Hi. I’m Antoine Leblond, Vice President of Windows Web Services. This is the first post in our new Windows Store blog, which will be dedicated to informing developers both on the progress of the Store as a service, and the platform and economic opportunity the Store represents.

In September, we announced the Windows Store as part of Windows 8 and the distribution point for Metro style apps. And today, at our Store Preview event in San Francisco, we described the app policies and business terms for the Store, both of which are now published to our Dev Center.We also announced our First Apps contest for developers, and confirmed that we’re also inviting a select set of developers to submit Metro style apps for inclusion in the Beta version of the Store.

We’re also proud to publish the Store’s developer-first economics—with up to 80% revenue share for apps sold through our platform. Combining the broad reach of Windows, a new developer platform, best-in-class developer tools, a reimagined user experience, support for new chipsets, and a built-in Store with industry-leading business terms—Windows 8 is the largest developer opportunity, ever.

As with the Building Windows 8 blog, this is a dialog. Comments will be supported and the common sense rules apply. Thanks in advance for your consideration and interest in the Windows Store!

This first post is authored by Ted Dworkin, Partner Program Manager for the Store.

- Antoine


When we set out to build the Windows Store, we wanted to do the best job of connecting people to as many great apps as possible. We realize the challenge of having apps stand out, particularly as app catalogs grow. We thought a lot about ensuring quality, maintaining trust, reducing friction, and enabling choices. We designed for these guideposts. We further established a set of four guiding principles that would inform both the overall design of the Store as well as the partnership that we want to have with developers:

  • Designed for discovery
  • Flexible business models
  • Transparent terms
  • Best economics

We’ll now get into each principle and describe how developers can use these to take help them build great experiences for customers.

Designed for discovery

Ensuring the visibility of apps and the efficiency and fluidity of app discovery became the fundamental building block of our Store design. We use minimal chrome so apps shine through, and complement the apps with a series of way-finding and promotion mechanisms—search, category browse, ranking lists, editorial curation — to help people find great apps.

Store landing page, with Spotlight category containing 5 featured apps, and Games category cut off at right edge of screen, containing several game apps

Windows Store is designed for easy app discovery

We designed the landing page to push compelling apps to the surface. We use categories to help organize the apps—the latest, most popular, and fast rising apps all have dedicated lists surfaced here. You’ll see personalized app recommendations and also topic pages that promote apps related to editorial themes, helping surface what would otherwise be hidden gems.

Navigation is simple and consistent with the model of Windows 8. Built-in search supports directed discovery, fluid panning moves you through the categories, and category filters help locate the most relevant apps.

We know people use the Web to find apps, so the Store app catalog will be indexed by search engines. We also support direct linking to app webpages.

Bing search results for the terms “fashion photography conde nast” include “Conde Nast Collection app for Windows”

Finding an app via web search

Windows Store Preview / Condé Nast Collection / ***** 78 ratings/ Free / View in Windows Store / Developer: Condé Nast / Copyright 2011 / [detailed description of app follows]

Web search result links directly to this app listing page

The web search result will point to a web version of the app listing, which we publish based on the same content provided for the Store app listing. If you are running Windows 8, the page directs you to the Store. If you don’t have Windows 8, the page says the app is available on Windows 8.

Developers can also promote apps from their websites, not just with “available in the Windows Store” logos, but with built-in promotion through Internet Explorer 10. With just a line of markup, your website promotes your app via the app button within the browser, visible to anyone running Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8. 

Evernote web page shown in IE10 browser. App button appears at bottom of page next to address bar, with a tooltip “Get the app”.

When viewing a site using Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8, an app button appears on sites that have a Metro style app available

The app button on a Windows 8 PC takes you to the app listing in the Store or directly to the app, if it’s installed.

These design choices mean minimal distance between the user and the app listing, which is a developer’s promotional canvas. Below, you can see that ZeptoLab, the developers of the popular game Cut the Rope, can take full advantage of the design of the app listing page to show off the Cut the Rope app that they’ve developed for Windows 8.

Cut the Rope / Store > Games > Puzzle / ***** Average rating (1023) / $1.49 / Buttons: Buy / Try / Large image and detailed description of the app 

Metro style apps can support free trials with in-app purchasing

Reach

Visibility is also about reaching customers around the world, in the language of their choice. The Windows Store is an opportunity to reach customers with free and paid apps in 231 markets worldwide.

