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Microsoft is launching an Apple antitrust campaign with Windows App Store policies



Microsoft is out today with an update to its app store that includes 10 new guidelines for “promoting choice, fairness and innovation.” While the details changed, the company took a shot at Apple over the App Store rules. In particular, the move sees Microsoft adapt to the Coalition for App Fairness, which is leading the Apple antitrust fee.

Microsoft VP and Deputy CEO Rima Alaily published a blog post today covering the company’s new policies aimed at promoting appraisal and development for Windows 10 (via The Verge). In the opening, Alaily says that app stores “have become a critical gateway” and that Microsoft is working to “practice what we preach.”

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In particular, Microsoft’s 10 new app store policies are based on ideas shared by the Coalition for App Fairness, which was founded as companies such as Epic Games, Tile, Spotify and more oppose Apple’s App Store practices.

For software developers, app stores have become an important gateway to some of the world’s most popular digital platforms. We and others have raised questions and at times expressed concern about app stores on other digital platforms. However, we recognize that we should practice what we preach. So today we adopt ten principles – based on the ideas and work of the Coalition for App Fairness (CAF) – to promote choice, ensure justice and promote innovation on Windows 10, our most popular platform and our own Microsoft Store on Windows 10:

In the section describing how the new principles will work, Alaily gave a clear overview of how Apple runs its iOS App Store (a closed ecosystem):

Windows 10 is an open platform. Unlike some other popular digital platforms, developers can choose how to distribute their apps. The Microsoft Store is one way. We believe that it provides significant benefits to consumers and developers by ensuring that the available apps meet strong standards of privacy, security and safety, while making it easier to find and offer additional tools and services so that developers can focus on development.

The comment comes after Microsoft recently quarreled with Apple over the game flow policy that prevents Microsoft’s xCloud game service from working on iOS.

As we move forward, the post highlights the benefits of developers choosing to distribute software alone, including the ability to use whatever payment options they want.

But there are other popular and competitive options on Windows 10. Third-party app stores, such as those from Steam and Epic, are available for Windows and offer developers different pricing (or revenue-sharing) options, standards, requirements, and features. And developers can also easily choose to distribute their apps on their own terms directly over the Internet without restrictions. The first four principles are designed to preserve this freedom of choice, and the robust competition and innovation it enables on Windows 10.

Other new principles Microsoft says it will stick to including keeping its own “apps to the same standards that they have competing apps to.

Here is the full list:

  1. Developers will be free 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 the developer’s choice of which payment system to use to process in-app purchases.
  4. We want to give developers timely access to information about the interoperability interfaces we use on Windows, as described in our interoperability principles.
  5. Every developer will have access to our app store as long as it meets objective standards and requirements, including for security, privacy, quality, content and digital security.
  6. Our app store charges reasonable fees that reflect the competition we face from other app stores on Windows, and will not force a developer to sell anything in their app that it does not want to sell.
  7. Our app store will not prevent developers from communicating directly with their users via their apps for legitimate business purposes.
  8. Our app store will keep our own apps to the same standards as it contains competing apps.
  9. Microsoft will not use 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 guidelines and opportunities for marketing and marketing, use these consistently and objectively, notify of changes and make available a fair process for resolving disputes.

Last month, Apple updated its App Store policy to include greater transparency and some adjustments, but its critics, including Microsoft, were not happy with the small changes.

Apple also created a way for developers to challenge the App Store review process as announced at WWDC 20, but the antitrust issues surrounding business practices are certainly unresolved.

Read the full post from Microsoft about the changes in the app store on their blog here.

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