Microsoft Unveiling Windows 8 App Store

Microsoft will unveil its Windows 8 App Store Dec. 6, a rival to a similar storefront available on Apple's Mac OS X Lion.

Microsoft will unveil its Windows 8 App Store at a San Francisco event Dec. 6.

The actual storefront will launch with Windows 8 sometime in late 2012. It will reportedly feature both free and paid applications. In creating the portal, Microsoft is following in the footsteps of Apple, which integrated a similar application store into its Mac OS X Lion, and of course the mobile-application stores available on all the major smartphone brands.

The big question is whether an App Store integrated into Windows 8 will appeal to those third-party developers who are so necessary for any healthy ecosystem. Microsoft has a long history with a deep pool of developers, with whom its brand name carries considerable weight; however, those developers' professional time is necessarily limited, and rival platforms-including Apple's platform-have more than demonstrated their profitability.

That being said, a Windows 8 App Store will offer those developers certain advantages, at least if Microsoft fulfills its promise to make Windows 8 a "no compromises" operating system. For starters, Windows 8 will almost certainly find a broad audience among both consumers and business users, in turn creating a substantial market for everything from games to heavy-duty enterprise applications. The size of that potential user base is already something highlighted by Microsoft executives when they talk about the upcoming operating system, and that theme is unlikely to fade from their presentations anytime soon.

Provided those developers stock a Microsoft App Store with a broad array of applications, the storefront would give Windows 8 tablets equal footing against, not only the iPad (which offers access to Apple's App Store and iTunes) but also Android devices (which include the Android Marketplace).

Microsoft's biggest challenge in promoting Windows 8, however, might be its own success with Windows 7, which is well on its way to replacing Windows XP as the world's dominant operating system by market share. Launched in October 2009, Windows 7 is still new in the eyes of many users, and it may take some effort for Microsoft to convince them to upgrade to the next operating system so soon.

To the latter end, Microsoft is adjusting Windows 8 in fairly radical ways, including its user 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 form factors.

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