Microsoft has unveiled a new set of Open App Store Principles that will apply to the Microsoft Store on Windows and to the next-generation marketplaces the company will build for games.
The company has described the Open App Store Principles as being “grounded in app store legislation being considered by governments around the world,” including the United States and the European Union.
The “principles” can be effectively considered to be a direct promise from Microsoft not to do things of which Google and especially Apple have been accused, such as gaining unfair advantages over developers that depend on their app stores.
As we’ve said on other occasions, we recognize that the emerging new era of tech regulation brings with it both benefits and risks, not just for a single company but for our entire industry. As others have pointed out, there are risks with any new regulation, and these deserve a fair hearing and thorough consideration. But as a company, we continue to be more focused on adapting to regulation than fighting against it.
In part this is because we have been adapting for two decades to antitrust rules, and we’ve learned from our experience. While change is not easy, we believe it’s possible to adapt to new rules and innovate successfully. And we believe it’s possible for governments to adopt new tech regulation that promotes competition while also protecting fundamental values like privacy and national and cyber security.
The principles we’re adopting today will also ensure we’re providing the best possible experience for creators and customers of all sizes. These principles are grounded in app store legislation being considered by governments around the world, including by the United States, the European Union, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, and elsewhere.
While no legislation is perfect, we believe it’s possible to implement these new laws and continue to innovate responsibly and grow a healthy and profitable business.
Microsoft has also committed to continue allowing sideloading in Windows, a file transferring process that Apple has repeatedly condemned.
Most notable, however, is that Microsoft’s policies don’t just apply to Windows. They permit developers to use their own payment systems, and open the Windows store to third-party app stores, in addition to reducing Microsoft’s cut of Windows games. There are also hints that the Xbox store will eventually be opened up.
Specifically, Microsoft’s Open App Store Principles make commitments in four important areas:
Quality, Safety, Security & Privacy
We will enable all developers to access our app store as long as they meet reasonable and transparent standards for quality and safety.
We will continue to protect the consumers and gamers who use our app store, ensuring that developers meet our standards for security.
We will continue to respect the privacy of consumers in our app stores, giving them controls to manage their data and how it is used.
We will hold our own apps to the same standards we hold competing apps.
We will not use any non-public information or data from our app store to compete with developers’ apps.
Fairness and Transparency
We will treat apps equally in our app store without unreasonable preferencing or ranking of our apps or our business partners’ apps over others.
We will be transparent about rules for promotion and marketing in our app store and apply these consistently and objectively.
We will not require developers in our app store to use our payment system to process in-app payments.
We will not require developers in our app store to provide more favorable terms in our app store than in other app stores.
We will not disadvantage developers if they choose to use a payment processing system other than ours or if they offer different terms and conditions in other app stores.
We will not prevent developers from communicating directly with their customers through their apps for legitimate business purposes, such as pricing terms and product or service offerings.
The company says that it recognizes that emerging legislation will apply new rules to companies that both run an app store and control the underlying operating system like Windows. Therefore, they are also committing today that:
We will continue to enable developers to choose whether they want to deliver their apps for Windows though our app store, from someone else’s store, or “sideloaded” directly from the internet.
We will continue to give developers timely access to information about the interoperability interfaces for Windows that our own apps use.
We will enable Windows users to use alternative app stores and third-party apps, including by changing default settings in appropriate categories.