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Microsoft says app stores should be more competitive

SEATTLE – Microsoft said on Thursday that it would give developers more control in its app store, providing a stark contrast to Apple, which is facing increasing pressure for its firm grip on the App Store.

Microsoft said it adopted 10 “principles” for its app store, the Microsoft Store, which customers can use to install applications on Windows 10, the computer operating system. The guidelines include giving developers the ability to sell various services on their apps and websites, and allowing users and developers to access third-party app stores.

The announcement was no major change in Microsoft̵

7;s policy, whose app store is more open than Apple’s. But it added a powerful voice to a furious debate about how the big technology companies should manage their app stores, where they act as powerful gatekeepers between developers and consumers.

The principles aim to “promote choice, ensure justice and promote innovation,” said Rima Alaily, Microsoft’s vice president, in a blog post announcing the approach.

Apple is at the center of the debate over app marketplaces, as it forces developers to deploy their apps on iPhones and iPads through the hugely lucrative App Store, and then takes a 30 percent cut on many of these apps. Epic Games, the maker of the popular game Fortnite, has accused Apple in an antitrust lawsuit of abusing its size to overload app developers. On Tuesday, house lawmakers claimed that Apple had a monopoly on the app market for iPhones and iPads, which led to higher prices for consumers.

Apple has defended its App Store, questioning the findings of the House report, saying that the cuts it takes from developers are industry standard, and that developers have flourished under the trust customers have in downloading apps on iPhones and iPads on a safe way.

“The App Store has enabled new markets, new services and new products that were unimaginable a dozen years ago, and developers have been the key beneficiaries of this ecosystem,” the company said Tuesday. It did not respond to a request for comment on Microsoft’s announcement.

Microsoft’s principles largely reflect the proposals of the Coalition for App Fairness, a new non-profit organization representing app developers. Group members include Epic Games, Spotify and Match Group, the developer of Tinder. The coalition has said it aims to coordinate the response from smaller companies in hopes of changing the standards for large app stores.

Alaily said she hopes Microsoft’s commitment to standards can be a “productive” example for lawmakers and lawmakers when considering whether to change the app store model.

Microsoft’s application store is not the only way, and not even the primary way, customers get new programs on a computer. Most users download them from a developer’s website. The company already allows other app stores on Windows 10, such as the game streaming platform Steam.

But Microsoft is a developer in itself and has recently clashed with Apple over its just-play cloud gaming app, which gives users access to many games through one interface. Apple said each game had to be approved by Apple as a standalone game – and give Apple a cut. In July, Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, told the House antitrust committee that he thought Apple’s behavior was similar to the controlling approach that led Microsoft to antitrust issues decades ago.

“As an app developer,” Alaily wrote, “we have at times been frustrated by other app stores that require us to sell services in our apps, even when users do not expect or want them, and we can not make it profitable.”

Microsoft said the principles would not apply to the Xbox game console, which they claimed followed a different business model. It said that game consoles were sold with little or no profit, or at times below cost, and that it instead fetched the development costs through the games.

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