- with the generous cut of revenues its offering developers -- 80% of all sales over ,000, and Microsoft can promise developers a lively ecosystem.
It’s an ecosystem that could benefit from watching Apple and Google build app stores first. Microsoft promises to be more open than Apple, offering a dashboard that will allow developers to track the progress of their software as it moves through its approval process. At the same time, it aims to be more secure than Google's Android market: apps will be closely vetted and carefully curated.
So will Microsoft's offer prove compelling? It better be, because without developers, and the users they bring to its platform, Microsoft can offer as big a bite of its Apple as it wants -- no one wants to get stuck building apps for a stagnating platform.