The Windows App Store: Serious Threat or Business As Usual?

Windows 8 will be chock full of shiny new features, among which is of course a centralized app store. Let’s put aside our feigned shock and awe at this announcement and discuss whether or not this represents a potential threat to OS X or if it’s merely the technology industry doing what it does best: following wherever Apple leads.

The Apple Way

Apple is hardly ever the very first person to come up with an idea. Despite what some think, Apple didn’t invent the mouse or the GUI, nor were they the first to market a portable MP3 player, touchscreen phone or tablet.

“None of these ideas truly changed the world forever until Apple took them on, then they did exactly that. ”

However, none of these ideas truly changed the world forever until Apple took them on, then they did exactly that. Apple, and Steve Jobs is a huge part of this, has a way with the future. Their corporate culture is somehow better equipped to take technologies that should be ubiquitous but aren’t, and make them that way.

They analyze the market better than anyone and even take significant steps to prep that market for the delivery of a revolution. For example, January, 2001: here’s a free app called iTunes, get used to digital music because we’re secretly prepping the iPod for release later this year.

Most companies are in a position to only make desperate guesses at what the next big thing will be, Apple practically decides it. They succeed where others fail by doing the opposite: they don’t rush a crappy product to market to take advantage of temporary hype, they hide away in secret until it’s so far past what anyone else has done that customers can’t help but drool as they absentmindedly reach for their credit cards.

App Stores

The recent app revolution follows in true Apple form. They certainly didn’t invent centralized digital distribution of software, they did however turn it into something that everyone with a digital device wants and expects: a limitless storehouse of utilities, games, and every thing else users could possibly ask for.

“Apple has once again taken an old idea and turned it into something that we can’t live without.”

They perfected the App Store model on iOS and have successfully carried it over to the Mac. When you spend $1,000 on your very first Mac, your initial visit to the App Store free downloads section confirms that your money was well spent. This machine won’t gather dust, it’s taking you places.

Apple has once again taken an old idea and turned it into something that we can’t live without.

The Windows App Store

When the wizards at Apple work their magic on something like this, the rest of the industry has no choice but to follow along, Miicrosoft Zunes and Dell Jukeboxes in tow.

It used to be the case that availability of apps was the single biggest argument against buying a Mac. “Macs don’t have enough games” or “Macs don’t have what I need for work” were sentences that every reluctant switcher spoke. These days, Apple’s strongpoint is its unstoppable mob of third party developers who create and release truly amazing software daily, all available in a single, easy to use marketplace.

“App stores for any platform are no longer a bonus, they’re a basic requirement.”

The Mac App Store is a clear example of a competitive advantage (one of many) against Windows. The response is the obligatory one: Windows 8 will have an app store (source). I certainly won’t blame them for “copying” Apple’s strategy, in all honesty, how could they not? App stores for any platform are no longer a bonus, they’re a basic requirement.

Should Apple Be Worried?

More relevant than whether or not Apple is being copied is the question of whether or not they should be concerned about it. After all, Windows 8 has some really solid ideas.

Windows 8 is apparently a cross-device system that will scale from small tablets up to large desktops. Also, apps will now launch from a full screen grid system, which sounds like a Launchpad ripoff but admittedly looks far more useful. Throw in the app store to sweeten the deal and Windows 8 is looking pretty good!

Here’s the reality: Windows is already the most popular desktop operating system in the world and it will stay that way for some time (notice I didn’t say forever). If it held on to that lead through Vista, Windows 8 will likely not mark then end of Microsoft’s reign.

Form where I’m standing, the arrival of the Windows App Store doesn’t really pose a huge threat to Apple. It’s an example of Windows playing keep up with OS X, not a new innovation that will have Phil Schiller sweating bullets. Sure the potential is huge, but countless other companies have realized that Apple’s App Store success isn’t as easy to replicate as it seems. If we can count on anyone to drop the ball with a project that important, my money is on good old Microsoft.


My attitude towards the Windows App Store probably stems from your stereotypical nut job Mac user superiority complex. Apple was once a tiny bug seconds from being squashed by Microsoft, but those days are long gone. They’re now the primary influence on personal computing on this planet. However, I’m not naive enough to imagine that their current success in indestructible.

Right now, the mere existence of the Mac App Store is a clear competitive advantage for OS X. Soon, this will shift and quality/quantity will become the primary factors for debate, the latter of which Windows might be able to quickly take the lead in. However, all you guys out there developing solely for the Mac and iPhone represent the most talented collective pool of developers anywhere and I’m sure you’ll continue to keep the quality of Mac software far above what anyone can touch.


Add Yours
  • Most of your article leans on a number of large assumptions, one of them being that AppStore through centralization of access has therefore made Mac apps better. Wrong. There are a number of areas where apps for specific purposes (especially in the area of adaptability and scale-able feature sets) has always lagged behind. And many of the apps in the Mac world that meet that more robust set of standards were originally developed in the PC world. One most appropriate for this being talked about through a blog is the field of Mac blogware. The stuff for Mac is about at the development level of what was available on the PC side 10+ years ago, and on Linux about 7+ years ago.

    The AppStore is glutted with crap, and it grows by the day. This is not really a problem with the AppStore but with the paradigm as whole; Amazon now has the same problem and so will the Windows store. Finding something of true value that fits personal needs, vs. what the generic promos telling people what they do and do not need, will more and more require going outside the distribution point to find it. Inevitable most will give up, assume (incorrectly) that the Appstore’s lead listing are as good as it gets, and development will slow to a crawl except in the corners of the internet with those fed up homogenized dreck.

    It’s happened before, it’ll happen again, and so long as we see this centralization it will keep happening forever . And the Windows store will see the same thing.

