Microsoft released 10 new principles is committing to app stores on Windows. Many of the principles point to how Apple runs its App Store, which has led developers to speak out against the company.
The company’s principles are promises to both application developers and rules that Microsoft will follow. They cover things like competition, app store fees, and more. For example, Microsoft promises not to block applications in Windows based on the payment systems in the application that a developer chooses to use.
Microsoft’s principles clearly respond to current issues regarding Apple and its App Store policies. Developers have accused the iPhone maker of unfairly enforcing policies and using its control over iOS and the App Store to force developers to do whatever they want. Epic Games’ lawsuit against Apple is the prime example of this.
Epic started the fight
In short, Epic added a new payment method to its popular Fortnite game on iOS and Android. The payment method allowed gamers to bypass Apple and Google’s in-app purchase system, which makes payments easy but has a 30 percent cut. In return, Epic offered players a discounted cost for using their direct payment method.
As expected, Apple and Google responded by booting Fortnite outside of their stores, as both prohibit the use of third-party payment systems. Epic filed lawsuits against both companies. On the Google side, things are not so dire as the open nature of Android allows gamers to install Fortnite from sources outside the Play Store. Epic’s main argument against Google is that it placed restrictions on Android that make it difficult to install apps from other sources.
On iOS, the App Store is the only way people can install apps. That means Apple has almost total control over developer access to iPhone and iPad users and a lot of leverage to force developers to do whatever they want. Epic’s main claims against Apple are that the company abuses this leverage to maintain a monopoly. Epic has also complained that Apple is applying its rules unfairly.
Building a coalition to take on Apple
Although the dispute between Epic and Apple will be resolved in court next year, many other developers have sided with Epic. That includes Microsoft, which has had its own dispute with Apple over policies banning its new xCloud game streaming service. A recent report from the US Congress included details of a former App Store director who said Apple used its guidelines as a “weapon against competition.” In particular, he outlined how Apple used its policies to block xCloud and other game streaming services that could potentially compete with its similar Arcade service.
Spotify, Epic, Tile, Match and other developers have come together to form the Coalition for App Fairness, which calls for a “level playing field for app companies.”
Rima Alaily, Microsoft Deputy General Counsel, said The edge that Windows 10 “is an open platform”.
“Unlike other popular digital platforms, developers are free to choose how they distribute their applications,” said Alaily. However, when it comes to Xbox, some may wonder why Microsoft hasn’t applied the same principles and still charges a 30 percent fee for purchases from its store.
“It’s reasonable to wonder why we’re not applying these principles to that Xbox store today as well,” Alaily explained. “Game consoles are specialized devices optimized for a particular use. Although they are much loved by their fans, they are outnumbered in the market for PCs and phones. And the business model for game consoles is very different from the ecosystem that surrounds PCs or phones. “
Different business models aside, Microsoft believes it has more work to do to establish principles for game consoles.
Microsoft’s 10 principles
The curious can read the full set of principles below, or check them out here.
- Developers will be free to choose whether to distribute their Windows apps through our app store. We will not block competing app stores on Windows.
- We will not block a Windows application based on a developer’s business model or the way it offers content and services, including whether the content is installed on a device or streamed from the cloud.
- We will not block a Windows application based on the developer’s choice of which payment system to use to process purchases made in their application.
- We will give developers timely access to information about the interoperability interfaces we use in Windows, as set out in our Interoperability principles.
- Each developer will have access to our app store as long as it meets objective standards and requirements, including security, privacy, quality, content, and digital security.
- Our app store will charge reasonable fees that reflect the competition we face from other Windows app stores and will not force a developer to sell anything they don’t want to sell within their app.
- Our app store will not prevent developers from communicating directly with their users through their apps for legitimate business purposes.
- Our application store will maintain our own applications with the same standards with which it maintains the applications of the competition.
- Microsoft will not use any non-public information or data from its app store about a developer’s app to compete with it.
- Our app store will be transparent about its rules, policies, and promotional and marketing opportunities, will apply them consistently and objectively, will notify you of changes, and will make available a fair process to resolve disputes.