Microsoft Takes Another Step Back From Its App Store

Posted on January 10, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 31 Comments

Last year, I wondered openly whether the Microsoft Store—Windows 10’s app store—was on the way out. Since then, the software giant has taken some decisive steps towards that once-imagined future. At Build 2019, it revealed that so-called Store apps—which now encompass several kinds of apps—would no longer need to be distributed from the Microsoft Store in Windows 10. And now we’ve learned that Microsoft is killing off the business- and education-based versions of the store.

News of the demise of the Microsoft Store for Business and the Microsoft Store for Education comes via the reliable Mary Jo Foley, whose sources say that these stores are now deprecated as “the company works to undo past Windows 10 app-distribution mistakes.”

To be clear, Microsoft hasn’t publicly acknowledged the changes. But Foley says that they will either be announced or implemented by the end of the software giant’s fiscal year, or June 30, 2020.

The trick here, of course, is that the one thing the various Microsoft Store variants have done well is serve as a place for downloads that were explicitly trusted by Microsoft. Kevin Gallo, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for the Windows developer platform, and the person most directly in charge of this part of the company, told Foley last year that he was still trying to figure out another way to communicate to users that apps could be trusted.

Given past miscommunications—the press was told at Build 2019 that UWP, Microsoft’s Windows 10-only development framework was “dead,” something the firm has not admitted publicly—I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that there’s no announcement about these changes, and that the two stores are simply quietly deprecated.

Regardless, these changes have me wondering anew about the Microsoft Store, which has never risen to the prominence of popular app stores like those from Apple and Google. I still believe that the Store is a good idea, but its lack of success is undeniable. As are the moves that Microsoft is making to ensure that trusted apps can be found and installed from elsewhere.

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Comments (33)

33 responses to “Microsoft Takes Another Step Back From Its App Store”

  1. Avatar

    Passinttd

    Really glad that I put off working on that... really glad.

  2. Avatar

    prettyconfusd

    Since discovering it (as ever, Microsoft don't make these things easy) earlier this year after transferring my school fully to Azure and O365 I've found the Store for Education invaluable so this isn't great to hear.


    It could be simpler to use, but as it is it's still pretty easy to control what store apps can be viewed by students, let alone downloaded - it's been super helpful in classroom management as the Windows Store on it's own was a real problem before we went all Azure - students could just freely roam the store and download anything they wanted, hardly ideal.


    Hopefully they keep some way for businesses and schools etc. to manage this kind of thing - considering their business and productivity focus seemingly everywhere else, ditching these things seems an odd move.

  3. Avatar

    willc

    Microsoft’s slow and steady dismantling of Windows continues...

  4. Avatar

    jblank46

    Business and education users would in most cases never use the store for distribution of apps unless the app is only available in the store. They would most likely distribute through 3rd party management tools, SCCM or Intune so this kinda makes sense. I hope the concept of the store doesn't go away though. It still is valuable to have a place where finding software for Windows is simpler than scouring the web for everything and where updates and licensing are just handled. Or perhaps the store will evolve to also list non MS hosted apps but points users to where they can be downloaded on the web ¯_(ツ)_/¯

  5. Avatar

    ivarh

    I tend to buy my apps for my mac on the mac app store if they are there. The reason is that you don’t get the stupid serial and app activation garbage that a lot of developers implement. I just download the apps and they update themselves. That is worth the extra money they sometimes cost. I find the convenience factor is worth it. I did buy some apps on the windows app store but all my machines are running as a VM and over time I end up with a few. In the windows app store i have to manually deregister old machines after a time to install even free apps something I never have had to do on the mac app store

  6. Avatar

    codymesh

    it's strange but the App Store hasn't been popular on Mac OS either, and neither has Google Play on Chrome OS helped that platform either. Also strange is how few people talk about the Chrome Web Store (which at one point was envisioned as a place to get wholesale webapps) and addons.mozilla.org despite both being very active


    there has also been considerable pushback from the Linux community (yes, it's the nerds) against Ubuntu's snap store as well.

    • Avatar

      Paul Thurrott

      It is rather striking how the key feature of mobile platforms, an app store, has been a non-event on all desktop platforms.
      • Avatar

        Chris_Kez

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        I think if Microsoft had created an app store for Windows ten or fifteen years ago, for all Windows software (not just some subset of apps); with only a small fee for developers; and allowed devs to maintain a direct connection with end users, then maybe it would have worked. At that time I think a lot of regular users still saw their laptop or desktop as their primary computing device and were more interested in trying out new and different software. But maybe the relatively higher prices of software would have continued to hold it back (OTOH maybe having a single source of trusted software would have created a surge in trial and usage that allowed devs to charge less money or forced them to compete on price).