    And by the by, Apple wasn’t the first to do this … it was Amazon. Apple was the follower, not the innovator, in this case, and merely made it a direct install process exclusive to its own OS. Like most Apple-centric proponents, you’re stuck in a self-imposed box universe where what you choose to see is therefor all there is… including in accurate historical facts.

    The centralization paradigm for internet distribution of products has been a around much much longer that the AppStore. And no, the AppStore’s existence has not brought any improvement to what is being offered to mac users. I still find the best of what I’m after by looking elsewhere, at least for now. The sad part is that too many private and small firm developers, for unexplained reasons, have already begun to die, vanish, or no longer sell / distribute from their own sites as well as the AppStore.

    Welcome to the big box store model translated to the internet. It’s actually be going on for a long time, and now with Microsoft jumping in, it will only escalate.

    I don’t really care who copied who; that’s superficial consideration. It just sucks.

    • I don’t think you read the article. The entire thing was about how Apple “doesn’t” do things first. Also, I never indicated that the Mac App Store is a purely good thing with no downside. Thanks for your thoughts though!

  • I don’t really see the Windows App Store being a big concern to Apple. The Mac App Store is great — I use it as my first source for finding Mac applications — but we Mac users were increasingly able to find Mac applications before MAS, because there were more and more Mac applications becoming available… in response to the increased demand for Mac applications. And there are still some applications that I, oh so fond of MAS as I am, still get outside of MAS, since they are not available through it.

    To me, a Windows App Store just seems like a natural keep-up-with-the-times addition to the OS. I don’t see it as a reason for a Mac user to suddenly switch over to Windows… or for developers to suddenly abandon their Mac programs for Windows programs. Those are the only ways I could see WAS being a threat to Apple and MAS, and, as I said, I don’t see them being likely.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think that the majority of Firefox-on-Windows users suddenly switched to using IE when IE finally got tabs. This seems like the same sort of thing.

  • Lol, I see Internet Explorer in the picture.

    1. Windows comes with IE at start, why is this in the app store?
    2. IE sucks, why would anyone download it if they would’ve gotten rid of it.

    3. Windows is going to do what they do best. Make a mediocre copy of something Apple did that was great, get a few people to buy it, and make a shit load of commercials for it, and then not sell nearly anything. I’ve never seen a commercial for anything except for Apple’s iOS devices, but Windows, have their ads plastered everywhere. And even if there is an Apple ad, I enjoy it, because its clean, simple, and actually tells me of a product that works.

    • Popular wisdom says that IE only purpose is to download Firefox (now, Chrome). At least they will have the Big M App Store to download decent browsers :)

      Windows finally is going better. With some luck, they will more and more inspire on Apple magic, than we’ll have a good quality fight.

      Windows won’t leave the position of most used OS so soon. Mostly because Linux sucks almost every time and later because you have to buy the state of the art Mac hardware to get the most advanced OS, so if you want Mac OS X, you have to pay for it at all; the price isn’t for HDD X, GPU Y or CPU Z. Is for entire thing. How owns one knows that worth.

      Apple never sells specifications or great number of functionalities. Apple sells results and a small number of the most important and greatly finished features. For now it is quantity vs quality. I can’t wait for the day that it will be quality vs quality :)

      I think that Windows is more about money, Linux is more about politics and Mac OS is more about user experience. Looks like it’s what the history tells and won’t be different any time soon.

    • 1. That screenshot isn’t the Microsoft App Store. It’s the desktop version of Windows Phone 7’s ‘Tiles’ interface, designed for touch-capable devices.
      2. Old IE sucks. IE9 is pretty damn good these days and the developer previews of IE10 support new standards and features other browser developers haven’t implemented yet. (Sorry, can’t find the original source for this, so feel free to dismiss it offhand)
      3. Claiming that Microsoft make poor copies of Apple products and then go on to ‘not sell nearly anything’ is to totally ignore the fact that, as the article states, Microsofts’ Windows is still the most commonly used OS worldwide.

      App stores are not ‘the technology industry doing what it does best: following wherever Apple leads’. Companies are developing app stores because it’s what the customer expects. Simply because Apple were the first to have substantial success with their app store doesn’t mean everyone else is copying.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Microsoft b!tch-boy at any rate, but I am not an Apple die-hard, either. I’m simply pro-computer -I use both Macs and PCs and they both have their place. The thing that annoys me so much about Apple is not their products. It’s not even their strategies and lock-ins (although they’re getting pretty bad). It’s the fan boys who will blindly claim Apple is better than MS in any particular situation, which is simply not true.

  • The MAS is fairly new, I didn’t choose a Mac for that reason, so I really don’t care if Microsoft, Linux or Android has or hasn’t an app store. I don’t care if they copy the launch pad either, because I don’t use it.

    If Microsoft releases an Internet Explorer better than Safari/Chrome or if their OS becomes as stable as MAC OS, or if they significantly improve the “spaces” concept, then I’ll think that they’re a threat.

  • “….something we can’t live without”. “… changed the world forever”? I know this site is intended for people who are into gadgets, tech and Apple, but are you for real? Have we come to the point where people think that things like this are planet-shifting? The war in Afghanistan changed the world forever. The earthquake and nuclear problems in Japan changed the world forever. The app store and a new iPad have changed the way some people do things, but with that argument, the retractable umbrella changed the bloody world forever too. Get some perspective people….

    • You misunderstand the phrase “world changing”. The events that you listed are indeed far more important than what Apple toy is currently trending on Twitter. However, you also underestimate the significance of technology in today’s world. If Apple releases a software store that people in the U.S., UK and Australia access and browse every single day, then a global shift in behavior has literally taken place. Once upon a time, buying a piece of software was barely a monthly event for most people. Now everyone in the developed world downloads new software daily. You simply can’t argue that this isn’t something that hasn’t changed the world.