"If you build it, they will come" appears to be Microsoft's approach as it shows off the Windows Store for a product that won't be available until mid-2012.
Apps and Content are King
Hot on the heels of the Xbox update that moved the Microsoft console further into media portal territory, the company is showing off its upcoming "Windows Store" for Metro apps to run on Windows 8 PCs and tablets. With every company and its dog offering a store, what could MS possibly offer that its rivals don't already enjoy? And even if it offers something new, why show it off now, giving rivals plenty of time to counter?
With Steve Sinofsky, Microsoft's Windows President again taking the reins, aided by VP for Windows Web Services Antoine Leblond, the first attempt to sweeten the deal is a 80%/20% revenue split in favor of developers whose apps make over US$ 25,000, a decent step up from the base level 70/30 which is the usual rate in other stores.
A quick demo showed the ability to convert a free demo into a paid full game without the need for extra downloads, something that simplifies the process and encourages purchasing. Microsoft will also allow linking to off-store offers without taking a cut. The store will cover some 230 markets in 100 languages and there are clear app approval and testing processes to speed publishing.
Stacking the Shelves
With Microsoft needing to get content ready for that big store opening, possibly the public beta rumored to launch in February, deals like that are essential. So, starting now, it can get developers stoked to produce shelves full of games, apps, enterprise tools, novelties and other useful fare.Otherwise, the Windows 8 launch could go downhill very quickly.
This early reveal will also give traditional Microsoft partner's who sell software the traditional way, time to adapt and create strategies for selling in the future, as a digital-heavy sales approach will only continue to depress boxed-copy sales. Will most apps now be converted to Metro?
Bring and Let Buy
Microsoft also needs the store to herd eventual ARM-powered Windows 8 tablet users to. Since these devices won't be backwards compatible with x86 software, Microsoft won't want to run the risk of these users straying off the reservation and having an unhappy time and also needs a huge raft of content to keep them happy.
What the store could do with is lots of innovative apps, like The newly launched Social Radio which verbalizes your tweet stream in between your playlists. That and other smart products will give it a leading edge feel, whereas if all there is to see on day one are Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and TweetDeck, users will probably start to wonder if it was worth the effort.
Certainly content, not just apps will be high on Microsoft's list, as seen with the Xbox developments, movie rentals, TV series, music and more are all massive earners for Apple and Microsoft has to transfer its success from Xbox on to the desktop space. Microsoft showed off examples of Disney digital books and eBay as lead apps on the store.
(Update, there's now an MSDN blog post covering the store in more detail.)