Microsoft is encouraging developers to start using Microsoft Store Ads, which allow people and companies to boost their app’s placement in the Windows store. The company writes in its blog that the ads are “designed to help developers grow their business by getting their apps or games in front of the right customers at the right time, and to inspire Microsoft Store customers with great content,” but similar systems for iOS and Android haven’t always provided the best experience.
Microsoft Store Ads have been a long time coming — the company announced it was going to start piloting them in May 2022 and posted about them rolling out on its advertising blog in January. But now, it’s posting about them on its developer blog, telling devs they can use the system to promote app launches or updates. According to its website, the ads will show up “in the Microsoft Store app on Windows within search results and the Apps and Gaming tabs.” You can see what that can look like below:
The system sounds similar to how Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store work, which isn’t a surprise — Microsoft’s post on Thursday talks about the blurring lines between mobile and desktop and trying to make an “app distribution experience that looks and feels more like mobile.” That’s not necessarily a good thing, though; I’m sure many people have had the frustrating experience of searching for a specific app only to have the top result be from another app that paid for the placement.
Apple got into hot water by pushing things even further by putting ads on actual app pages. The slots were quickly filled with potentially unsavory ads; gambling apps were promoted underneath apps meant to help you recover from gambling addiction or apps meant for children, and dating apps showed up underneath apps meant to save relationships. The company ended up pausing the feature for certain ad categories shortly after it launched.
So far, it doesn’t seem like Microsoft will be going that far. But it is clearly pushing Microsoft Store Ads now, and it has a history of expanding the prominence of ads in its products. It’s done so with the Outlook mobile app, experimented with them in File Explorer, and has steadily been building them into Windows itself. There are also reports that it’s planning on a system that will bring ads to free-to-play Xbox games. I can hope that the ads in the Microsoft Store will be relatively unobtrusive and won’t be used for spammy or inappropriate apps, but at the very least, there is now the possibility of that outcome.