10 new app store guidelines at Microsoft: Subtle criticism of Apple and Google

Microsoft has published ten new app store principles for Windows that promise developers, among other things, not to block competing app stores or specific monetization models.

Tech giant Microsoft introduces ten new guidelines based on the ideas of the Coalition for App Fairness to enable choice, fairness and innovation for developers. The company claims that app stores have become an important gateway to digital platforms for developers. Since Microsoft had criticized the app store guidelines on other platforms – above all Apple’s App Store – the company now wants to set a good example itself.

However, we recognize that we should practice what we preach,

it says in the official blog post of Rima Alaily, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Microsoft.

These are the ten new principles for Microsoft’s App Store

  1. Developers are free to choose whether they want to sell their apps for Windows via the Microsoft App Store. The company won’t block competing app stores on Windows.
  2. Microsoft will not block an app from Windows based on a developer’s business model or the delivery of content and services, even in the context of whether content is installed on a device or streamed from the cloud.
  3. Microsoft will not block an app from Windows based on a developer’s choice of which payment system to use to process purchases made in their app.
  4. Microsoft will provide developers with timely access to information about the interoperability interfaces used in Windows, as set out in the Interoperability Principles.
  5. Any developer has access to the Microsoft App Store as long as it meets objective standards and requirements, including those for security, privacy, quality, content and digital security.
  6. The Micorosft App Store is to charge reasonable fees that reflect the competition from other app stores on Windows. Developers aren’t forced to sell any part of the app they don’t want to sell.
  7. The Microsoft App Store does not prevent developers from communicating directly with their users through their apps for legitimate business purposes.
  8. Microsoft’s App Store treats its own apps according to the same standards as competing apps.
  9. Microsoft does not use non-public information or data from its app store about a developer’s app to compete with it.
  10. The Microsoft App Store will transparently present its rules and guidelines as well as advertising and marketing opportunities, apply them consistently and objectively, communicate changes and provide a fair process for resolving disputes.

Microsoft will continue to adapt these guidelines based on feedback, its own review from time to time, and developments in technology, digital business, or regulatory issues.

This is how the principles are supposed to work – teasing Apple and Google

In the blog post, Rima Alaily assures that Microsoft’s App Store for Windows has many advantages for developers and consumers. Especially because Windows 10 is an open platform.

Windows 10 is an open platform. Unlike some other popular digital platforms, developers are free to choose how they distribute their apps.

With this statement, Microsoft is presumably targeting Google and Apple, who for example do not allow their own payment systems for apps in their app stores. Hence the gaming hit Fortnite Banned from App Stores by developer Epic Games. Apple, which has often been criticized for its strict guidelines in the App Store, was described as a monopoly in the recently published 449-page report by the US Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law of the Committee on the Judiciary. The report says, for example:

Developers have explained that Apple actively undermines the open web’s progress on iOS ‘to push developers toward building native apps on iOS rather than using web technologies.‘ As a result, Apple’s position as the sole app store on iOS devices is unassailable. Apple fully controls how software can be installed on iOS devices and CEO Tim Cook has explained that the company has no plan to permit an alternative app store […] Apple’s monopoly power over software distribution on iOS devices appears to allow it to generate supra-normal profits from the App Store and its Services business.

In its own blog post, Microsoft is now also addressing the fact that the new guidelines will not apply in the company’s Xbox Store. There Microsoft demands a 30 percent commission for in-game purchases. Rima Alaily states that the gaming ecosystem differs significantly from that around PCs and smartphones.

Console makers such as Microsoft invest significantly in developing dedicated console hardware but sell them below cost or at very low margins to create a market that game developers and publishers can benefit from.

Microsoft still has work to do to determine the appropriate principles for a store in the context of consoles. With regard to its own Windows Apps Store, Microsoft now expects feedback from developers and the digital community. The guidelines of the Coalition for App Fairness could also apply to other app stores as a guide for change. But that the dominant app stores from Apple and Google will adhere to similar principles as Microsoft in the future is hard to predict at the moment.

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