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While we wait to see what, if any, changes Apple will make to the App Store due to increasing pressure from legal cases and government legislation, it’s interesting to watch what the other companies are doing.

Microsoft is ready to show its hand, with the updated Microsoft Store for Windows announced this week. Yes, it’s not a mobile store, but I think it’s still worth examining.

It has some familiar features like editorial “stories” that highlight different apps every day, but there are also things we’ve not seen before.

One feature is a “pop-up” store. That could mean lots of things, but in this case, it means a button that you can add to your web page that looks similar to the “Available on the App Store” buttons from Apple. However, this button doesn’t launch a separate store experience where your potential customer gets taken from your web page, which you control, and onto a store page, which you have less control over. Instead, it just takes care of the distribution part. You still own all marketing, and the store handles the download and installation. Of course, there’s also a store page for people who find your app that way, but it’s not mandatory.

That’s a nice feature, but it’s just a warm-up! Next, you can publish a wide variety of apps to the store, and users can install them regardless of whether they use the store’s inbuilt mechanism, or if it’s an MSI installer, a plain old exe file, or even a PWA.

Then, the big one. As Microsoft put it, you have “flexibility and choice of commerce platform”. If you’d like Microsoft to take care of payment, they take 15% (or 12% for games). If you don’t want them to take care of it, you keep 100% and use whatever payment provider you like.

There’s still a review process, but I can’t pass much judgement on that as I don’t know anyone who has gone through it. Here are the policies (with a detailed change history) if you’d like to take a look.

There may be conditions I’m not seeing, and of course, it’s early days, but this is certainly an interesting move from Microsoft, who have been through anti-trust proceedings before.

It’s worth noting that my hopes for the Apple App Store remain unchanged. I believe that significant changes to app review or allowing alternative payment mechanisms would be a net loss for the platform in terms of the perceived trust and simplicity of the store. But I wanted to report on what Microsoft is doing here. It’s significant.

Dave Verwer

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Senior Mobile Software Engineer @ Doximity – Doximity, the medical network used by over 80% of US physicians, is hiring passionate Senior iOS engineers (remote-friendly!). You'll get to be part of an amazing product team and work on an app that is constantly evolving. Use your skills (Swift, MVVM, FRP) to be an integral part of our newly launched telemedicine feature. Apply today! – Remote within the US

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