When Windows 8.1 officially launches next week, users will find a visually revamped app marketplace where they can find and download new Windows software. Developers should find some perks, too.
In an effort to build momentum for the new Windows Store, which trails behind Apple's App Store and Google Play in both popularity and number of apps, the company is focusing on making apps more discoverable and helping developers monetize their creations. Promising a "simple, stunning experience for Windows 8.1," Microsoft asserted in an Oct. 9 statement that the new Windows Store "detail pages will give developers a more visually stunning platform upon which to highlight their apps with increased merchandising capabilities."
Additionally, Bing-powered "search and recommendation features will make it easier for customers to find the best apps and games." The recommendation engine "suggests apps and games based on factors such as previous selections, community favorites, and a range of other signals that create connections between customers and the best apps for them," said the company.
On June 26, during Microsoft's Build 2013 developer conference, Ted Dworkin, director of program management for Windows Store, delivered a presentation on the redesigned Windows Store. Noting that users were greeted with a fairly static experience when the app store first debuted, he said that his team "wanted to do a better job really reflecting what is happening in the catalog," which he described as vibrant and dynamic.
Windows Store "didn't really suggest a place that had fresh apps on a daily basis," said Dworkin.
Indicating Bing's expanded presence among Microsoft's software and cloud services ecosystem, Dworkin revealed that "Bing is the technical underpinning of this redesign." He said that one of his team's top priorities was to "create a first-class recommendation service right in the system" by leveraging the search technology's intelligence, big data and machine learning capabilities.
"The fundamental premise of this redesign was to more effectively get your next app into the hands of customers," added Dworkin.
In addition to a new UI and app discovery features, Microsoft is banking on gift cards to help draw in holiday dollars to the Windows Store. The gift cards, which will be available "just in time for the holiday season," according to Microsoft, will "offer new revenue opportunities for Windows Store app builders."
The software giant is also hoping that Windows 8.1 and its support for XAML and WinJS will result in a "significant wave of new apps" to help the Windows Store grow its catalog of more than 100,000 apps. The Windows Store team pledges that, come Oct. 18, initial Windows 8.1 app certification will take no more than five days, "with many apps passing within a day or two."