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Windows 8 beta will launch in February with Windows Store

Multiple sources are reporting that Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) has confirmed that its upcoming Windows 8 operating system will launch in beta test form to the public in February.  The operating system is currently publicly available in the form of an earlier, rougher build dubbed the "Developer Preview".  The key message -- Microsoft is giving big developers much more of a revenue cut than its rivals, as well as providing them with other monetary advantages.

I. Window 8: Beta Launches in February, Complete With Windows Store

Despite the polished nature of Windows 7, which made it the fastest-selling OS in history, Microsoft appears to have been able to make all sorts of improvements for Windows 8 based largely on customer feedback.  Among the improved features include a less painful Windows Update processfaster bootsdecreased OS resource consumption, and improved file transfers, a streamlined upgrade process for the initial installation, and switching to a primarily online sales distribution model.

Microsoft also spilled details of its upcoming Windows Store, its take on a PC app store (analogous to Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) recent Mac App Store), at a special Tuesday press event.  It then posted most of these details in a detailed post on its MSDN blog.

Windows Store
Unlike the Mac App Store that's Apple's attempt to control all apps, Microsoft's Windows Store is a bit more purpose driven -- it only accepts Metro-themed apps.  For those unfamiliar with metro, it's the colorful tile driven Microsoft style that pops in the Zune, on the web, and in Windows Phone.  Metro UI is inherently touch friendly, and that's a big reason why Microsoft is pushing the Windows Store -- to promote touch friendly apps over a heterogeneous deployment base (tablets + laptops + desktops) that might otherwise lead developers to neglect the touch end of the spectrum.

Windows Store app example
An example Windows Store entry for a Metro UI app.

Like Google and Apple, Microsoft's approach could be called a "closed garden".  You must meet Microsoft's standards and you must use the Metro UI in order for Microsoft to distribute your app.  Of course those who don't like this can use traditional distribution means or other clients (like Valve), which should be compatible for Windows 8.

II. "Meet Innovation -- Money!"

Winnebago Man
"Meet innovation.... money!" -- Winnebago Man [Image Source: YouTube]

Let's put the biggest developer perk up front -- after the first $25,000 USD in revenue -- which it will take an industry standard 30 percent cut on -- Microsoft will only take a 20 percent cut (lower than Google and Apple).  

The company revealed that it was one-upping its competitors by offering several key improvements for developers.  Unlike Apple, Microsoft offers the ability to set their app price in $0.50 USD increments, starting from $1.49 USD.  

This isn't quite as flexible as Google Inc.'s (GOOG) laissez-faire pricing for the Android Market/Chrome Web Store -- which allows any price -- but that may be a good thing.  In Android Market, most developers set their apps at $0.99 increments anyways, in order to keep prices consistent with other platforms.  But only small developers tend to engage in more chaotic pricing (e.g. $2.02 USD).  In that regard, Google is more flexible, but by and large developers don't really seem to use or need that extra pricing control.

Apple, on the other hand tends to offer developers too little pricing options, mandating prices in $1.00 USD increments, starting from $0.99 USD.  As with many things Windows 8, Microsoft takes the middle path of the two approaches, and arguably comes to a winning formula.

Microsoft promises support for "alternate transaction services" (e.g. subscriptions and other in-app purchases) and support for "multiple advertising platforms".  But with its in-app purchases/subscriptions, it plans to freely allow developers to implement their own systems that it does not take a revenue cut of.  This is in stark contrast to Apple and Google who route purchases through their respective markets, taking a cut. (Plus Google flat-out does not allow in-app subscriptions, a big issue.)

