Microsoft Says App Stores Should Be More Competitive

Elroy Mariano

SEATTLE — Microsoft said on Thursday that it would give developers more control in its app store, providing a sharp contrast to Apple, which is facing growing pressure for its firm grip on its App Store. Microsoft said it was adopting 10 “principles” for its app store, the Microsoft Store, […]

SEATTLE — Microsoft said on Thursday that it would give developers more control in its app store, providing a sharp contrast to Apple, which is facing growing pressure for its firm grip on its App Store.

Microsoft said it was adopting 10 “principles” for its app store, the Microsoft Store, that customers can use to install programs on Windows 10, the computer operating system. The guidelines include giving developers the ability to sell different services on their apps and their websites, and allowing users and developers to have access to third-party app stores.

The announcement was not a major change in policy for Microsoft, whose app store is more open than Apple’s. But it added a powerful voice to a raging debate about how the large tech companies should manage their app stores, where they act as powerful gatekeepers between developers and consumers.

The principles aim “to promote choice, ensure fairness and promote innovation,” Rima Alaily, deputy general counsel at Microsoft, said in a blog post announcing the approach.

Apple is at the center of the debate over app marketplaces because it forces developers to distribute their apps on iPhones and iPads through its hugely lucrative App Store and then takes a 30 percent cut of many of those apps’ sales. Epic Games, maker of the popular game Fortnite, has accused Apple in an antitrust lawsuit of abusing its size to overcharge app developers. On Tuesday, House lawmakers claimed that Apple had a monopoly on the apps marketplace for iPhones and iPads, leading to higher prices for consumers.

Apple has defended its App Store, and questioned the findings of the House report, saying that the cut it takes from developers is standard in the industry and that developers have flourished under the trust customers have in safely downloading apps on iPhones and iPads.

“The App Store has enabled new markets, new services and new products that were unimaginable a dozen years ago, and developers have been primary beneficiaries of this ecosystem,” the company said on Tuesday. It did not respond to a request for comment about Microsoft’s announcement.

Microsoft’s principles largely echo the proposals made by the Coalition for App Fairness, a new nonprofit representing app developers. The group’s members include Epic Games, Spotify and Match Group, the developer of Tinder. The coalition has said it aims to coordinate the response of smaller companies in the hope of changing the standards for large app stores.

Ms. Alaily said she hoped Microsoft’s commitment to the standards could be a “productive” example for regulators and lawmakers as they consider whether to change the app store model.

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