Welcome to the Release Preview Windows Store. In this post, we’ll describe a few of the improvements we’ve made to the user experience. We’ll also touch on a few updates that we've made to our app certification policy, in an effort to ensure guidelines and expectations remain clear. And, of course, we want to encourage you to dive in and explore the hundreds of preview apps currently in the catalog—including the first desktop app listings. These apps are just the beginning—we’ll continue to add apps during the Release Preview timeframe. Ted Dworkin, Partner Director of Program Management, authored this post.

--Antoine


Since we first introduced the Windows Store, we’ve highlighted many of the different investments we’ve made toward providing a fantastic catalog of apps for every Windows customer and a great, global developer value proposition. We've showcased everything from a user experience that supports app promotion and discoverability to language support to app licensing and analytics. After all, a thriving Store ecosystem depends on great customer and developer experiences.

The Release Preview Store contains a number of improvements for both customers and developers. The Store also continues to grow—we now have more apps from more locales, being delivered to more locale-specific catalogs. We added 33 new developer submission locales just since the Consumer Preview, and we now support 38 markets for app submission with support for more markets on the way.

The Store now offers a unique app catalog for customers in 26 markets, increasing the Consumer Preview number by 21. This number, too, will continue to grow as we continue to expand the service globally. In the meantime we continue to include a “rest-of-world” catalog for those locales we have yet to support.

    US Store Home Page 

China Store Home Page

 

Brazil Store Home Page

Improvements in navigation

Feedback from the Consumer Preview helped identify a set of navigation challenges that we needed to address. When exploring categories, customers had difficulty discovering how to return to the main home page of the Store. We provided a Home link, but folks just didn’t see it.

A Windows Store screenshot showing the hard-to-find Home page link

In addition, customers struggled to find the list of apps they had acquired, for the purposes of installing those apps to additional PCs. This obstructed the value of allowing customers to download apps onto multiple PCs, and syncing the settings between them. We address both problems—how do I get home, and where’s my app list—by taking advantage of the Metro style affordance for navigation: a nav bar. Based on early feedback from customers, the nav bar has helped to solve these two critical navigation issues.

Windows Store with Nav Bar

Improving app management

Customers also asked for more control over their app download experience. To address this, we added the Metro style solution for commands, the app bar, to the download manager. This gave us a natural location to move the Pause control and a place for the new Cancel control, which was added for the Release Preview.

Windows Store with App Bar

Support for Share contract

Previously, we’ve described how contracts are great mechanisms for app-to-app interaction and how the entire Windows 8 operating system gets more powerful and interesting as more apps use more contracts. With the Release Preview version of the Store, we keep this momentum going by supporting the Share contract, allowing you to share info about apps with friends and family right from any app listing page.

Windows Store now supports the Share contract

These are just a few of the more noticeable improvements to the Store experience that we’ve made based on Consumer Preview feedback. There are thousands of smaller improvements in this preview release—from performance to animations, home page layouts and visual polish.

Desktop apps

One important addition: desktop app listings will show up in the Store for the first time tomorrow, June 1st. Customers will be able to search for them or find them within categories, just as they do listings for Metro style apps.

Desktop app in the Windows Store2

These are just listings—the desktop apps themselves are distributed by the developer or by a reseller, as they have been all along. The listing pages provide a link, supplied by the developer, to the distribution location. Servicing of desktop apps remains between the developer and the customer and is not handled via the Store.

Soon, we’ll post a blog entry further explaining the certification requirements and listing process for desktop apps.

Policy additions and revisions

We first published our app certification policies at our Store Preview Event, where we also reiterated our commitment to transparency in our partnership with developers.

For the Release Preview, we’ve revised a number of policies to increase developer efficiency, and introduced several new policies. As we’ve updated the policies, we’ve kept a revision history to aid consideration of the content. I’ll go over some of the bigger changes now (and note that whenever we introduce significant changes, we’ll blog about them here to further highlight and explain them).

