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Microsoft thumbs up against Apple with new policy on “app fairness”

Microsoft signs at the entrance to the Silicon Valley campus in Mountain View, California.
Enlarge / Microsoft signs at the entrance to the Silicon Valley campus in Mountain View, California.

Microsoft this week adopted a whole host of “principles of justice”

; for the Windows App Store. The list of principles looks like a decent set of guidelines for both consumers and developers – but it also looks like Microsoft is taking the metaphorical ball, throwing it in Apple’s face and daring iCompetitor to make the next move.

The principles, which Microsoft listed in a blog post, essentially promise that Windows will continue to do what they already do in terms of app distribution, interoperability, payment systems and everything else.

The first element, for example, promises that developers can choose whether to distribute Windows applications through the Microsoft Store or through their own competing app store windows. This has always been the case, which is why Steam, the Epic Games Store, and all other Windows software distribution methods exist. Windows also promises not to block an app from Windows “based on the developer’s choice of which payment system to use” to process in-app purchases, which in turn is the reason why and how both online and app-based digital software store front for Windows. exist.

“Windows 10 is an open platform. Unlike other popular digital platforms, developers can choose how to deploy their apps,” said Microsoft. “Microsoft Store is one way … But there are other popular and competitive options on Windows 10.”

The company specifically issued a call to game distributors, adding: “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.” Microsoft’s principles are “designed to preserve this freedom of choice, and the robust competition and innovation it provides on Windows 10.”

Billions of tons of Apple in space

The blog post never even mentions Apple, but it’s impossible to read Microsoft’s statement as anything other than a shot over Apple’s arc. Microsoft explicitly stated that the principles draw on the work of the Coalition for App Fairness, a trade group that met in September to push for changes to the App Store guidelines. The coalition’s founding members include companies such as Basecamp, Spotify and Epic, all of which have had extremely public battles with Apple over policy in recent months.

The developers who have challenged Apple claim that the company is doing the exact opposite of what Microsoft just promised to continue to do. Apple requires developers to distribute iOS apps through the App Store, without exception. It requires developers to use their own payment system in the app, without exception. And a cut of 30 percent of all these transactions is required – except that there are some exceptions for companies with enough influence to demand it as Amazon and Netflix.

Competitors are not the only ones frustrated by Apple’s behavior. This week, a congressional committee published a short-term report arguing that the way Apple binds its App Store and payment mechanisms in the app coincide with the antitrust law and are competitive.

Microsoft, meanwhile, seems to have an immediate interest in bending over iOS devices. The company indicated this week that it plans to use a browser-based solution to get Project xCloud, its in-game streaming service, to iPhones.

The silent “X”

The Windows native app store is not particularly integrated into the PC experience for most users, no matter how hard Microsoft tries to market it. Microsoft did not introduce the platform in its current incarnation before the launch of Windows 8 in 2012, at which time both individual consumers and business buyers had almost 30 years of practice acquiring Windows programs elsewhere. (And some of Microsoft’s previous attempts, such as the unfortunate games for Windows Live, actively drove users to competitors like Steam by being awful.)

But Microsoft in the blog post actually realizes that it has it two big app stores with their name, and the company admits that the new rules of “justice” do not apply equally to both of them. The Xbox online store works much more like the iOS App Store than it does as a software distribution for Windows. Companies like Epic must discard more than 30 percent of their in-game purchases for Microsoft for Xbox players, just as they do against Apple, Google or Sony for iOS, Android or PlayStation players.

“It is reasonable to ask why we do not also apply these principles [the] The Xbox Store today, “Microsoft said. Instead of answering that question directly, however, Microsoft pointed to an indefinite future.

“Game consoles are specialized devices that are optimized for a specific use. Although they are very much loved by fans, they are far below the number of PCs and phones on the market,” said Microsoft, as if it means developers especially care about the difference when it comes to is coming. to the 30 percent cut. Given the “fundamental differences” between the PC and the console market, Microsoft said, “we have more work to do to establish the right set of game console principles.”

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