Subscription app
Google does not allow subscription purchases in apps.  Apple allows them, but demands a full cut, prohibiting indepedent distribution.  Microsoft will both let developers come up with their own fee-free subscription services or alternatively use its own easy subscription models for a small fee. [Image Source: Digital Lifestyle Gadgets]

Microsoft also allows developers to charge up to $999.99 USD, substantially more than the Android Market's price limit of $200.00 [source].  This is similar to Apple, but Apple cuts down on your pricing choices at higher prices -- it only allows $5 USD increments from $49.99 USD to $99.99 USD; $10 USD increments from $99.99 to $249.99 USD; and $50 USD increments from $249.99 USD to $399.99 USD; and $100 USD increments from $399.99 USD to $999.99 USD.

III. Windows Store -- the Biggest Developer Opportunity?

While Apple and Google would disagree, on Microsoft's blog it plugs the new Windows Store's as an unmatched developer opportunity, writing:

Windows presents the largest single platform opportunity for developers, with 500 million Windows 7 licenses sold around the world to date.  

The Windows Store will be global, enabling developers to sell their apps in any of 231 markets and in more than 100 languages. 

Like the iTunes App Store and Android Market, Microsoft will work to try to make sure that all its Windows Store apps appear in the search results of the most used search engines.  It will also include a built Windows Store search button in its upcoming Internet Explorer 10 browser, set to launch alongside Windows 8.

IE 10 Windows store buttons
When Windows 8 usrs visit the website of an app in Internet Explorer 10, code launches a "Get the App" button (see bottom right), which allows users to directly visit the app's Windows Store web entry.

For the Beta, all the apps in the Windows Store will be free.  Only select apps will be available.  Developers who wish to be considered for enrollment will have to apply to this contest of sorts, at this link for consideration.  

Build Contest

While free, ad-support will be fully live in the beta stage apps.  Paid app purchases will go live at the Windows 8 launch date, which is tentatively slotted for Fall 2012.  Free apps from the trial period will be fully available for conversion to a paid app, at launch, similar to preview versions in the Windows Phone Market.

Windows Store is the only place where home users can get Metro apps, indicating that Windows 8 will use digital rights management to control Metro UI accessibility.  Fear not, though, business users -- IT and corporate deployments will be free to make their own third party Metro UI apps, which are exempted from the requirement of going through the Windows Store.

(All images are from Microsoft in this article, unless otherwise noted.)

Sources: The Verge, MSDN, All Things Digital



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By kleinma on 12/7/2011 7:02:17 PM , Rating: 5
Maybe the strategy actually works. Sit back a little bit and let google and apple go toe to toe. Figure out what everyone likes about both, and doesn't like about both, and develop from there.




By stburke on 12/7/2011 8:40:46 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, but without decent hardware adoption why bother? WP7 has some great apps thanks to MS being so generous but if Windows 8 can't get a foothold with hardware focused on utilizing their app store (tabs, smart phones, other touchscreens) I see little incentive to develop something.


By TakinYourPoints on 12/8/2011 12:41:19 AM , Rating: 2
That's really the thing. I don't see myself buying Metro apps because I don't see myself buying a Windows tablet. I will certainly continue to buy normal Windows desktop apps, but that's what Steam and developer websites are for.

The segmentation between Metro and the normal desktop is what concerns me. Apple's app stores are discreet, one for tablets and one for normal desktop applications as an option. If Microsoft has non-Metro apps in their store, then maybe it's something I'd consider using. If it's Metro only, probably not.


By David007 on 12/8/2011 4:46:46 AM , Rating: 2
But don't underestimate the Windows Store appeal to developers and Microsoft's determination to push it. More and more full-blown apps will be Metro only and every new Windows PC will support Metro apps.

For example games can easily be implemented in Metro - it supports DirectX with no limitations. Of course, game developers will want to maintain backwards compatibility with Win 7/Vista/XP, but they will want the Store distribution channel as well. So the Metro DirectX games can have slow start, but will be increasingly common in the coming years.

So if you will continue to use PC, you will be forced to use Windows Store rather sooner, than later.


