Microsoft Offers Up 10 Principles for App Stores

Posted on October 8, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Android, iOS, iPadOS, Mobile, Windows 10 with 89 Comments

Microsoft today revealed a set of 10 principles for app stores that it says will promote choice, fairness and innovation for everyone. It’s implementing them in the Microsoft Store for Windows 10, of course, and hopes that Apple, Google, and others will follow its example.

“App stores have become a critical gateway to some of the world’s most popular digital platforms,” Microsoft vice president Rima Alaily notes. “We and others have raised questions and, at times, expressed concerns about app stores on other digital platforms. However, we recognize that we should practice what we preach. So, today, we are adopting 10 principles—building on the ideas and work of the Coalition for App Fairness (CAF)—to promote choice, ensure fairness and promote innovation on Windows 10, our most popular platform, and our own Microsoft Store on Windows 10.”

Those 10 principles are:

  1. Developers will have the freedom to choose whether to distribute their apps for Windows through our app store. We will not block competing app stores on Windows.
  2. We will not block an app from Windows based on a developer’s business model or how it delivers content and services, including whether content is installed on a device or streamed from the cloud.
  3. We will not block an app from Windows based on a developer’s choice of which payment system to use for processing purchases made in its app.
  4. We will give developers timely access to information about the interoperability interfaces we use on Windows, as set forth in our Interoperability Principles.
  5. Every developer will have access to our app store as long as it meets objective standards and requirements, including those for security, privacy, quality, content[,] and digital safety.
  6. Our app store will charge reasonable fees that reflect the competition we face from other app stores on Windows and will not force a developer to sell within its app anything it doesn’t want to sell.
  7. Our app store will not prevent developers from communicating directly with their users through their apps for legitimate business purposes.
  8. Our app store will hold our own apps to the same standards to which it holds competing apps.
  9. Microsoft will not use any non-public information or data from its app store about a developer’s app to compete with it.
  10. Our app store will be transparent about its rules and policies and opportunities for promotion and marketing, apply these consistently and objectively, provide notice of changes[,] and make available a fair process to resolve disputes.

These are all excellent, of course, and many cut to the heart of the complaints that Apple, especially, has faced in recent years thanks to its abusive business policies. But I’m most interested in #6, because it’s so vague. What are “reasonable fees”? Shouldn’t they be closer to the 3 percent or so that credit card makers charge and much lower than the exorbitant 30 percent fees that are now so common in these stores? Microsoft is silent on this issue.

“We know that regulators and policymakers are reviewing these issues and considering legal reforms to promote competition and innovation in digital markets,” Alaily concludes. “We think the CAF principles, and our implementation of them, can serve as productive examples. Applying these principles to the Microsoft Store on Windows 10 is a first step and we look forward to feedback from developers and the broader community.”

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