With its newly unveiled Windows Store, Microsoft is aiming for a market long dominated by Apple, and coveted by other rivals such as Google. The long-anticipated online storefront, integrated into Windows 8, will give consumers and business users access to a wide variety of applications and games.
For third-party developers, the chance to port their applications onto Microsoft's next operating system could prove a lucrative relationship-so long as those applications prove popular. Applications that pass $25,000 in revenue will earn their developers 80 percent of every dollar generated; for those that never pass that revenue mark, Microsoft will pay out 70 percent, a ratio that has become something of an industry standard.
By baking an application storefront into Windows 8, and giving developers a larger slice of the revenue pie for successful products, Microsoft has fired a significant shot across the bow of Apple and its App Store franchise.
Originally launched in 2008 as a platform for iOS, the App Store model proved successful enough for Apple to port it onto Mac OS X Lion. Other companies followed suit with their own mobile-application storefronts, although only the Android Marketplace has managed to achieve a similar scale in terms of application offerings.
In the battle against Apple's App Store, Microsoft is likely banking on Windows 8 attracting a broad audience of both consumers and business users, which in turn would generate a significant market for everything from games to enterprise applications. Businesses are a key audience for Microsoft products, and thus a target of the company's earliest communications regarding its new storefront.
"Enterprise developers have been asking about their path to market with Metro style apps," Ted Dworkin, partner program manager for the Windows Store, wrote in a Dec. 6 posting on the new Windows Store blog. "And, in turn, IT administrators have been asking about deployment and management scenarios, such as compliance and security."
Microsoft's way of fulfilling those enterprise needs, apparently, centers on giving businesses direct control over application deployment. "Enterprises can choose to limit access to the Windows Store catalog by their employees, or allow access but restrict certain apps," he wrote. "In addition, enterprises can choose to deploy Metro style apps directly to PCs, without going through the Store infrastructure."
Microsoft is also giving developers controls over in-application advertising, and highlighting how the application certification will be "predictable." The latter is another swipe at Apple, whose application-approval process has attracted criticism from some developers as too opaque.
Windows 8 beta will arrive in February 2012, with the final release later that year. Unlike previous versions of the operating system with their desktop-style interface, the upcoming operating system's start screen centers on a set of colorful, touchable tiles linked to applications-the better to port it onto tablets and other touch-centric form factors.
That focus on tablets will necessarily place Windows 8 in direct competition with not only Apple's iPad, but also the host of Google Android tablets on the market. Against those opponents, a robust application store is a necessity-something that Microsoft is intent on building now.