For software developers, app stores have become a critical gateway to some of the world’s most popular digital platforms. We and others have raised questions and, at times, expressed concerns about app stores on other digital platforms. However, we recognize that we should practice what we preach. So, today, we are adopting 10 principles – building on the ideas and work of the Coalition for App Fairness (CAF) – to promote choice, ensure fairness and promote innovation on Windows 10, our most popular platform, and our own Microsoft Store on Windows 10:
- Developers will have the freedom to choose whether to distribute their apps for Windows through our app store. We will not block competing app stores on Windows.
- We will not block an app from Windows based on a developer’s business model or how it delivers content and services, including whether content is installed on a device or streamed from the cloud.
- We will not block an app from Windows based on a developer’s choice of which payment system to use for processing purchases made in its app.
- We will give developers timely access to information about the interoperability interfaces we use on Windows, as set forth in our Interoperability Principles.
- Every developer will have access to our app store as long as it meets objective standards and requirements, including those for security, privacy, quality, content and digital safety.
- Our app store will charge reasonable fees that reflect the competition we face from other app stores on Windows and will not force a developer to sell within its app anything it doesn’t want to sell.
- Our app store will not prevent developers from communicating directly with their users through their apps for legitimate business purposes.
- Our app store will hold our own apps to the same standards to which it holds competing apps.
- Microsoft will not use any non-public information or data from its app store about a developer’s app to compete with it.
- Our app store will be transparent about its rules and policies and opportunities for promotion and marketing, apply these consistently and objectively, provide notice of changes and make available a fair process to resolve disputes.
We will review these principles from time to time to determine whether we should add to or change them to reflect feedback as well as technology, business or regulatory developments.
How these principles will work.
Windows 10 is an open platform. Unlike some other popular digital platforms, developers are free to choose how they distribute their apps. The Microsoft Store is one way. We believe that it provides significant benefits to consumers and to developers by ensuring that the available apps meet strong privacy, security and safety standards, while making them easier to find and providing additional tools and services so developers can focus on development.
But there are other popular and competitive alternatives on Windows 10. Third-party app stores, such as those from Steam and Epic, are available for Windows and offer developers different pricing (or revenue share) options, standards, requirements and features. And developers can also easily choose to distribute their apps on their own terms directly over the internet without restrictions. The first four principles are designed to preserve this freedom of choice, and the robust competition and innovation that it enables on Windows 10.
For developers who do choose to use the Microsoft Store, we want to make sure they know that they will be held to the same objective standards as others, will face reasonable, competitive fees that reflect the value they receive, and can be confident we will not use the Microsoft Store to tilt the playing field to our advantage. The remaining principles are aimed at providing that assurance. For example, as an app developer, we have been frustrated at times by other app stores that require us to sell services in our apps even when our users don’t expect or want them and we cannot do so profitably. So, principle No. 6 provides developers who choose to use the Microsoft Store with the flexibility to decide what to sell in their apps. Over the next several months, we will do the work needed to close any gaps between the current rules and policies in our Microsoft Store and the aspirations set out in these principles.
We also operate a store on the Xbox console. It’s reasonable to ask why we are not also applying these principles to that Xbox store today. Game consoles are specialized devices optimized for a particular use. Though well-loved by their fans, they are vastly outnumbered in the marketplace by PCs and phones. And the business model for game consoles is very different to the ecosystem around PCs or phones. Console makers such as Microsoft invest significantly in developing dedicated console hardware but sell them below cost or at very low margins to create a market that game developers and publishers can benefit from. Given these fundamental differences in the significance of the platform and the business model, we have more work to do to establish the right set of principles for game consoles.
We think it is important to have a public discussion about how to fairly balance the interests of software developers and platform owners and the best path forward for app stores on our most popular platforms. Apps play an important role in the daily lives of billions of consumers and help to enable the modern digital economy for millions of businesses. But the innovation that drives the app economy also needs healthy and vibrant digital platforms. We know that regulators and policymakers are reviewing these issues and considering legal reforms to promote competition and innovation in digital markets. We think the CAF principles, and our implementation of them, can serve as productive examples. Applying these principles to the Microsoft Store on Windows 10 is a first step and we look forward to feedback from developers and the broader community.