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DanJ

September 20th 2011 2:45 am

Microsoft goes to App-store only distribution for Metro. Why isn't everyone upset?

According to an engadget article, Microsoft has announced that they are going to an App-store only model for Metro style apps in Windows 8. This means that all Metro style apps will have to go through microsoft for approval, distribution, and (I believe a yet to be announced) cut of the profit.

In reading and responding to comments, it seems that there is a significant amount of confusion over what this means, and its impact. So I wanted to break down some key points here.

-- You don't need one to have the other --

There are numerous responses I am seeing expressing their support for this move, so I wanted to take the time to say, "stop it." There are no benefits that this move provides to consumers or developers. The only one who benefits from this is Microsoft, as they get tighter control, and a cut of the profit of all Metro apps.

People saying that app-store only will be a good way to easily find and download apps - those are two different issues. Providing the microsoft store is great. But you can do so while still allowing current methods of software distribution (i.e. downloading from a developer's website or buy a boxed CD). Mac OSX has an app store, and allows for direct installation like you have always had on desktop computers. Now I can choose to buy an app in the app-store, or i can choose to buy it from the developer's website for the same price, so that they don't loose 30% of the price to Apple.

As is the case with Mac OSX, Android (at least until the carrier disables it) or was the case with webOS, you can provide a curated app-store AND allow developers to directly distribute apps via whatever distribution and payment system they choose. Doing this provides the best of both worlds. Casual users who don't want to deal with anything but the app-store can do so, while specific developers who don't wish for Microsoft to control their product and profits can self-distribute. Microsoft has the option to do this as well, but is choosing to not allow this in order to get a say and cut of everything metro.

It is the choice to eliminate the option of independent distribution that is in question here - not having an app-store at all.

-- Viruses and Piracy --

A number of people have also been sighting the move to app-store only as a way to combat viruses and piracy. I have also seen numerous people saying that not supporting Microsoft's move to app-store only was supporting piracy.

It should be clear that an app-store only model will not eliminate either of these things. Providing the app-store option will help reduce casual user's virus expose because they wont go looking to download apps from the internet, but it will hardly eliminate viruses. Viruses are rarely widely distributed via people choosing to download them, they are received via vulnerabilities in the browser or email that allow the programs to install themselves without any input from the use.

As for piracy, it is a shame to think that Apple has been so good in demonizing jailbreaking that people think wanting the ability to directly download software can only be used for piracy. First off, as I listed above, there are many reasons why a developer or consumer would want to distribute apps outside of a curated app-store. Secondly, having a curated app-store does not reduce piracy. iOS is as locked down as you can get, and it is still extremely easy to pirate software.

-- You get nothing --

I really want to drive home the point, that this move will literally improve nothing for consumers. Because you can provide an app-store while also allowing for direct downloading of apps, the only thing that the move to app-store only does for consumers is eliminate choice.

-- Some examples --

Someone asked me why you would ever want to get apps other than a Microsoft app-store, so I thought I would through in some examples here at the end. I have been jailbreaking my iPhone for years in order to access, and pay for apps that are not available in the Apple app-store. These are some examples of those, as well as random examples of apps that have been rejected by Apple. These examples are not here to say that Microsoft specifically will or will not make these same decisions, they are simply here to illustrate different ways in which an app-store only model leads to less competition, less free-speech, less consumer choice, less innovation.

Podcatchers (applications that allow you to subscribe, and automatically download podcasts as they are released) - Until iOS 4 (I think) Apple was rejecting podcatcher apps because they felt it competed with iTunes (even though the itunes app does not do this). This means that Apple eliminated competition simply because they didn't want to have a free market where others could compete against their products.

Cameras with buttons - Apple has never allowed camera apps to use the volume button as a shutter release (I don't know why). If you wanted this functionality you had to jailbreak your phone. An example of how volatile the market can be when one company can simply say, "no" without explanation

Dictionaries - Apple had some rather infamous incidents where they rejected dictionaries from the app store because they contained curse words. An example of how a curated app-store can lead to litteral re-writing of culture, and elimination of free speech

Anything adult - Like porn? Well apple doesn't, so too bad. A problem that can easily be solved with parental controls. You better not have looser morals than whoever is running your app-store otherwise you're out of luck.

Political cartoons - Apple rejected a political cartoonist's app because it depicted politicians negatively. Again, one company decides what speech is allowed, and what is not.

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17 replies
keppy

Yeah, I am pretty ticked. There were a lot of things that looked promising to me in Windows 8, and I was thinking they had a small chance to win me back (been on Ubuntu for about 4 years now). Then they announced this.

Back when Apple announced the Mac App Store, I predicted that they would slowly but surely make the App Store the only place to get OSX applications, and I absolutely hated it and thought it was a terrible direction for the industry to go in.

