Microsoft hits out at Apple with its new Windows app store policies

Image by Alex Castro / The Verge

Microsoft is making some firm commitments to the future of app stores on Windows today. The software giant has published 10 principles it’s adopting as promises to app developers, including that it won’t block competing stores on the platform or block specific business models an app may use to make money.

The principles also cover Microsoft holding its own apps to the same standards as competing apps and a commitment to “charge reasonable fees” that are reflective of rival app stores on Windows. Microsoft also says it won’t block apps on Windows based on a developer’s choice of in-app payment systems.

These new principles are a clear response to app store issues surrounding both Apple and Google — in particular, Epic Games’ ongoing legal battle with Apple. Epic Games implemented its own payment system inside Fortnite on both iOS and Android, breaching Apple and Google’s policies and forcing developers to accept a 30 percent cut for in-app purchases of digital goods.

Fortnite on an iPhone.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Apple and Google responded by removing Fortnite from their app stores, and Epic Games immediately filed a lawsuit against Apple and Google. Android users are still able to sideload Fortnite, thanks to the more open nature of Google’s OS, but iOS users are no longer able to install or reinstall the game. There have been arguments back and forth between Apple and Epic Games over these App Store policies that will ultimately be settled in court next year.

There is also growing concern from developers over Apple’s App Store policies that many believe restrict competition. Spotify, Epic Games, Tile, Match, and others have been rallying fellow developers against Apple, calling for “a level playing field for app businesses” and to provide freedom of choice on Apple devices.

The European Commission opened up a formal antitrust investigation into Apple’s App Store and Apple Pay practices earlier this year, and Congress released a blockbuster tech antitrust report earlier this week, labeling Apple a “monopoly” due to its control of iOS and iPadOS software.

“In the absence of competition, Apple’s monopoly power over software distribution to iOS devices has resulted in harms to competitors and competition, reducing quality and innovation among app developers, and increasing prices and reducing choices for consumers,” reads the report. The antitrust report also claims Apple uses “privacy as a sword to exclude rivals and a shield to insulate itself from charges of anticompetitive conduct.”

Microsoft makes clear its new app store policies are directed at Apple. “Windows 10 is an open platform,” says Rima Alaily, deputy general counsel at Microsoft. “Unlike some other popular digital platforms, developers are free to choose how they distribute their apps.”

Microsoft’s next-gen Xbox consoles.
Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

The software maker also addresses the fact that it continues to charge developers 30 percent fees on its own Xbox store for in-game purchases. “It’s reasonable to ask why we are not also applying these principles to that Xbox store today,” says Alaily. “Game consoles are specialized devices optimized for a particular use. Though well-loved by their fans, they are vastly outnumbered in the marketplace by PCs and phones. And the business model for game consoles is very different to the ecosystem around PCs or phones.”

Microsoft often sells Xbox consoles at low margins and recoups some of its costs through digital sales of games and goods, including cuts of digital sales of games on its platform. That’s a different business model to Apple, which has high margins on iPhone and iPad devices and still enjoys 30 percent of revenue on top for in-app purchases. Microsoft does admit it still has “more work to do to establish the right set of principles for game consoles.”

Here are all of Microsoft’s 10 app store principles:

  1. Developers will have the freedom to choose whether to distribute their apps for Windows through our app store. We will not block competing app stores on Windows.
  2. We will not block an app from Windows based on a developer’s business model or how it delivers content and services, including whether content is installed on a device or streamed from the cloud.
  3. We will not block an app from Windows based on a developer’s choice of which payment system to use for processing purchases made in its app.
  4. We will give developers timely access to information about the interoperability interfaces we use on Windows, as set forth in our Interoperability Principles.
  5. Every developer will have access to our app store as long as it meets objective standards and requirements, including those for security, privacy, quality, content, and digital safety.
  6. Our app store will charge reasonable fees that reflect the competition we face from other app stores on Windows and will not force a developer to sell within its app anything it doesn’t want to sell.
  7. Our app store will not prevent developers from communicating directly with their users through their apps for legitimate business purposes.
  8. Our app store will hold our own apps to the same standards to which it holds competing apps.
  9. Microsoft will not use any non-public information or data from its app store about a developer’s app to compete with it.
  10. Our app store will be transparent about its rules and policies and opportunities for promotion and marketing, apply these consistently and objectively, provide notice of changes, and make available a fair process to resolve disputes.

Comments

Translation:

"We don’t make significant revenue from the Windows app store and are 100% okay with continuing to not make significant money from the Windows app store."

"But we will still fiercely protect our Xbox ecosystem with a whole different set of rules to safeguard our existing monetary stream. Also, we’re better than Apple in this regard."

Great PR, though. Microsoft’s just trying to divert as much antitrust attention away from itself as possible.

Once you get big enough, anti-trust becomes a fact of life. You know that right?

It’s not just that, Microsoft are moving more and more cross-platform so having iOS and Android open and without excessive charges it to their advantage.

Smart move by Microsoft, nothing to loose but potential benefit if apple is forced to allow third party app store and side loading in iOS
- WIndows app store anyway not significant revenue generator so no question of loss
- Great PR.
- iOS users are the one spend more than android users. App Store is big revenue generator for apple. if apple forced to open to allow third party app store everyone can try get some pie of that revenue by launching app store. MS lost the mobile platform war but they can launch iOS (and android) app store and provide cross platform deal to developers.

