What Does the Windows 11 Store’s 'Open Approach' Mean For Consumers?

One store vs. many

Key Takeaways

  • With Windows 11, Microsoft is opening its built-in apps store to other companies, including Amazon, Google, Disney, and Zoom.
  • It's recently indicated that it wants to bring independent storefronts, such as Steam and Epic, into the Windows app store environment.
  • Unless Microsoft plans to bribe major players, it’s hard to see what would bring those independent storefronts to the table on this.
Windows 11 store homepage

Microsoft

Many Windows 10 users have multiple apps for various digital storefronts cluttering their hard drive, and Microsoft has a plan to deal with that inconvenience in Windows 11.

One of the big features of the Windows 11 reveal in June was the revamp of its built-in app store. Specifically, how it's been opened up for other companies, such as Adobe, Zoom, Google, and Amazon. The goal, then, is that Windows 11 users can simply use the Microsoft Store for everything, including independent storefronts like Steam. This might be the app-store streamlining the market has low-key been asking for, but is it actually beneficial to consumers, and would it actually work?

"Microsoft's move of unifying apps to the Windows 11 store will make it a go-to store for apps," said Harriet Chan, co-founder of CocoFinder, in a DM to Lifewire. "One can easily get an app with a single search, instead of launching other platforms and trying hard to find our desired apps."

Upside/Downside

In theory, this could do a lot to streamline your desktop. It's not hard for anyone who uses a Windows 10 computer to end up with a half-dozen or more different storefront apps, whether they're for gaming, graphics, design, or office work. Just packing all that into the Microsoft Store could save the average user a lot of time, effort, and hard drive space.

The effort to revitalize the Microsoft Store, in general, is also a potential benefit to consumers, as well as publishers. Frankly, the general malaise of Windows 10's store has consistently been one of the strangest things about the operating system, so even a mild revamp can only be helpful to the overall user experience.

Downloading and using Spotify through the Windows 11 store

Microsoft

However, it’s not at all guaranteed that Microsoft’s changes actually will create the unified experience it’s angling for. It recently changed its terms of service so, starting later this summer, both game and app publishers will get larger shares of revenue. In theory, that means there should be more and better products available on the Microsoft Store, even before Windows 11 comes out.

It does make the Microsoft Store a more viable option for publishers, but it’s not much of an incentive for companies already doing well in the current environment. In fact, it’s hard to see why big independent storefronts like Steam would want to move to Microsoft’s model at all.

"Why would anyone feel the need to take the extra step to find Steam in the store first?" asked Hannah Hart, technology writer at ProPrivacy, in a DM to Lifewire. "In fact, Steam purportedly rakes in billions of dollars per year from sales. Does it need the added exposure of a place in the Microsoft Store? It’s Microsoft that stands to benefit the most from this hypothetical alliance."

Double-Edged Swords

That’s a point that can usefully be made about the entire initiative: it’s better for Microsoft than it is for almost anyone else.

In a theoretical future where a consumer can get almost anything from the store they already have, without the need for multiple searches, installers, storefronts, and accounts, it would dramatically streamline the overall Windows user experience. However, it’s also a deliberate attempt to put every available egg into a single company’s particularly spacious basket.

"Microsoft's move of unifying apps to the Windows 11 store will make it a go-to store for apps."

"This is great for Microsoft, seeing as it’ll be able to more closely control the user journey, but users, themselves, will also surely benefit from having a lot of easy to find content in one place," said Hart. "In fact, if the Windows 11 store acts as a centralized hub for managing games and apps, and all their various updates, it could be a game-changer."

Microsoft’s Panos Panay has made it clear that the Store’s new policies are meant to simply encourage developer participation, rather than putting up a Google- or Apple-style "walled garden" for Windows users. Participation is not mandatory.

However, the downside of having a single portal for apps is that something could happen to the portal.

"Microsoft’s decision to unify all these apps under one roof means that they want to be the go-to option for anyone looking for apps on the platform," said Katherine Brown, co-founder of Spyic, in an email to Lifewire. "It poses a threat whereby should their unified platform have any glitches, then you simply run out of options on where to get an app."

That’s Microsoft’s overall coin flip. It could dramatically smooth the Windows experience with its new Store, but that convenience has both costs and risks to the end user.

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