It's Official: Windows 8 Beta, Windows Store to Debut in Late February

Microsoft on Tuesday revealed that it will provide a public preview of its app store for Windows 8, called the Windows Store, alongside the public Windows 8 Beta, which is now due in late February. This amounts to a slight delay for the release, which was widely expected to ship over a month earlier, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January.

"We're super excited to have this app on Windows," Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Windows Web Service Antoine Leblond said at an event Tuesday night in San Francisco. "But apps aren't just locked inside the store," he added, noting that customers will be able to find Windows 8 apps on the web through search engines like Bing.

Previous to Tuesday's event, we knew some basic details about the Windows Store. It will provide free and paid Metro-style apps, for example, and provide a trial functionality similar to what's available today in the Windows Phone Marketplace. Microsoft won't provide access to legacy, desktop-style applications in the app store, but will allow third-party developers to advertise those applications there and then link back to their own websites for a download or sale.

That last bit is an important distinction because it's tied to Microsoft's revenue model for the Windows Store, which was revealed this week—and that's that Microsoft will indeed be taking a 30 percent cut of all Windows 8 app revenues, as does Apple with its iOS- and Mac-based App Stores. 

But unlike Apple, Leblond said, Microsoft isn't greedy and won't limit how developers can sell apps. So it will reduce its revenue percentage as sales go up—to just 20 percent if an app earns $25,000—and won't require developers to use certain features like in-app purchases and trials.

"We're going to take a different approach [from Apple]," Leblond said. 

Microsoft also made an interesting case for why developers should target Windows with new apps. And it's a simple one: The market for Windows is much bigger than the market for any other digital platform, including industry darlings iOS and Android.

Here's the math. There are more than 1.25 billion active Windows users worldwide at the moment—"a ridiculously huge number," Leblond noted—and about 400 million new Windows-based PCs are sold every calendar year. Microsoft has sold more than 500 million copies of Windows 7 since the OS debuted a bit over 2 years ago, a figure that dramatically outstrips the numbers of iOS (152 million) and Android (247 million) devices sold in the same time frame. And the Mac isn't even in the running, as always, with just 30 million units sold. (Not coincidentally, Apple has never once provided statistics for its Mac App Store, which suggests it hasn't taken off in any appreciable way.)

Sorry, Apple fans, but this is "an apples to apples to apples" comparison, as Leblond said at the event. Numbers don't lie. "This is the most significant developer opportunity ever," he said. "This is where Windows shines."

The Windows Store will be localized in all of the more than 100 languages in which Windows itself is localized, and made available in over 230 markets, providing customers from all over the world with native versions of the service. And Microsoft will provide facilities for enterprises to deliver apps outside the Windows Store, though all other apps will need to go through the store.

In late February, Microsoft will debut a public beta version of Windows 8, and that version is expected to be "feature complete," though company officials did not confirm that Tuesday. It will include a fully functioning version of the Windows Store, with Microsoft and third-party apps, though only free apps will be available at first. 

When paid apps do go online later in the year, the price range will be $1.49 to $999.99, Microsoft says. "A thousand bucks is just too much for an app," Leblond noted.

For more information about the Windows Store and how it impacts developers, please refer to the post Previewing the Windows Store on the Microsoft website. Microsoft is also holding a First Apps contest, so that developers can get a chance to have their app featured in the Windows Store for Beta when the service goes live in late February.

TAGS: Windows 8
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