Microsoft Windows Store Cleanup 2016

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 5, 2016

If you want to compete with Google's and Apple's mobile platforms, you have to be on an eye to eye level when it comes to the number of offered apps.

This seems to have Microsoft's initial idea when it launched Windows Store as a native application in Windows 8.

Things did not work out too well for the company. Windows 8 was not really that successful, and Windows Mobile never managed to get a sizeable market share either.

The situation got better with the release of Windows 10, but Windows Store is still not there where Microsoft wants it to be.

Developers focus on Android and iOS, and the consequence is that many popular apps and games are not available for Windows.

windows store cleanup 2016

Microsoft seems to have changed its strategy in regards to Windows Store and application availability in recent time. The company began to clean up the store in earnest in July by removing low quality applications from the Store.

According to a report on the German Dr.Windows site, more than 30,000 apps in the German store alone.

This major move is not comparable to past clean ups where Microsoft focused on removing fake apps from the store.

It is rather interesting that the removal of tens of thousands of apps won't be the last this year. Microsoft announced recently that any app and game needs to have age ratings associated with it to remain in store.

This is a rather simple multiple-choice questionnaire that developers need to complete to have their application or game listed in the store.

Developers who have apps or games in store already need to do the same thing. Microsoft never mentioned it explicitly, but making this a requirement is a surefire way of weeding out apps or games that are not maintained anymore, or low quality.

Some developers pushed dozens of apps to the Store when it first opened, and many of those apps are still there. They have not been updated after their publication, and are of little use, and it seems likely that the developer or company responsible won't go through the age verification questionnaire for all those apps.

Closing Words

It is clear that Microsoft cannot compete with Apple or Google when it comes to sheer numbers. That's not really necessary either, as a properly maintained and managed store that is offered a sizeable number of high quality apps may be more to the liking of users.

The removal of low quality apps won't resolve Microsoft's main issue though; that many high profile apps are not available for Windows Store at all.

One option that Microsoft has is to sprinkle money around to get high profile developers to port their apps to Windows Store. A good starting point would be the top 10 apps of certain categories, or even the top 100 overall apps.

While this would cost Microsoft a pretty penny, it would improve the perception that users have of Windows Store.

Now You: What would you do to improve Windows Store?

Microsoft Windows Store Cleanup 2016
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Microsoft Windows Store Cleanup 2016
Microsoft began to clean up the company's Windows Store in earnest in July by removing low quality applications from the Store.
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  1. Old Coot said on October 28, 2016 at 3:32 am

    Would DELETE it Permanently, Who wants Juvenille Crap?

  2. TomW said on September 7, 2016 at 1:22 am

    I actually like some of the Windows apps offered through the store. The Netflix app, for instance is a much better alternative to watching in a browser. Similarly I enjoy using myTube+ for catching up on my youtube Watch Later list. The minimal window decorations help.

  3. chesscanoe said on September 6, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    The only app I’ve willingly installed on Win10 AE is a free chess program, which is not bad graphically, although you can’t play the game remotely or choose another chess playing engine to play against. It does read *.pgn files, allowing you to replay games published on the internet. Lots of better but more complicated ways to get its function, but not all of them free of course.

  4. Sais said on September 6, 2016 at 10:12 am

    I would like to see Win32 apps in the store too.

    It is nice to have lightweight apps for Instagram (Instapic), Facebook, Messenger like apps, though.

  5. Jeff said on September 6, 2016 at 8:35 am

    Still haven’t found out why anyone needs apps on a PC when it can run Win32 programs better suited to the input devices of a PC. OK, maybe games are OK as apps but they too have restrictions compared to Win32 games. I wish Microsoft would move this entire Store app ecosystem to another mobile-only OS and leave the Desktop alone.

    1. Tim said on September 6, 2016 at 5:11 pm


      Because the whole Win32 way of doing things is seriously outdated and un user-friendly for the average user. You grandma for example shouldn’t need to search the internet for software, sign up for an online account, hand over credit card details to some website, hopefully download something that’s not malicious, go through multiple install prompts trying to figure out what the prompts mean exactly, hopefully avoid installing unwanted additional software due to not understanding exactly what’s being installed, etc. etc. When you think about the average person, people you know, family members, work colleagues, etc. and how disinterested and un tech-savvy the majority of people are when it comes to computers, it strikes home just how badly overdue a revamp of the whole software purchasing and installation system is on Windows. And that’s what the Windows Store and UWP try’s to address.

      Your question though highlights a very real problem that Microsoft faces and will continue to face if they keep doing things without managing to clearly communicate to the masses exactly what it is they are doing. This is something that has always been one of the biggest problems with Microsoft, they have the communication ability of a potato.

      Here is a summary of how I understand UWP and the Store, however as it’s still quite new I may not have all the details completely correct.

      Only UWP software can be sold in the Windows Store, so if software developers want their Win32 software in the store, then they need to convert it to UWP using the Desktop App Convertor. Although, it’s worth mentioning that although only UWP software can be sold in the Windows Store, UWP software doesn’t actually need to be distributed through the Windows store, UWP appx programs can be side-loaded outside of the store and installed as easily as double-clicking .appx icons to load them like you would with a .exe file (from Anniversary Update onwards). However, I doubt many consumers will opt to manually download and sideload software and will instead predominantly use the store, as sideloading doesn’t really benefit them in any way.

