Microsoft’s fairness principles for apps try to lure developers into their...

App store business is a hot topic these days. Governments on both sides of the pond and around the world are trying to scrutinize big tech. Apple and Google are obviously the figureheads for app stores, but they’re hardly the only big ones out there. There’s Steam, PlayStation, and Xbox, for example, and even Microsoft has its own Windows App Store. The latter is now being advertised as a more open App Store by codifying what almost all developers already know: you don’t have to be in the Microsoft Store.

Microsoft boasts that Windows, especially Windows 10, is an open platform, but that’s more a product of history than a philosophical choice. Windows was born at a time when there were no app stores, let alone a profitable business model. Microsoft really had no choice but to keep Windows open to build its kingdom, and it’s far too late to close this without serious consequences as it has already learned the hard way several times.

In response to recent events around app stores and likely subtly shadows on Apple and Google, Microsoft released its 10 guiding principles for promoting app fairness. In short, it’s black and white, as is common today, that Windows software developers can freely publish their apps wherever they want, use whatever billing method they want, or even ignore the Microsoft Store entirely.

However, Microsoft also paints the image of a Microsoft Store that is more open than any other commercial operating system on the market. Of course, this store has its own rules that Microsoft promises to be transparent about, but there are also less restrictive requirements for developers. More importantly, it promises to charge reasonable fees and not block competing app stores.

These principles are in line with the new App Fairness Coalition. So it’s no surprise that Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, once a vocal critic of Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform Push, is delighted with this public engagement. Microsoft reserves the right to review and revise these principles, and those who know the company’s history may not be as confident about its long-term implementation.

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