With the future Windows 8, a new app store

December 8, 2011

At a trendy art gallery in San Francisco’s Mission District, Microsoft on Tuesday evening previewed its answer to Apple’s App Store—illustrating once again that trendsetting is not Microsoft’s strong point.

Better late than never, though, and Microsoft did have a few surprises for the developers and journalists on hand for the event. For one, the software store will be built into Windows 8 Beta and debut in late February, meaning the test version of the new operating system will be out then too. Commercial release of Windows 8 is expected for the fall, a bit earlier than previously anticipated.

Microsoft will also take a smaller cut of revenues on third-party apps than the Apple or Android stores, and give developers more flexibility in setting prices and establishing their own payment plans. Windows Web Services VP Antoine Leblond also promised developers far more transparency and feedback during the app submission process than Apple and Google provide.

The Apple and Andorid stores both take 30% of revenues from third-party developers. Leblond said the Windows store would keep that much until sales exceeded $25,000, and after that the Microsoft cut would fall to 20%.

Sina Mobasser, a Los Angeles-based app developer who attended the event, said the more generous revenue split was a real lure. Mobasser is the co-founder of BarMax — a bar exam prep course app currently available on iPads and iPhones.

“Even though it’s only a 10 percent difference in revenue split, it’s going to be a 14 percent increase in profits,” he calculated.

With the Windows 8 Beta release and its new app store, Microsoft inches closer to making its first foray into the touch-friendly, tablet-optimized computing world. It hopes to combine that with the huge installed base of the old Windows world – 1.25 billion copies of Windows have been sold worldwide—and sell not just nifty new social apps and games, but heavy-duty productivity software as well.

The Windows store apps will be priced from $1.49 to $999.99.

“The sheer size of their audience is something I’m excited about. The question is, are these users going to buy these apps,” Mobasser said.

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