      Developers can choose what devices they want to target. If their software is high-end 3D modelling software for example that requires powerful hardware, lots of screen real estate, etc. they will likely only make it available for desktop computers. If their software is something like an email client on the other-hand, then they will probably make it available for all devices and will only need to perform minor modifications in order to do so.

      From a developers perspective, UWP will mean they will be able to sell their software though Windows Store and they won’t have to concern themselves with payment processing, distributing the software, distributing software updates, etc. One of the biggest draws will be lots of people being able to browse the store and being able to easily view and purchase their software. With retail, numbers of eyeballs matter and with already well over 350 Million people with access to the store that’s quite a big deal. To put that in perspective, that’s already the equivalent of every single living man/woman/child in USA, Canada and Australia combined. In just over three years when Windows 7 leaves extended support and will no longer receive any more security updates, the number of users with access to the store will be pretty huge.

      In addition, another long term benefit for developers is as there are no serial numbers/activation keys, etc. it will help to reduce piracy. For smaller software companies, who are currently distributing their software for free and relying on advertising, bundling junkware, donations, etc. they could choose to put their software on the Windows Store for a small fee instead, rather that resorting to bundling junkware in order to get paid for their work.

      From a users perspective, it will mean they will be able to easily buy software with only having to worry about one well known company having their credit card/personal details, and who’s account they can secure with two-factor authentication if they choose to. This is obviously better than having to sign up for lots of different online accounts from lots of different software vendors/distributers, all with differing levels of resources spent on security. In addition, users will be able to use the software on up to 10 different devices as the purchases are tied to a Microsoft Account rather than a specific device.

      Performance wise, UWP programs don’t fill the PC and registry with loads of junk and they allow for completely clean un-installs without leaving loads of junk around resulting in the PC slowing down over time.

      Security wise UWP programs are sandboxed and will restrict developers from using bad practices that create vulnerabilities and will also remove the need for third-party updating mechanisms. With normal consumers using the Store instead of downloading their software from various websites, the chances of them installing malicious or junkware laden software will be reduced.

      Easy of use wise, purchasing and installing software is really just a case of finding the software in the store and pressing the install button. That’s it, one click and done. No more carefully vetting websites to make sure they’re legit and not malicious. No more carefully dodging fake download buttons, or going through every part of the software installer to make sure it doesn’t end up installing unwanted PUP, junkware, toolbars, browser bars, bitcoin miners, etc. or pretty much whatever it wants to do as it has full admin privileges to do whatever it wants on the machine. Also, when you buy a new computer, your software is already sat there waiting to install on the new machine without needing to go to individual developers sites and download the most up-to-date version, go through the installation process prompts, type in your product keys, etc.

      All the software also automatically keeps itself up-to-date in a controlled and user-friendly way. Not like quite a lot of software currently does, where users are met with even more prompts when a piece of software suddenly decides to do a major update out of the blue.

      Personally, I don’t think online stores taking a cut will be a particular concern for developers, as taking a cut has been normal for traditional retails stores since forever? Local shops, supermarkets, retail outlets, Amazon, advertising & marketing companies, hosting companies, etc. have always taken their cut. But I do think software developers will probably tread cautiously until UWP matures more because they don’t want to risk too much time, money and effort only for Microsoft to make changes and pull the carpet from underneath their feet. So those who can easily convert their software using ‘Project Centennial’ with minimal work will probably do so, having both Win32 and UWP versions initially until Windows 7 market share falls to a point where it’s no longer worthwhile to keep developing the Win32 version as well. Those who are currently producing basic apps will probably complain because they are about to get competition from serious software companies. Those who’s programs need a lot more effort to convert will probably buy time until UWP matures more, teething problems are resolved and of course Microsoft themselves show their own commitment to the UWP platform and store by putting all their own software in Windows Store as UWP programs.

      In short, Win32 software purchasing, distribution, updating, un-installing and it’s free reign of the OS has been long due a revamp. UWP aims to tidy up the short-comings making it a much better environment for everyone, but especially ordinary users (who are the majority of users) for whom it will greatly benefit. But, it’s still early days and has been hampered by ‘apps’ traditionally being less capable than full fat proper software. Once the UWP software platform is able to compete head-to-head with Win32 software functionality wise, Windows 7 leaves it’s current ‘extended support’ phase (which will soon fly by) and Windows 10 has an even larger market share, there would be little reason to buy Win32 software over UWP software. Although, granted bespoke business software will probably remain in legacy Win32 format for a long time, because companies don’t like spending money until they really have to.