I never would have imagined Microsoft would beat them to the punch. Unbelievable.

Looks like I'll be sticking with Ubuntu. Heck, Ubuntu has had a user facing, GUI based 'app store' (the Ubuntu Software Center) for far longer than Apple or Microsoft, and you'll always be able to install applications outside of it.
4 like dislike
groovechicken

I agree with you, this has nothing to do with consumers' needs and is a thinly disguised money grab by Microsoft. I also blame Apple for so desensitising people to the idea that they need a benevolent dictator that this is just going through without a lot of dissent. I read somewhere that Microsoft will take 30%. I have a hard time believing that Windows devs are taking that without more shouting. We'll see soon enough how long this model holds up, but I don't see Microsoft winning a lot of new devs over when there are no material benefits to using Microsoft's distribution platform over Apple's. These are strange days indeed.
3 like dislike
DanJ

Yea, that does seem like one possible way this can backfire and make microsoft change, is if devs don't get on board with this, and so continue to only develop in the traditional desktop environment, and metro really doesn't take off. Unfortunately I think only a small fraction of devs would need to build for metro in order for microsoft to view it as a success. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
0 like dislike
chrisrasco

If Microsoft wants the Metro UI to take off then they will have to ditch the idea that this is the only distro platform. Metro UI is a risk and it's out of the box and I don't think this is a positive move for support of that as a new standard.
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timchoi89

I completely agree with your point and now that I learned that Microsoft will require all Metro apps on the app store I believe that it'll just hurt Microsoft in the end. I believe this rule will discourage developers from developing Metro style programs making the switch from the traditional look to Metro style much more difficult and slow. If Microsoft knows what's good for them they should encourage developers by either getting rid of the 30% cut or allowing direct download of Metro style programs as well.
2 like dislike
frankspin

One possible positive I can see from this it possibly making it easier for developers to maintainer their software across two platforms. Maybe Microsoft is considering making the W8 & Wp7 store the same store and will give developers a way to writer their apps to work on both platforms, similar to how Android has their apps working across 2.3 & 3.X devices.

Other than that I think if anything this just simplifies it for the end user. Remember at the end of the day this isn't about you the power user but the general population. Mobile devices have changed the way the consumer looks for apps, they want a store or market. Microsoft is obviously realizing this and wants to do something about it. Is it great for us, the power user, yeah but in reality it's not the end of the world.
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keppy

No one is complaining that they are making an app store, that's perfectly fine. The problem is that the app store is the ONLY way to get apps. That is a major problem, as Microsoft takes a 30% cut of everything, regardless of whether a publisher is capable of distributing their own software. And Microsoft gets to decide what runs and what doesn't on your computer.
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frankspin

Well are they making it the only way for all software or just for Metro based apps because the OP had this in their post: "According to an engadget article, Microsoft has announced that they are going to an App-store only model for Metro style apps in Windows 8."

If it's for every piece of software than I have a problem but if it's just Metro based apps I don't see it as that much of a problem.
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keppy

For now it is just Metro, but it doesn't bode well for where it will be headed in the future...
1 like dislike
DanJ

Also, don't you want to use and encourage the new features of the OS? If its fine to do something bad with Metro just because the traditional desktop stays the same, than why would you upgrade in the first place? If you want to stay in the past, just stay with windows 7.
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cass

I agree that I would have preferred to see the existence of both an app store and a traditional download/install option. I think the app store is really good for people who don't want to go through the hassle of searching the web for apps or having to go to a companies website and figure out how to purchase software. This consistent and simpler process (hopefully) of acquiring software should be a much better system for a number of people over what we're used to in the WIndows 7 world.
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timchoi89

It should also make it simpler since the App Store will provide a one stop shop for all the updates for your apps (hopefully).
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jurrabi

+1000
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AnkitAggarwal

It sucks for sure, but I feel it is going to be more for tablet and phone apps (yes, I foresee a whittled down Win8 taking the place of WP8) than for desktop apps. Everything will be business as usual as a desktop/laptop user whereas tablet/phone users use the marketplace like they already do.
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keppy

Business as usual for now, but what about Windows 9 and 10? In my mind there's no doubt that they'll head down the Metro direction even further, and eventually attempt to restrict all app distribution to their app store.
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nibbet

I see the benifit of both Selling through the App Store all your finacials funcitons are handled by Compnay X. Selling through your site all of the finicails are handled by you or who ever you hire to do it. It's like landlords using property managment firms versus handle it by themselves.
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Pacoup

I'm certainly upset. I've switched back to OS X cause of this. It is now the least worse viable choice for desktop. At least Photoshop is gonna stay a first class citizen here without Adobe having to pay 30% of their revenue to Apple.
0 like dislike