An App Store for the Rest of Us13 Jan 2012
I’ve blogged a year ago about App Stores, calling that everybody gets an App Store or as Scott Hanselman tweeted it “There’s an App Store for that!”. I had hope for Microsoft to build a better app store that isn’t like Apple’s. So much for my hopes that were crushed when the details of Windows 8’s store was revealed last month. Microsoft promised developers a bigger bite of the apple, bigger than Apple’s. 80% rather than 70%. Your app qualify for the bigger cut if your sales exceed 25,000$.
While that seems generous, I still didn’t like the phrase Microsoft used to describe taking a percentage of your revenue; “Revenue Sharing”.
Imagine the government re-labeling taxes as “Revenue Sharing”.
So, Microsoft creates a platform (if we can pass upgrading Windows as creating a new platform), announces that the only way you can get applications of that platform is through their app store and then takes away a percentage out of every single copy sold on that platform.
Imagine you’re a tiny shop building applications for Windows. Now, you want to switch your app that costs 10$ to the new Metro-style UI of Windows 8. How are you going to handle pricing? Are you giving up $3 to Microsoft and reducing your income by 30% or are you going to raise your price to make room for the new cost and piss off your customers who have seen price increase with no features to justify it which eventually will lead (at least some) customers to jump ship to other products.
Why is a 30% (or even 20%) cut out of every copy sold on Windows Store justified? Is Microsoft not making enough money from every single copy of Windows running on 90% of computers on the planet? Do they really need to have 30% share of the entire software revenue on top of Windows revenue.
What exactly justifies taking a 30% cut? Hosting the application, distributing updates, reviews capabilities, all these doesn’t justify taking a percentage of revenue. No, it’s the monopoly. “You wanna build an app for this platform, then we’ll share revenue”. It’s all part of the Apple-ification of Microsoft. Redmond has been lifting pages out of Apple’s playbook, but this time they’ve gone too far.
Apple has always used monopoly over its platform as a revenue generator. “Use our hardware”, “Use our software”, developers build little tools to add functionality to MacOS only to find Apple copy their ideas in the next release of the operating system and claim credit for it. Microsoft has always been unlike that. They celebrate partnership with other hardware and software vendors. They open up the chance for developers to build tools to cover up for Windows shortcomings. “Live and let live”. Not any more, it seems.
It’s also the “consumerization”. Putting the consumer first. Let business, power users and tech people take a back seat for a bit. The average Joe is the center of attention. He doesn’t want better software or more control, doesn’t care about customization, just make it easier and more shiny even with fewer functionality. Maybe it’s just me, but consumerization ruins general-purpose computation and PCs as we know it today. Consumerization turns PCs and Computers into appliances. One for each function. They deprive me from the ability to create and turn me into a consumer to whatever big companies give me.
I understand that this a lot to blame on an app store but it’s not the new functionality that bothers me. It’s the mentality with which it’s offered. An app store for Windows is a great feature that helps developers offer and distribute their applications. It’s been long over due. But Microsoft is taking the wrong approach to deliver this feature. If I were to build an app store for Windows, I would do the following:
- Make it a new way to get applications, not the only way: Users should choose to use an app store because it’s better not because it’s the only way. At least a billion PC user in the world, I’m not gonna claim what’s best for them
- Developers can host their own apps: If you’re a developer and want to host your own app, that’s fine. An app store is only an entry point to discover all the different app repositories offered by all developers.
- Recommendations not Control: I believe that it’s important to guide average users to what’s best for them. “You shouldn’t use this applications because it’s buggy”. But not do that by anointing yourself King of the world. When a user purchase an app from a developer, it’s an agreement between the two and the platform vendor has nothing to do with it. I know that this app is buggy but I still would like to use it, it’s performing a function that I really need right now, I don’t want for the developer to comply with your review process. As a platform vendor who cares about how your platform is performing and used, you can use recommendations. “Microsoft doesn’t recommend this app because of performance issues” or “because of privacy issues”, “Please read for more details”. Developers would get an explanation for the recommendation and be able to fix the problem. Microsoft gets to place its recommendation high in the list next to the application description. This recommendation would really affect user’s decision and wouldn’t be restrictive to users who know what they’re doing.
- Standards, Standards, Standards: For this app store to be really open, and for it offer place for innovation by other software vendors, it has to rely of standards. A standard to how to discover apps, how to install them, license them, and update them. Standards that describe how these different process interact with each other, how two processes implemented by two different vendors can still work together. Microsoft can start by offering this standard and other would join.
It’s a shame really that Microsoft is taking over the software market like this. In times where there are attempts by governments to control the Internet, in more ways than one. It doesn’t help that giant software companies are restricting computers as well.