      The only thing that concerns me is more software companies “doing an Adobe” and deciding to move to offering subscription software only. But that’s not something unique to UWP or the Windows Store, as they have been doing that regardless. Hopefully though if and when companies choose to take that route, as one software company goes to a subscription only model (such as Adobe), another software company will use that to their advantage and use ‘No Subscription’ as a major selling point to poach unhappy customers (such as Serif are currently doing to Adobe with their Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer products). Windows Store should make that even easier for lesser known companies to gain buyer confidence and for them to get people to try their software, much like how Ebay allows small sellers to connect with a large number of buyers and reduces the risk for the buyer due to bad sellers being booted and buyers being able to get a refund.

      1. Greg said on September 10, 2016 at 8:55 am

        In other words, design everything for the lowest common denominator. So what if it impedes those of us who actually know what we are doing. Idiocracy here we come.

      2. Don said on September 6, 2016 at 10:24 pm

        This “comment” would be a great “article” somewhere. Nice general education. Thanks.

    2. anon said on September 6, 2016 at 3:40 pm

      Yes, because continuing the mess that is Win32 and to force people to lurk around for software in wherever so that they more easily install malware is such a good thing /s

      UWP right now is going through the same progression issues that Win32 was in the early 1990s. 20 years later and no one uses Win16 apps any longer.

  6. DarkTheme said on September 6, 2016 at 12:28 am

    It’s always good to have quality instead of quantity. I hope now that the Windows Store can support AAA games many developers start to invest in the Windows Store.

    1. neal said on September 6, 2016 at 4:56 am

      I wouldn’t hold out hope for the foreseeable future. When consumers have a choice they overwhelmingly choose non windows store applications. 98 percent of Rise of Tomb Raider sales was in steam compared to the Windows app store. Quantum Break also flopped in the Windows store, that’s seems to be the reason why it is going to be released on Steam soon.

      On the technical sides, there is a lot of things that make UWP unattractive to developers like its technical restrictions. The technical restrictions do offer a measure of security and stability that regular Windows applications do not have, but also it is a drawback. For example Adobe won’t port their flagship products b/c any UWP version will not allow plugins, which is a necessity for professionals, not just a feature.

  7. neal said on September 6, 2016 at 12:22 am

    The Windows Store is a bit a mess including MS edge extensions hosted on the store. Even now, a month later since the official anniversary release and even longer if you count how long the update was in technical preview there is only a few extensions for Edge. With apps, even if they manage to attract huge brand apps, they seem to be gimped versions of their android and iOS counterparts, something put together that obviously has secondary priority, features always coming late or not at all, or eventually abandoned b/c the install numbers aren’t there.

    There seems to at best an apathetic attitude to Windows Store at worst hostility b/c beside the lower install base and user participation compared to Android and iOS, it doesn’t help that MS can’t get it’s act together further alienating developers. Every month or so you have articles from developers complaining about their apps not being discoverable b/c MS tweaked the search algorithm or something else MS goofed up. To be fair, Google and Apple often also make stupid and inexplainable “tweaks” to the apps store than effect developers in a negative way, but they can get away from it b/c of their dominant position; MS has no such luxury.

    1. Mikhoul said on September 6, 2016 at 3:36 am

      MANY MANY Windows 10 users have the Windows Store broken and don’t care about apps…

      I hate app and the whole concept of Win 10 that want to be like APPL.

      I’ve opened the store the first week I had my tablet after I never opened it… the only apps I use are my Ebook Reader, News App and Whether app.

      For me the Windows Store will in mid/long term suffer the same faith as Windows Phone… WS was dead on arrival and I even doubt that Win10 as a service like we see it will survive in the long run.

      MSFT is no longer a company with the goal of developing good software that their customers want to make money but a company that want to become an Hybrid of AAPL and GOOG making money by selling your data to other cies, their half baked OS and apps are just a mean to have money for them.

      RIP Windows Store !

    2. DarkTheme said on September 6, 2016 at 12:41 am

      At that time few people can publish Project Centennial apps or Microsoft Edge extensions in Windows Store, only companies can do this at the moment. I have reports from many independent developers that want to publish extensions and Centennial apps in the store, but can’t for these limitations.

  8. Tim said on September 5, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    From article: “Developers focus on Android and iOS, and the consequence is that many popular apps and games are not available for Windows.”

    Or on the other hand you could flip that around and say that many popular software applications and AAA games are not available for Android and iOS, but rather only available on Windows or MacOS.

    It seems like forever waiting for real software to be introduced to the Windows Store, which from what I can gather was supposed to happen with the Anniversary Update. So, I can only assume Project Centennial is delayed, because I’m yet to see any software so far that’s been converted to .appx packages using the Desktop App converter and uploaded to the Windows Store. Same with Edge extensions, they seems to be on pause with just the initial extensions launched for the time being.

    As soon as proper software applications and games are introduced to the store then it’ll take off, as it’s a much better (and long overdue) method for software purchasing, installation/uninstallation and updating software. With the added benefit of licencing being tied to an account rather than a specific device, meaning users can use their software across multiple PC’s with just one licence.

    1. Corky said on September 6, 2016 at 10:54 am

      RE: Edge extensions, the same thing happened with add-ons for IE, an initial flurry when they were introduced and then nothing, it seems to be a trend for Microsoft, reinvent the wheel to much fanfare and then it fails to gain traction.

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