Microsoft takes on Apple with its own Windows app store policies
Microsoft has made some “firm commitments” to the future of app stores by publishing 10 principles that it is going to adopt as promises to app developers. These ‘promises’ include not blocking competing stores on the platform or blocking specific business models an app may be using to make money.
The 10 principles Microsoft shared on the blog also cover Microsoft holding its own apps to the same standards as all competing apps and also a commitment to “charge reasonable fees” that are reflective of rival app stores on Windows.
Microsoft has also said it will not block apps on Windows based on a developers choice of in-app payment systems.
These principles are a clear response to app store policies that apply to Apple and Google and particularly to Epic Games’ ongoing legal battle with Apple. In case you don’t remember why both Apple and Google pulled Fortnite off the app stores - it was because Epic has implemented its own payment system inside Fortnite on iOS and Android. This breached Apple and Google’s app store policies that forces all developers to pay a 30% fee for all in-app purchases of digital goods.
Epic filed a lawsuit against Apple and Google and that legal tussle is still on and will be settled next year. Fortnite is not available on the Play Store or the App Store yet, but it can be sideloaded from the Epic Store thanks to the more “open nature” of the Google OS. Apple permits no such sideloading.
As The Verge writes, there is also a growing concern from developers about Apple’s restrictive App Store policies that according to many restrict competition. Epic Games, Spotify, Match Group, Tile and many other developers have been rallying other developers against Apple in a call for a ‘level’ playing field for apps and for freedom of choice on Apple devices.
The European Commision has opened up a formal antitrust investigation into the App Store and Apple Pay practices earlier this week and the US Congress has released a tech antitrust report as well that called Apple a ‘monopoly’ thanks to its control of iOS and iPadOS.
The report stated that in the absence of competition, Apple’s monopoly over software distribution to iOS devices has resulted in harming competitors and competition and has reduced quality and innovation among app developers, thereby increasing prices and reducing choices for consumers. The report also claimed that Apple uses privacy as a sword to exclude rivals and as a shield to insulate itself from “charges of anticompetitive conduct”.
Microsoft’s new app store policies are directed at Apple. Rima Alaily, deputy general counsel at Microsoft. Said that Windows 10 is an open platform and unlike some other “popular digital platforms, developers are free to choose how they distribute their apps”.
However, Microsoft continues to charge developers a 30% fee on the Xbox store for in-game purchases. For this, Alaily said that game consoles are specialised devices that are optimised for particular use and are vastly outnumbered in the market by smartphones and PCs. and that the business model for game consoles is very different from the ecosystem around PCs and 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”. And this is unlike Apple’s business model where it has high margins on both iPhones and iPads and still enforcing the 30% revenue for all in-app purchases.
Microsoft has admitted though that it has “more work to do to establish the right set of principles for game consoles”.
You can read Microsoft’s 10 app store principles in detail, here.