The policies of Apple’s iOS App Store are under more scrutiny than usual, now that they stand in the way of cloud gaming services and are also facing a legal battle with Epic Games. Microsoft tested a version of its xCloud game streaming on iOS but couldn’t go any further with its app due to Apple’s restrictions. Since then, Amazon announced Luna cloud gaming that works on iOS via a web app with some help from the Safari team, and apparently Microsoft plans to follow a similar route.
Business Insider reports that during an all-hands call, Microsoft gaming boss Phil Spencer told employees that the company plans to bring Game Pass and cloud streaming to iOS devices via a browser-based solution at some point in 2021. A report from The Verge backed up that account of his statements, and also said Spencer laid out a plan to launch xCloud on streaming for Windows PCs next year.
The timing of Spencer’s comment is especially interesting as earlier today Microsoft detailed ten app store principles that it claimed will “promote choice, ensure fairness and promote innovation on Windows 10.” Among the promises, Microsoft said it wouldn’t block competing app stores from Windows, and wouldn’t block apps from its store based on a developer’s choice of payment processing for in-app purchases — which is specifically what the fight between Apple and Epic is focusing on. It also touched on its own issue with the Apple setup by promising not to block an app based on “whether content is installed on a device or streamed from the cloud.”
Microsoft supports choice, competition and fairness on Windows. This is the freedom consumers and developers want and it's the future of app stores. https://t.co/QjotTd538D
— Epic Games Newsroom (@EpicNewsroom) October 8, 2020
The folks at Epic Games called it “the future of app stores,” and Epic CEO Tim Sweeney tweeted that “it's wonderful to see Microsoft formally codify its long-held principles in Windows as an open platform and a fair market for all developers and consumers.”
Microsoft said its new policy is built on the ideas of the Coalition for App Fairness formed by Epic, Spotify and others in a way to help the company practice what it preaches. Notably, the 10 principles only apply to Windows, and not Microsoft’s Xbox console gaming platform, which is far more restricted. Citing fundamental differences in the business model for how console hardware is sold, Microsoft said “we have more work to do to establish the right set of principles for game consoles.”