We’ll have a number of market-specific catalogs, tailored for those customers, and a “rest of world” (ROW) catalog for all other markets. Developers can choose the catalogs in which their app is listed, and we will continue to increase the number of market-specific catalogs and payment providers over time as we evolve the Store service. You can see the extent of our global support in the Dev Center.

 (in Chinese)

The Windows Store will be available in 231 markets worldwide. This version is for the Chinese market

Even though the Windows Store isn’t available yet, the talented developers at Renren—a popular social network in China—have created a rich, Metro style app in XAML and C# that is tailored to their customers and a delight to use.

(in Chinese)

The Windows Store will include support for more than 100 languages.
Here, China's Renren has created a localized Metro style app.

Enterprise

With more than 1.25 billion Windows users globally, we have to design for both consumer and enterprise users. Enterprise developers have been asking about their path to market with Metro style apps. And, in turn, IT administrators have been asking about deployment and management scenarios, such as compliance and security. Apps listed in the Store are visible to all Windows 8 users, so enterprise apps can be offered in the Store, just like any other Metro style app. However, we also offer support for enterprises that want direct control over the deployment of Metro style apps.

Enterprises can choose to limit access to the Windows Store catalog by their employees, or allow access but restrict certain apps. In addition, enterprises can choose to deploy Metro style apps directly to PCs, without going through the Store infrastructure. For Windows 8 Beta, IT administrators can use group policy to permit Metro style app installations, as long as the apps are signed by trusted publishers and the machines are joined to the domain. Then the IT admin can use powershell commandlets to manage those Metro-style apps on Windows 8.

ESRI has built this XAML and C# Metro style app for claims adjusters, using their great GIS capabilities, and they plan to sell it direct to insurance companies.

Claims overview / 13 total claims, 4 open, 9 completed / a map showing the location of 4 claims

The Windows Store also has apps for enterprises

This enterprise app can be deployed by IT administrators directly to the Windows 8 PCs they manage. But it can also be made available to devices that move between work and home. You can see on this slate device that the ESRI app lives side-by-side with not only a set of games from the Store, but also an expense report line-of-business app that IT has also provided just for internal use.

Start screen of unmanaged Nike device

IT departments can deploy apps to either managed or unmanaged devices

This deployment flexibility ensures that employees have software on the devices they prefer while IT can continue to manage software payloads based on their company’s needs and regulations.

Flexible business models

At //build/, we talked about the technical flexibility of the platform and the technology choices that developers have for building Metro style apps. But it’s also important for developers to have freedom and flexibility in determining the business model that’s right for their apps. Developers need to be able to evolve business models as conditions change. We’ve put the developer in control of these choices.

We have full platform support for free apps, trials (both time-based and feature-based trials) and paid apps, including in-app purchase. And we have sales analytics that will help you target customers more effectively.

That said, developers can also choose to manage their customer transactions directly, for example, with newspaper subscriptions, or to adopt a business model with offline fulfillment, such as for auctions. We don’t mandate a specific transaction engine and developers can use their own. They can also choose the ad control that works best for them.

Store transaction platform

Trials and in-app purchases are two great ways for developers to engage their customers. We have full support for both. We’ve seen tremendous success with trial conversions on apps in our Windows Phone Marketplace. But some platforms don’t support trials or require full app downloads during trial conversion. We support in-place trial upgrade, for both time-based and feature-differentiated trial types, as you can see in Cut the Rope, which offers a trial version with a few levels of the app available for free. Using in-app purchase, Cut the Rope players can upgrade to new levels right in context, as they play the game. No app reloads or restarts required, and all the settings are retained.

Cut the Rope Trial / Buttons: Play, Full Version 

Trial apps are fully supported by the Windows Store

This app from Animoto, built with HTML and JavaScript, also uses the Store transaction platform for built-in upgrades, such as pay-as-you-go video themes and higher-quality video compression from Animoto’s cloud production service.

  Animoto / Select your new plan / Plus - $4.99/month or $29.99/year / Pro $39.99/month or $249.99/year / Reseller $499.99/year [plus detailed descriptions of each plan]

The Windows Store transaction platform has full support for in-app purchases

Animoto uses the transaction platform for time-based access to premium services (users can pay for a month at a time, or buy a “Pro” upgrade that’s good for a year).

Our Store licensing service will help protect the intellectual property of each Metro style app developer. This will help provide a consistent experience for customers and also allows for additional features, such as app roaming.

Third-party transactions

Lots of apps already have business models that depend on a particular transaction provider or that benefit from ties to other lines of business. Customers of those businesses want the trust and efficiency of a familiar, trusted transaction experience.