        But once smartphones took over so much of our lives (and offered a ton of free and $0.99 apps), the PC and its pricey (or suspect) software was largely relegated to "work" or to simply browsing the web.

  7. Avatar

    csteinblock

    So apple and Google advertise and promote features, Microsoft just kills them! I don't get it.

  8. Avatar

    youwerewarned

    Biggest complaint with Windows Store: there is no logic to the presentation of apps. Search for "GPS" and you will get an apparently random cavalcade of images, not alphabetical, not ordered by ratings, installs, or anything useful. And why-oh-why do they maintain apps that have zero reviews and quite likely zero users or interest? A store with 10 million apps is nothing I want to deal with. Cull the krap!

  9. Avatar

    truerock2

    Apple has come to the realization that the GUI for touch screen smart phones, touch screen tablets and desktop PCs have different requirements. Microsoft stupidly thought they were going to have one GUI for all Microsoft devices - and the GUI was not very good.


    The whole situation with Windows 8 and Windows 10 GUI has been a disaster. Microsoft Office probably best represents how Microsoft will go forward in regard to OS GUI.


    Microsoft having a "Microsoft Store" was an excellent thing to try to do. Unfortunately the "Microsoft Store" required the horrible Windows 10 GUI and everything associated with the Windows 10 GUI is destined for failure.

  10. Avatar

    karlinhigh

    What I'd want from an app store is something like Ninite Pro, ninite com

    A minimally-decorated list of apps, able to sort and filter by publisher, check boxes for each desired and click install, and it just does that and then keeps them updated.

    Instead, all app stores I've ever seen would much rather push entertainment and movie-poster content than have efficient data display and navigation.

  11. Avatar

    cmucodemonkey

    I thought the idea of UWP applications and an app store made a ton of sense when Microsoft was promoting its non-PC devices like phones and their fitness band. Applications that run on all my devices available from a common store? Sounds great! Then those non-PC devices failed to make a dent in the market and were discontinued. Suddenly the ecosystem became smaller and the UWP concept felt much less "universal" than it did before.

  12. Avatar

    bob_shutts

    The use of the foggy term "deprecate" could be interpreted a number of ways. IS MS overhauling the App Store or removing it?

  13. Avatar

    solomonrex

    This makes no sense. Every other platform has a store, and if the current model doesn't work, then they need to keep iterating. And maybe education and business stores are just branding that didn't work. But. Why on Earth wouldn't it work for them?


    The only other way I see, in fact, is if they formally delegate to Valve or set up open source type repositories a la Linux. They can't go completely without, even in the Enterprise.


    They are already people working in IT today that have never worked without an app store on their devices. They still need formal deployment mechanisms, and those are usually called stores.

    • Avatar

      crp0908

      In reply to solomonrex:

      Store for Business works as a "whitelist" of apps for enterprises. Basically, someone within the enterprise needs to be responsible for maintaining a whitelist of every single app that the enterprise requires within the Microsoft store. No one where I work wants to do that full time job, so we ignored the Microsoft Store for Business.


      On the other hand, a blacklisting of Microsoft store apps would be very useful within enterprises. We would be more than happy to maintain a blacklist.

  14. Avatar

    wbhite

    I've not used the Store a lot, but one positive thing I've noticed is how app updates are done: silently and seamlessly in the background. In particular, I'm referring to their Power BI Desktop application. If you install it from the Store, you're always up to date with the latest version; no extra steps needed. If you install it outside the store, from a legacy setup executable, you have to remember to manually check for updates and then go through that whole process. If they truly do eliminate the Store one day, I hope they (and other publishers) will build these silent update process directly into their apps.

  15. Avatar

    earlster

    I'm a big fan of the store concept, really like to have one place and one payment method for my app needs. Permissions info and other app details are all in one place, and updates are seamless. What's not to like?


    It's a freaking mess, unless you know exactly which app you're looking for, it's impossible to find a quality app for a given task in the sea of junk. Curation, reviews, etc. are awful. Sadly a great idea ended up in the way to common MS fashion for consumer products, half baked, badly promoted and then left for dead.

  16. Avatar

    tboggs13

    From a management perspective I love the app store. Deploying apps are incredibly easy and updating is automatic without having to run numerous updaters for all the apps.


    MS as usual made lots of mistakes.

    1. Tying the app store to UWP in the beginning.
    2. Not adding a store for Windows 7.
    3. Charging Apple/Google prices for entry to the app store (They should have learned from Windows Phone that is you start in third place you have to be way more aggressive)
    4. Every Microsoft app should already be in the store. (Nothing shows confidence in a platform like not using it)


    I know that Apple modeled their store more after traditional brick and mortar, with a huge cut which they have been derided for. And I know there are costs to maintain a store, but it can't be as much as maintaining a bunch of brick and mortar stores with boxed inventory. App store fees should be much closer to the cost of credit card transactions than store markup.