By B3an on 12/8/2011 6:49:46 AM , Rating: 3
This app store is available to all versions of Windows 8 on any device. Within 2 years it will likely have the biggest user based around. Over 500 million PC's now run Win 7. Being as Win 8 will also run on ARM devices, not just AMD and Intel, then Win 8 could likely have even more users over the same period of time. This app store simply cannot fail. For most users a Metro app, even on a desktop PC will be perfect for the typical user. The apps dont have to be simple phone-like apps either, this is a full version of windows not some cut down mobile OS, so there will be some very powerful and capable metro styled apps.

You people need to think bigger.


By Taft12 on 12/8/2011 6:41:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Within 2 years it will likely have the biggest user based around.


None of whom have been conditioned to buying apps smartphone-style. It's not nearly as important as it sounds.


By Da W on 12/8/2011 9:34:33 AM , Rating: 2
41000+ apps for a Windows Phone platform that DOES NOT SELL. There will be more Windows 8 PC/tablets after a month than Windows phones 7 after 2 years. I think you will see quite a bit of apps. Starting with WP7 apps that can be easily ported and then standard Windows software that were written in .net that can be ported too with a few changes to the UI. Native support for HTML5/Javascrip written apps is very nice too.

It's not all about touch but also about live tiles. Turning on your computer and already having a peak at your e-mails, tweet deck, facebook wall, stock quote, weater and so on without opening anything.


By Mitch101 on 12/8/2011 6:02:43 PM , Rating: 2
If you have an X-Box Download X-Box Companion immediately I just got it last night and I havent tried this yet but read someone from 50 miles away was able to remote control their x-box from work. This is huge for me because I can put on a movie for my wifes parents or the kids without having to be there or try to tell them how to do it although now with the kinect control they just say the movie and it finds it they can then play it. It makes popcorn hour, boxee, apple tv, and google tv look like something from the 80's.

I only got to play around with it for 5 mins but this is what its all about Kinect voice control and windows phone remote access. I have to see if I can open a website from my phone while at work on the x-box to show my wife what Im talking about that would be massive for me.


By someguy123 on 12/7/2011 10:23:29 PM , Rating: 2
But it's not really working. WP7 is a decent platform (though low on apps), yet adoption is declining. google rushed to get android out the door and now have majority share, even though there's problems with fragmentation and many OEMs slapping on battery hog tracking on top of android.

Being first helps a lot with public perception. This sit back approach isn't going to work unless it's coupled with a massive ad campaign to make more people aware that WP7 is actually viable.


By jonmcc33 on 12/8/2011 12:51:49 AM , Rating: 2
There were ads at the beginning of the year and new ones now. The issues have been phone selection. I have a HTC Arrive from Sprint but that's the only option on Sprint for a WP7. It's a great phone but there really needs to be a lot more options.

WP7 is actually a great phone interface. Apps are so-so but I'm more of a phone user than I am the type to install a bunch of apps.


By David007 on 12/8/2011 4:50:18 AM , Rating: 2
The WP7 adoption is not declining. The combined Windows Mobile + Windows Phone installed base is still declining, which is definitely a bad thing, but it doesn't mean the decline of the new WP sales.


By Da W on 12/8/2011 9:26:00 AM , Rating: 2
Phone is one thing, and Android might just be the best all around phone OS (although i personnaly don,t like it). Plus you can easily live with your phone not sharing the same environment as your home/work PC.

Tablets might be another matter. Apple proves that iOS integration with iPhone and Mac is a big plus. Especially when you have a 16GB tablet and 3G data cap but gazzillion of videos on your PC and all over the internet, PC-tablet integration is a definite advantage. Android tablets are not that popular even after one year on the market. I wonder how many Honeycomb tablets were sold compared to WP7 phones....


By Supa on 12/7/2011 10:36:06 PM , Rating: 3
That's a nice way to describe Microsoft's strategy.

Essentially, when you have lots of cash and little innovation, this is what you do - you follow your way in with big cash.

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"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser














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