Should PC Developers worry about Windows Store?
When Microsoft launched its Windows Store alongside its then new operating system Windows 8, it was for the most part a mobile store made available on the desktop as well.
There were no win32 applications offerings in the store, and it was clear that Microsoft had to fight an uphill battle in trying to convince users and developers to give the company's new store a chance.
Many developers ignored, and are still ignoring, Windows Store even while new features and improvements are introduced to it by Microsoft.
Major apps, Instagram, Pinterest or WhatsApp are still nowhere to be seen in the latest iteration of Windows Store.
Microsoft's answer to the lack of developer interest was to create the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) which allowed developers to create one application for all devices running Windows 10.
The company pushed Windows 10 on its Xbox platform, Windows Mobile, and desktop PCs for the most part. This increased the reach of the platform significantly and allowed Microsoft, and other developers, to produce games and apps for all these platforms simultaneously and with minimal effort.
Microsoft made that clear with the announcement that major Xbox games, most thought to be exclusives for the platform, were also been made available on Windows Store for devices running Windows 10.
Rise of the Tomb Raider, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, or Quantum Break will all be made available on Windows Stores, and while most of those are produced or published by Microsoft, there is a chance that third-party developers will do the same, especially if they don't have plans to release a win32 version of a game.
That's a good thing on one hand, considering that gamers can purchase and play these games on their PCs even if they don't own a Xbox.
It reminds me however of how Microsoft tried to get users, and specifically gamers, to Windows Vista when it came out. It made a handful of games Vista exclusive, and we all know how that turned out in the end.
Epic Games' Tim Sweeney sees the UWP as "the first apparent step towards locking down the consumer PC ecosystem and monopolising app distribution and commerce".
He fears that Microsoft will force developers and companies, including his own, to distribute their software via Windows Store exclusively in the future as there is no system in place currently that allows companies to build their own version of Windows Store and distributing UWP apps and games through it.
Sweeney admits that side-loading -- the downloading and installing of apps and games from third-party sources -- is supported by the Universal Windows Platform but is difficult to enable for users and something that Microsoft could change or revoke at any time in the future.
Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft's Xbox Division stated on his Twitter account that Microsoft had no intention of putting up a walled garden in regards to its Universal Windows Platform.
Windows has always been an open ecosystem welcoming the contributions of hardware and software partners, and will always continue to be. UWP is a fully open ecosystem, available to every developer, and can be supported by any store. Broad range of tools. We will discuss our next steps with the Universal Windows Platform at //build later this month.
Sweeney response was that he liked the sound of the revelation, and that he was looking forward to //build to get more details about the planned openness of the platform.
For Microsoft, UWP is a work in progress much like Windows 10 is a work in progress that evolves constantly. It is puzzling that Microsoft would not inform software companies about the company's intentions in regards to the Universal Windows Platform, but that appears to be the case.
The Build developer conference is held from March 30, to April 1, 2016 in San Francisco. It will be interesting to see what Microsoft will reveal at the conference about its plans for the Universal Windows Platform.
Should developers be worried then? I think they should be cautiously optimistic at this point in time, and wait and see what Microsoft announces during build.