Microsoft reportedly working on new Windows store that’s open to all apps and games

Photo by Sam Byford / The Verge

Microsoft is reportedly working on a big overhaul to its app store for Windows. Windows Central reports that the software maker plans to release an updated store later this year that will be far more open to all types of apps and games. This could pave the way for developers to be able to submit any Windows application to the store, including browsers like Chrome or Firefox, and even allow third-party commerce platforms in apps.

That’s a big shift for the app store on Windows if Microsoft delivers this rumored overhaul later this year. Currently, the Windows store (or Microsoft Store as Microsoft calls it) requires developers to package their win32 apps as an MSIX and use Microsoft’s own update mechanisms and commerce platforms. Microsoft will reportedly allow developers to submit standard EXE or MSI packages to the store, and updates can be managed through a developer’s own content delivery network (CDN).

Such a change would open the Windows store to many more apps, including popular ones like Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite of productivity apps, and even rival browsers like Chrome and Firefox. Microsoft launched its own Windows Package Manager last year, and it quickly became a great option for the hundreds of apps that are missing from the store right now. Apps like Steam, WinRAR, and Zoom don’t exist on the Windows store right now, but they’re available through the Windows Package Manager.

The current Windows store lacks many popular apps.

It sounds like whatever overhaul Microsoft is working on here will likely incorporate the company’s work with the Windows Package Manager to verify apps and list them in the store. Microsoft currently uses a number of methods to validate app packages for its Windows Package Manager, including scanning with its SmartScreen technology, static analysis, and SHA256 hash validation.

Microsoft’s rumored consideration of allowing third-party commerce platforms would also mean the company wouldn’t take a cut from developers who use their own in-app purchase systems. That’s another big change that would be both a surprising and open change to current app stores.

The Windows store originally appeared in Windows 8 as part of Microsoft’s big push to get developers to create universal Windows apps that would span across phones, tablets, PCs, and even Xbox consoles. This fell apart with the end of Windows Phone, and Microsoft eventually allowed developers to bring full native Win32 games to the Microsoft Store nearly two years ago. Developers have been asking for these rumored Windows store changes for years to make it far easier to get apps into the store and maintain and update them.

Microsoft is said to be planning to bring many of its own apps to this new Windows app store, including Teams, Office, Edge, and Visual Studio. The new store is rumored to be part of Microsoft’s big “Sun Valley” overhaul to Windows later this year. Microsoft has previously described this as a “sweeping visual rejuvenation of Windows,” which should see an overhaul for the Start menu, File Explorer, built-in apps, and much more.

Comments

This could actually give Steam a run for their money if implemented right and fees are reduced

No, everyone’s libraries (and eyeballs) are already on Steam, it isn’t going to cede to anyone at this stage.

This will be a nice enhancement to Windows (and maybe they can expand it a bit for enterprise so that you can create packages of apps that should be installed after a PC is configured), but I don’t see it replacing Steam for anyone that is gaming, really.

False. I currently purchase Vegas Pro and a couple of other software titles via Steam. I would use the MS store if the experience were better and prices were comparable.

Good job we have your sample size of one to set everyone straight.

Well he literally debunked his point. So I don’t even know why you replied to mikegthegoodguy

Curious how. Mikegthegoodguy is literally the first person I’ve seen who when they hear Steam, their first thought is "application software." Kudos to him though.

I never knew Vegas Pro was a game… (the parent comment specifically referred to gaming.)

btw great Dwight Schrute impression. It even comes across in text.

Not even true against a store people love to hate, Epic. They have changed a lot of minds over the years with all the free titles. Also, Steam doesn’t have that much lock in considering most people use apps like Discord to connect while they play. You can launch Steam games outside of the client. At the end of the day, it’s mostly a utility that sits in people’s system tray.

Funny, I love EGS. And you’re talking to the guy who is continuously touting Playnite, GOG Galaxy, Launchbox, etc. on here when talking about Steam so you’re preaching to the choir. Doesn’t stop the fact that Steam is so deeply entrenched in the PC gaming zeitgeist though.

There was a time when a Windows Store (probably Games for Windows era) could’ve put real fear into Steam. That day has long since passed.

everyone’s libraries are already on Steam

Who’s "everyone"? Just so you know, if you want to get "free" games through your Game Pass for PC/Ultimate, you already need to use Microsoft Store. And every day there are new gamers. Even if you already have a large collection of games on Steam, it is likely that you will only play very few, if not zero of the titles in existing library in a few years. You will purchase new games somewhere. Microsoft Store would be a perfect alternative choice if it is done correctly.

This could actually give Steam a run for their money

New users who have totally avoided Steam wouldn’t be a factor here.

For anecdotes though, my stepson and his friends as soon as they all got PCs capable of gaming roughly a year ago, one of the first things they all went for was Steam. No recommending it from me to him, just that was the first thing he downloaded. He had no interest in Windows Store and still doesn’t.

I think game pass is what steam should be worried about. I haven’t bought a single game on steam since I got game pass for PC last year

Doubt it, Steam has a lot of extra value (Workshop support is fucking killer) that I may not always notice, but always feel it whenever I go to another storefront. MS will have its work cut out for them.

A lot of this sounds like a reaction to the Epic vs Apple/Google fight

What I really want is GOG to come to the Microsoft Store so it can work on XB1.

Yes, in a way. But I don’t think it’s "we think open is the right way and its in our DNA so we’re doing this the way it should be done" it’s "we tried to play the game but Apple and Google are winning it handily and so we’re going to pivot."

It’s the same reason Microsoft is moving to a "software everywhere strategy." They don’t have much of a choice.

more like "we put all of our eggs in the UWP basket and that failed. So we tried a soft pivot to allow for broader applications but that failed because people still think of us as the UWP store and there’s not a lot of applications/games in it so people look once and abandon. So we’re just going to roll out a new store to eventually replace the existing store that will be everything by default so maybe people will look at it with new eyes"

Does it matter? The market spoke and we collectively benefit from the ‘new’ Microsoft.

It matters to him because he’s put in a lot of effort defending Apple’s store policy.

It matters to him because he’s put in a lot of effort defending Apple’s store policy.

FTFY

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it’s "we tried to play the game but Apple and Google are winning it handily and so we’re going to pivot."

What ‘game’ are the app stores on Mac and ChromeOS winning?

This is a massive enabler for improved uptake for Gamepass on PC and a play to try to grab some of the sweet revenue Steam commands.

Hopefully it’s good. Always liked the idea of a convenient central way to keep stuff updated but the Windows Store in its present form just isn’t good. It’s slow, buggy, and no one wants anything to do with it. Really looking forward to see if this changes that.

I love Windows but Microsoft is constantly touting "renovations" but we rarely see any results afterwards.

Hoping this update is substantial and with it Windows gets a fresh look. It’s long overdue.

That’s mostly because their renovations have historically been obviously self-serving, borderline consumer-hostile (if not clearly so) and in the past were clearly just aped from what was working for their competitors. MS didn’t realize that they needed to differentiate themselves, not try to follow what everybody else was doing.

They’ve been better at that lately, and have been opening things up recently rather than trying to wall things off. This seems to be more a case of realizing that "hey, maybe we can grow this store by actually letting more apps into it". It’s not going to affect me because I’ll just get my apps from publisher web sites like a normal person, but for people who do want one central repository run by a single monolithic company for some reason, it should be an improvement.

I’m really hoping that Microsoft doesn’t let unpackaged apps into the store. If they do what will be the point of developers packaging their apps to MSIX? They will have no reason to and the technology will die. Packaging apps also helps prevent winrot. This change just sounds like winrot is about to get worse rather than better.

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