Windows App Store Could Counter Apple's Mac App Store

Microsoft could be prepping a Windows App Store, according to purported leaked screenshots, which would directly counter Apple's Mac App Store.

Microsoft's next version of Windows could include an applications storefront similar to the one already available for Macs, according to purportedly leaked screenshots.

Winrumors and Cnbeta have both posted images of a "Windows App Store," complete with options to download everything from Office 2010 and Opera 11 to Angry Birds. Winrumors noted the images are "unverified," and Microsoft generally declines to comment on anything related to projects in early development.

That being said, rumors of a Microsoft-branded application store have circulated for months, mostly in conjunction with discussion of "Windows 8," as media and pundits have begun to turn to the next version of Windows (for brevity's sake, if nothing else). Microsoft announced in January that the next version of Windows would support SoC (sytem-on-a-chip) architecture, in particular ARM-based systems from partners such as Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instruments-a necessary step for porting the operating system onto tablets and perhaps even smartphones.

A fully stocked application store would allow Microsoft to counter Apple's Mac App Store, which offers full-screen applications for the company's PCs. That storefront operates in a similar manner to Apple's App Store for mobile devices, allowing users to purchase and download applications with one click. The Mac App Store will prove an integral part of the company's upcoming Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion."

If you want a sign of application stores' growing importance to each company's ultimate strategy, look no further than the recent legal tussle over Apple's attempts to trademark the term "app store."

Microsoft has asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Trial and Appeal Board to deny Apple the rights to "app store" on the grounds that "-app store' is generic for retail store services featuring applications and unregisterable for ancillary services such as searching for and downloading applications from such stores."

Apple then fired back at Microsoft's attempts to deny it the trademark, in a Feb. 28 filing that delivered a counter-argument spiced up with a few choice rhetorical jabs:

Microsoft, missing the forest for the trees, does not base its motion on a comprehensive evaluation of how the relevant public understands the term APP STORE as a whole," read the filing. "What it offers instead are out-of-context and misleading snippets of material printed by its outside counsel from the Internet and allegations regarding how the public allegedly interprets the constituent parts of the term APP STORE, i.e., -app' and -store.'"

If Microsoft wants the ability to apply the term "app store" to its own products, though, then its court battle against Apple assumes newfound importance beyond two rivals merely sniping at each other.

Other tech giants, including Research In Motion and Hewlett-Packard, have been touting their respective platforms' supposed appeal to developers, in a bid to build extensive application storefronts of their own. HP's webOS, acquired during the company's $1.2 billion takeover of Palm, will soon appear not only on smartphones and tablets, but also PCs.