Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

With Its App Marketplace Principles, Microsoft Positions Itself as a Friend to Developers

Microsoft president Brad Smith:

Today we’re announcing a new set of Open App Store Principles that will apply to the Microsoft Store on Windows and to the next-generation marketplaces we will build for games. We have developed these principles in part to address Microsoft’s growing role and responsibility as we start the process of seeking regulatory approval in capitals around the world for our acquisition of Activision Blizzard. This regulatory process begins while many governments are also moving forward with new laws to promote competition in app markets and beyond. We want regulators and the public to know that as a company, Microsoft is committed to adapting to these new laws, and with these principles, we’re moving to do so.

Microsoft is making eleven promises to developers for its Windows software marketplace. Some are straightforward enough, like how it says it will hold developers to standards of security — but not privacy — while others are clear shots at Apple and Google, like its flexible rules around in-app payments. But it says not all of the same rules will apply for Xbox developers, particularly those around in-app purchases and developer communications, because these promises are designed to get ahead of proposed legislation. That is not an oversimplification; Smith:

Second, some may ask why today’s principles do not apply immediately and wholesale to the current Xbox console store. It’s important to recognize that emerging legislation is being written to address app stores on those platforms that matter most to creators and consumers: PCs, mobile phones and other general purpose computing devices. For millions of creators across a multitude of businesses, these platforms operate as gateways every day to hundreds of millions of people. These platforms have become essential to our daily work and personal lives; creators cannot succeed without access to them. Emerging legislation is not being written for specialized computing devices, like gaming consoles, for good reasons. Gaming consoles, specifically, are sold to gamers at a loss to establish a robust and viable ecosystem for game developers. The costs are recovered later through revenue earned in the dedicated console store.

Microsoft says it will eventually make these rules standard on Xbox, too, but one wonders how that is possible when it says those existing payment structures are necessary for a “robust and viable ecosystem”. It may be happy to apply what it calls a “principled approach” in its Windows marketplace, but that is an open platform for developers. It would be like if Apple applied these same policies to its Mac App Store, but not iOS — I would have questions.

Emmanuel Maiberg and Edward Ongweso Jr, Vice:

We should recognize Microsoft’s messaging for what it is: an attempt to convince us that self-regulation will turn out good for all of us. Self-regulation is how we got here, though. We need laws, not agreements — antitrust actions backed up by law, not corporate rhetoric that will disappear at Microsoft’s earliest convenience.

Becky Hansmeyer:

As I think about Microsoft cleverly positioning themselves as a developer’s best friend, I can’t help but assume that Apple execs are whining “they’re making us look like the bad guys!” instead of asking themselves, “ARE we the bad guys?”

Well said.