Microsoft announces new rules for app stores, promising an “open” and competition-friendly app store. A speech far from trivial while the giant awaits the green light for the acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
Microsoft has more ideas and wants to convince the authorities to approve the takeover of Activision Blizzard. The mega-acquisition is far from going unnoticed and intrigues anti-competition authorities around the world, including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of the United States. To avoid suffering the same fate as Nvidia with ARM, Microsoft decided to take drastic measures.
The Redmond firm wants “adapt with the regulations” and presents a set of principles for app stores. Microsoft is committed to providing an “open” and competition-friendly application store. The firm promises that its Microsoft Store on Windows will respect these new rules, in the same way as future marketplaces developed for video games. “The world needs open app markets, and that means open app stores”says Brad Smith, president of the company, in a press release.
Microsoft’s 11 Commandments
Microsoft refers to 11 main principles covering four areas:
- Quality, Safety, Security and Confidentiality : Microsoft ensures that “all developers” will be able to access its application store, provided “that they adhere to reasonable and transparent standards of quality and safety”. The group undertakes to continue to “protect consumers and players” who use its store, ensuring that developers meet its security standards. Finally, respect for the privacy of users is highlighted.
- Responsibility : Microsoft promises that its own applications will be imposed the same standards as those of its competitors. Moreover, it will not use non-public information to compete with third-party apps.
- Fairness and transparency : Microsoft assures that it will process applications “equally”without privileging or classifying “unreasonably” its apps or those of its partners.
- Developers’ Choice : Developers are not required to use its payment system for in-app purchases. They will not be disadvantaged if they choose to use a different system or offer different conditions on other shops. Finally, Microsoft will not ask developers to offer more favorable conditions in its store than in those of competitors. Developers will be free to communicate with their customers regarding their offerings.
Commitments to protect themselves… and buy Activision Blizzard
Some rules enacted by Microsoft were already known; they were presented during the announcement of the redesign of the Microsoft Store for Windows 11. Nevertheless, this reminder bite is far from trivial and comes in a context of tensions around GAFAM. The technology giants (Google, Apple, Meta and Amazon) are accused of abusing dominant positions around the world. Microsoft therefore prefers to take the lead and does not hide it.
“This regulatory process begins as many governments also introduce new laws to promote competition in app markets and beyond.”, says Brad Smith. And the president of the IT group to add: “We want regulators and the public to know that as a company, Microsoft is committed to adapting to these new laws, and through these principles, we are working to do so.”.
The commitments made by Microsoft also sound like indirect reproaches to its rivals. Apple and Google dominate the global mobile app market; a situation that worries the group of Windows and Xbox. On several occasions, the Redmond-based company has criticized this duopoly and recently supported Epic Games in its battle against Apple. We also note that the established list is close to the wishes expressed by developers, including Epic Games.
Words, for what acts?
Microsoft’s speech is well-rehearsed and confirms the group’s desire to show its credentials; to authorities and the public. However, questions remain unanswered regarding the methods of the American giant.
The principles will apply to the Microsoft Store on Windows 10 and Windows 11, confirming the firm’s previous positions. The application store, however, struggles to weigh against major stores such as Steam or its mobile equivalents (App Store, Play Store). Despite efforts to make it more attractive and open, this store is far from essential and Microsoft’s actions pose little risk.
Conversely, the Xbox store is growing and presents a much more closed model. Microsoft does not dodge the subject and recognizes that the Xbox Store is not fully concerned by these measures. Only the first part of the speech (principles 1 to 7) applies to the Xbox universe; that on developers (principles 8 to 11) is not taken into account. Indeed, there is no choice for distribution or payment system.
The Xbox universe is not totally concerned
Microsoft confirms that the “emerging legislation” is not written for “specialized computing devices”, such as game consoles. These last “are sold at a loss” to the players and participates in the development of a “strong and viable ecosystem for developers” estimate the firm. “The costs are recovered later thanks to the revenue generated by the store dedicated to consoles”she says.
Nevertheless, the company assures that it will have to adapt its business model. “We are committed to closing the gap on the remaining principles [ceux concernant les choix des développeurs, NDLR] over time “assures Microsoft, without however mentioning a date.
For now, the priority is to validate the proposed takeover of Activision Blizzard. The transaction for the publisher of Call of Duty and Candy Crush is estimated at nearly $69 billion.