Epic is also fighting for pie of app store revenue basic saving millions of in-app purchase commission it was paying to apple . Epic will launch Game focused App store then expand to the other apps. If will benefit Facebook as well which market social network promotion of app along with providing iOS app store. Amazon is quite but will one of the first to provide iOS app store and will provide prime benefits to entice users.

For all these big guys this is strictly a business and new growth area on mobile platform they don’t own however narrative is created around developer choice and user choice.

Nobody care about user choice, Everyone (including apple) choose battle which benefit them. Did any of these big guys talking about giving user a choice supported apple new privacy policy which give user choice would they would like to stalked across the internet. No, apple is privacy battle which benefit them (but I am glad apple choose privacy as feature to fight for whatever is their motive ).

So sit back enjoy drama and hope something good come out it even for users.

It’s similar to Apple’s stance on privacy. They couldn’t figure out a way to make significant revenue from ads, so they became the company that cares about your privacy. Turn a weakness into a strength.

No.
Apple has always cared about privacy. While they do have to comply with the laws in countries they operate in and makes their privacy stance a bit questionable, apple knows they ad revenue will never compare to googles / Facebook because they (Google and Facebook) track your every move. Apple will give you ads based on your age, apps you downloaded, and a couple other things. It’s meant as a supplemental revenue for developers and them. Not the whole business. Think.

Da Vergi is right in that Apple has not succeeded like Google and Facebook in turning user data into a sizeable (compared to other streams) revenue stream.

But don’t you think for a second they care THAT much about privacy.
I present you with Apple iBeacons, iPhones, Apple Watch, the incoming "tile" competitor, and specifically Apple Maps.

If you don’t think those are as insidious and invasive as anything Google or Facebook have then you’re a fool.

They are certainly invasive but harder for them to profit and share that data; that s pretty fundamental difference.

Unfortunately some in the Apple cult just can’t bring themselves to see that Apple is just a mega tech corporation like the others with profit as its primary goal.

What’s wrong with being a business?

Sorry, but no, Apple has actually gone to great lengths in relation to all of the items that you "present" as proof they don’t care that much about privacy.

Apple does a bunch of things on-device that would be easier to do in the cloud, and then they end-to-end encrypt information shared by their own apps between your devices.

Specifically Apple Maps? It’s designed such that your device cycles through randomized identifiers and fuzzes your location when communicating with Apple’s servers. It’s literally as privacy-protecting as it is possible for a server-querying map application to be. And they take that same approach with almost all their apps and devices.

That they can use this as a marketing point to sell devices is a big part of the reason behind their actions, but it’s also a series of consistent design decisions to not be in the business of measuring their success by profits from selling their customer’s data.

Is Microsoft comparing a desktop OS with a mobile OS? Because developers are free to distribute their apps any way they like on Mac OS. Is Microsoft stupid? Or do they think people are stupid?

Given the similarities in form factor between the surface and iPad, the real distinction is not "desktop OS" and "mobile OS" but rather that MS is permissive about what the user can do in that form factor and Apple is not. The distinction between mobile OS and desktop OS is pretty artificial, and almost entirely about how restrictive the platform is – there is nothing about a mobile OS that mandates Apple’s bullshit (consider WinCE, Symbian, etc. all allowed permissive app installation; the locked down mobile experience was an Apple invention, not a feature requirement of mobile OSes)

Companies have tried an ‘open approach’ to mobile OS. It didn’t work. Android’s app eco system is a wasteland compared to iOS, Windows Mobile/Phone failed, BlackBerry failed. It doesn’t work. Why would Apple move towards a failed model of apps?

No, they didn’t fail because they "were open" cause they were not open at all. You couldn’t sideload an app on Windows Phone, BB10 or webOS. There was only one official source for apps which was their app store. They failed cause they only offered premium priced handsets, that’s all it is to it. Android was the first modern mobile OS that was available on $50 devices since day one.

I agree with @Texax except to say that webOS had "Homebrew", which was roughly analogous to sideloading on Android — but way easier.

webOS’s failure in the marketplace had nothing to do with its openness, what an absurd claim by the OP.

Actually Microsoft made it trivially easy to sideload apps on Windows 10 Mobile which was effectively the final version of Windows Phone

You are ignoring every single fact about why these platforms failed! The open market isn’t what killed these platforms FYI. The open market never killed any platform; windows, macOS, and Linux are all doing fine despite having an open market model …

Android’s app eco system is a wasteland compared to iOS

Total joke of a take. I understand the argument that iOS has better apps overall, but calling Android a ‘wasteland’ in comparison is textbook level fanboyism.

The irony of course is that in spite of the fact that iOS is closed it is still where most of the money is made and it its where all the good apps are. If having an open app store leads to better apps, where are they on Android?

Calling it a wasteland, even if true =\= not working.
It’s the most popular mobile OS in the world. It’s objectively successful.

Also, do you know what Darwin, aka the basis for MacOS and iOS are built off of? I don’t think you do, else you wouldn’t be making these sorts of claims.

And WTF would you use Windows Mobile/Phone or Blackberry as an example of a "open approach"?

You’re about 10 years too late with your "phones could never be used as computers" argument.

‘Phones can never be used as computers’.

That’s why Apple has a separate OS for their laptops and desktops.

Oh… you’re going with "an iPad isn’t a computer" as well?

Good for you.

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