Content publishers, for example, have their own transaction platforms that integrate into their CRM systems so they can keep track of their subscribers. The Daily Telegraph, a British daily newspaper, was founded in 1855 and today has more than 600,000 subscribers. They’ve built an engaging Metro style app for Windows 8, using HTML and JavaScript. The app uses The Daily Telegraph’s existing authentication to acknowledge its print subscribers, and offers the digital version as an added value for those customers.

The Telegraph for Windows / Existing Telegraph Subscriber? Button: Subscriber login / Not a Telegraph subscriber? Button: Buy Monthly Subscription / Single Edition – Button: Buy Today’s Edition

Developers who want to use their own transaction platforms for in-app purchases can do so with the Windows Store

The Daily Telegraph can deepen their audience engagement, and reach new customers, via the Windows 8 app model and Store distribution—all without having to rebuild their authentication and transaction base.

Marketplaces that limit transaction choices can constrain certain models. For example, eBay is building its Windows 8 Metro style app so that it manages transactions using PayPal in the same way the eBay website currently operates—the way eBay customers would expect.

Screen shows shipping address and several options for shipping, order details, transaction amount, and a button: Pay with Pay Pal

The Metro style app for eBay uses PayPal to manage transactions, mirroring the way their website works today

Ads

Consistent with our commitment to flexibility for developers, we also allow choice in ad controls, as many developers take advantage of advertising as a way to fund their businesses. With the Windows Store, developers can choose to use whatever ad platform they prefer, whether it’s from Microsoft or someone else.

Transparency and profitability

We want to increase predictability and eliminate any capriciousness in app certification. We do this by providing every developer with the technical certification assessments—the App Certification Kit —as part of the SDK. We also provide app acceptance guidance, in plain language, in our app certification policies. The App Certification Kit and the SDK are included when you download the Windows 8 Developer Preview. We’ll give feedback to developers whose apps are rejected, so they can address the issues quickly and resubmit the app for publication.

Our app certification policies are now published, and are organized around just a few, clear precepts. We designed the policies to help ensure quality and predictability in core app behaviors while enabling innovation and differentiation in app experiences.

We know that interpretations will vary and questions will arise. The flexibility in our platform and Store model will result in creations we can’t possibly anticipate; this outcome is absolutely by design. We want to provide a great path to market for that innovation. So the policies are living documents. When they change, we’ll publish a change log so developers don’t have to guess.

Economics of the Store

There’s perhaps no more material expression of our commitment to the economic viability of Windows developers than the amount of money the Store will generate for developers. We’ve just passed the 500 million licenses sold mark for Windows 7, which represents half a billion PCs that could be upgraded to Windows 8 on the day it ships. That represents the single biggest platform opportunity available to developers. Our industry-leading business terms are a clear expression of this “developer-first” point of view. We intend to offer the industry’s best terms, so that the best apps make developers a lot more money on Windows than on any other platform. We can’t wait to see what gets created.

  • Our individual registration fee will be $49 USD ($99 USD for companies).
  • We will share up to 80% of the revenue generated from app sales.

The revenue share base is 70%, but when an app achieves $25k USD in revenue—aggregated across all sales in every market—that app moves to 80% revenue share for the lifetime of that app.

So, once an app establishes a bit of success, we increase the revenue share to 80% to reflect and reward that success. And when you look at the breadth of the Windows customer base, the potential for innovation on the platform and the appeal of new devices that take advantage of these software and hardware advances, we expect an entirely new scale of economic opportunity to be realized for app developers.

What comes next

The Windows Store will be available when Windows 8 Beta is released, and we want customers to experience some great new apps at that time. So today we’re announcing a First Apps contest, where developers get a chance to have their app featured in the Windows Store for Beta.

One quick note: all apps during the Beta period will be free apps – we won’t be supporting paid apps on our transaction platform during Beta. We will hold off on the release of platform transaction support in a future milestone. Beta will help test and reinforce our scale model. It’s a feedback opportunity regarding our onboarding and certification process, and a chance for developers to get early feedback on their Metro style apps.

In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to post to this blog, adding depth to a number of the areas we introduced here today, and introducing new subjects for discussion. And this blog will remain active after Windows 8 releases. The Store is a service and will continue to evolve. We’ll post here about what we’ve learned and what we’re doing next.

Your feedback and questions are extremely important to us. To that end, we have created a dedicated Store forum for all of our conversations. We are looking forward to seeing you there!

- Ted Dworkin