  17. Avatar

    AlexKven

    "Kevin Gallo, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for the Windows developer platform, and the person most directly in charge of this part of the company, told Foley last year that he was still trying to figure out another way to communicate to users that apps could be trusted."


    Maybe just keep things the way they are? It may not be the hottest thing out there, but I don't see why the king of backwards compatibility can't just keep the store as a legacy model. They don't need to come up with a way to securely deliver apps if they just keep the store going, like they have been for nearly 8 years.

  18. Avatar

    bluvg

    Microsoft... please don't try to do your own thing with the now-familiar user concept of an "App Store". The is not the type of thing Microsoft has done well in the past. A central, curated place to install apps with confidence is not a bad idea. Fix what is broken with the implementation, not the concept.

  19. Avatar

    bluvg

    "I wondered openly"


    Is this often because a contact tipped you off or gave you a sense of upcoming changes?

  20. Avatar

    brduffy

    If only there was a certification process like the one they had for hardware. Its not big shops like Adobe that people worry about so much. But small shops might want to write an app that they don't want confined to a sandbox but still would like to have it certified and hosted in the Microsoft Store.

  21. Avatar

    Stooks

    "Microsoft Store, which has never risen to the prominence of popular app stores like those from Apple and Google."


    Hmmm. You mean the iOS and Android stores....possibly the chrome browser extension store. Apple's Mac app store is a complete joke.


    I am not a ChromeOS fan (never, ever will be) so I have only touched it once or twice but judging by the market share of Chrome OS I can imagine it is not very successful either. Then again every ChromeOS user has to use it, all .34% of the computer desktop users out there.


    I like the Windows store and the security it brings. I like the way store apps, at least universal apps created their own registry hive and the easy install, update and remove. I like how I can easily move a store installed app, say a game from one drive to another in Windows 10 settings. I install my Xbox games from the store on to my gaming PC, hopefully they will have a replacement for that.

    • Avatar

      SvenJ

      In reply to Stooks: I was thinking this myself. The Google and Apple app stores are supported by iPhones and Android phones, not Macs and Chromebooks. While those platforms do have stores, I expect they are less used than the Windows App store. I have a Mac and Chromebook, and rarely look to the stores for applications, though I do use Google Play for Android apps on the Chromebook. I'd hate to go back to the days where every application had their own updater running in the background throwing up reminders (and ads).


  22. Avatar

    will

    Maybe they will have a new "App Store" that now works with apps from Google? Maybe it will be a new flavor of the Play store and if they work with Google, they will work with Microsoft.

  23. Avatar

    rob_segal

    It's possible for the store to go away, but the technology behind store apps to remain. App makers could host the installs on their site and Windows manages it instead of the store. App updates could still occur automatically. One-click install and uninstall. A mechanism could be built to notify users that it's a modern app instead of a msi or exe setup. Most of the benefits can stay while the store app itself goes away.

  24. Avatar

    Chris_Kez

    The app store should have been a good thing for users, developers and Microsoft. I like having a single source for trusted and verified apps. Microsoft should have allowed all manner of desktop and web apps from the start; done so with only a small fee to help offset management costs (5%?); staffed up a solid team of people to help with curation and discovery; given developers direct access to consumers; etc. It really could have been a win-win, even if Microsoft made little or no profit. But they got greedy, over-played their hand and tried to force too many things (maybe not so dissimilar to how they bungled Windows Phone by not only charging a ridiculous licensing fee but also having too-stringent hardware requirements for OEMs).

    • Avatar

      eric_rasmussen

      In reply to Chris_Kez:

      I can't agree more. Windows actually needed a single source of trustworthy applications, but then they made UWP and the Windows RT application model a requirement to be in the store. They've spent untold amounts of money on ridiculous ideas like S Mode... I wish the Windows leadership team would have a brainstorm session with Paul and Mary Jo so that we could have some sensible improvements to the platform. Microsoft has done a lot of really great things like WSL and the new terminal, but these almost feel like accidental successes in an ocean of botched ideas.

  25. Avatar

    F4IL

    From Wikipedia:


    In general English usage, the infinitive "to deprecate" means "to express disapproval of (something)". It derives from the Latin verb deprecare, meaning "to ward off (a disaster) by prayer".

  26. Avatar

    David Lowndes

    I think if the app store was open to all apps it would be used more; if chrome was available for example. If it was something more like the Linux version where you can install almost everything through it/

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