We saw a lot of questions about the relationship between Metro style apps and related websites, so we updated the wording for policy 2.4 to clarify this. The goal is to ensure rich, satisfying experiences within the app and limit context switching to accomplish tasks. Policy 2.4 now reads:

2.4 The primary experiences your app provides must take place within the app

We added clarification to policies 3.5 and 3.6 about input support and respecting system affordances. These policies are designed to ensure predictability and robustness in the experience on every Windows 8 enabled device. We’ve also added considerable design guidance since the Consumer Preview to further explain our principles and provide specific instructions to assist implementation. Policies 3.5 and 3.6 now read:

3.5 Your app must fully support touch input, and fully support keyboard and mouse input

Your app must provide visual feedback when users touch interactive elements.

Your app must not use an interaction gesture in a way that is different from how Windows uses the gesture. The Windows 8 touch language is described in Touch interaction design.

3.6 Your app must use the mechanisms provided by the system for those features that have them

Your app must support a snapped layout. In landscape orientation, your app’s functions must be fully accessible when the app’s display size is 1024 x 768. Your app must remain functional when the customer snaps and unsnaps the app.

Your app must neither programmatically close nor offer UI affordances to close it. Windows 8 Process Lifetime Management closes Metro style apps automatically.

Your app must suspend and resume to a reasonable state.

If your app implements an app bar, that bar must show up with a bottom-up swipe.

If your app implements a navigation bar, that bar must show up with a top-down swipe.

We also expanded on polices that relate to transaction support to help ensure that customers are aware of the transaction provider and can be more confident in making purchases. These pertain only to apps that use commerce providers other than the Store. We updated policy 4.7:

4.7 If you use a transaction provider other than the Store's, you must identify the provider at the time of the transaction or when it collects any payment info from the customer

If your app uses the Windows.ApplicationModel.Store namespace for in-app purchases, this messaging is provided for you. If your app uses any other method for in-app purchases or to collect payments, it must display a message to the customer stating that you are responsible for the transaction and not the Windows Store.

For example, in-app purchases made from apps produced by Contoso that don’t use the Windows Store for the transaction would display a message such as, “This item is available from Contoso” at the time of the transaction.

And we added policy 4.8:

4.8 If your app doesn't use the Windows.ApplicationModel.Store namespace for in-app purchases, your app must prompt the user for authentication to allow a transaction to be accomplished.

The app can offer the user the ability to save this authentication, but the user must have the ability to either require an authentication on every transaction or to turn off in-app transactions.

Finally, we made a number of smaller revisions to improve readability and comprehension. Our certification policies comprise a living document and we will continue to evolve them with the best interest of developers and customers in mind.

Apps

Really, though, this Release Preview is about getting more apps into the catalog and into the hands of customers. That’s the best way for developers to exercise the platform, for customers to engage with the Preview, and for us to continue to evolve and ready all aspects of the service for broad availability.

We’re excited to have lots of new apps to offer in a range of languages—all still free, and ready for immediate download. Here are a few to check out—starting with the always entertaining Fruit Ninja.

      

Fruit Ninja screenshot

Windows 8 is a great gaming platform, but it’s a “no compromises” release and Metro-style apps are for productivity, too. We’re also excited to have the Box app for the Release Preview.

Box

While lots of apps have universal appeal, we want to ensure we have great support for apps that target certain markets or interests. Major League Soccer has delivered a fantastic Release Preview app—rich, immersive and intuitive.  
Major League Soccer screenshot

Our full-screen, chrome-less, immersive app model is ideal for viewing content. We’re pleased to have the Financial Times app in available in this Release Preview to give you access to business news and help you stay current on the global economy.

Financial Times screenshot

And as we expand our Store language support for both developer markets and consumer catalog offerings, we see more and more developers taking advantage of the market opportunities and language support in the platform.

Larouse screenshot

youdou_screenshot3

These are just a few of the many new apps we have in the catalog. We look forward to your feedback. In the meantime, we’re going to take the slightest of breaks, maybe consider taking advantage of Cocktail Flow, and then get back to working hard toward the next public release.

Cocktail Flow screenshot

To learn more about some of the other changes we’ve made, check out the Windows app developer blog.  And, in the meantime, enjoy the apps!

-- Ted

Note: We replaced the first two images in this post on 6/1/2012, as the previous images did not reflect the most recent UI.