Microsoft rolled out 10 new principles it’s committing to with app stores on Windows. Many of the principles take aim at how Apple handle its App Store, which has led developers to rally against the company.
The company’s principles are promises both to app developers and rules that Microsoft will hold itself to. They cover things like competition, app store fees and more. For example, Microsoft promises not to block apps on Windows based on what in-app payment systems a developer chooses to use.
Microsoft’s principles clearly respond to the ongoing issues surrounding Apple and its App Store policies. Developers have accused the iPhone-maker of applying policies unfairly and using its control over iOS and the App Store to force developers to do as it wants. Epic Games’ lawsuit against Apple is the foremost 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 players to bypass Apple and Google’s in-app purchase system, which facilitates payments but takes a 30 percent cut. In return, Epic offered players a discounted cost for using its direct payment method.
Unsurprisingly, Apple and Google responded by booting Fortnite off their stores as both prohibit the use of third-party payment systems. Epic launched lawsuits against both companies. On the Google side, things aren’t as dire since Android’s open nature allows players to install Fortnite from sources outside the Play Store. Epic’s main argument against Google is that it placed restrictions in Android that make installing apps from other sources more difficult.
On iOS, the App Store is the only way for people to install apps. That means Apple has near total control over developer access to iPhone and iPad users and plenty of leverage to force developers to do what it wants. Epic’s primary claims against Apple are that the company abuses this leverage to maintain a monopoly. Epic has also complained that Apple applies its rules unfairly.
Building a coalition to take on Apple
Although the feud between Epic and Apple will be settled in court next year, plenty of other developers have taken Epic’s side. That includes Microsoft, which has had its own tussle with Apple over policies prohibiting its new xCloud game streaming service. A recent report from the U.S. Congress included details from a former App Store director that said Apple used its guidelines as a “weapon against competition.” Particularly, he described 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 banded together to form the Coalition for App Fairness, which calls for a “level playing field for app businesses.”
Rima Alaily, deputy general counsel at Microsoft told The Verge that Windows 10 “is an open platform.”
“Unlike some other popular digital platforms, developers are free to choose how they distribute their apps,” Alaily said. 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 on its store.
“It’s reasonable to ask why we are not also applying these principles to that Xbox store today,” Alaily explained. “Game consoles are specialized devices optimized for a particular use. Though well-loved by their fans, they are vastly outnumbered in the marketplace by PCs and phones. And the business model for game consoles is very different to the ecosystem around PCs or phones.”
Different business models aside, Microsoft does believe it has more work to do in establishing principles for game consoles.
Microsoft’s 10 principles
Those curious can read the full set of principles below, or check them out here.
- Developers will have the freedom to choose whether to distribute their apps for Windows through our app store. We will not block competing app stores on Windows.
- We will not block an app from Windows based on a developer’s business model or how it delivers content and services, including whether content is installed on a device or streamed from the cloud.
- We will not block an app from Windows based on a developer’s choice of which payment system to use for processing purchases made in its app.
- We will give developers timely access to information about the interoperability interfaces we use on Windows, as set forth in our Interoperability Principles.
- Every developer will have access to our app store as long as it meets objective standards and requirements, including those for security, privacy, quality, content and digital safety.
- Our app store will charge reasonable fees that reflect the competition we face from other app stores on Windows and will not force a developer to sell within its app anything it doesn’t want to sell.
- Our app store will not prevent developers from communicating directly with their users through their apps for legitimate business purposes.
- Our app store will hold our own apps to the same standards to which it holds competing apps.
- 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 and policies and opportunities for promotion and marketing, apply these consistently and objectively, provide notice of changes and make available a fair process to resolve disputes.