Microsoft’s apps store for Windows Phone handsets is finally becoming competitive, but can it ever be a rival to Google Play and Apple’s App Store?
For too long now, Microsoft’s Windows Store – the gateway for Windows Phone users to apps and other content – has been playing catchup to Android and iOS rivals. It’s filled with dirge, sorely lacking in lots of key areas, and generally neglected by the big mobile players who only develop for the other major platforms.
But things are finally set to turn around, to make the Windows Store less like a hawker stall and more like a shiny department store filled with premium products.
Cleaning out the crap
For a start, Microsoft has finally had its fill of bad apps and crappy software stinking up the store, so they’re introducing a strict new certification system which (they’re hoping) will give users confidence that they’re getting quality software.
Microsoft’s fresh assault on rubbish is being launched on four fronts: clutter, pricing, labelling and promotion.
The attack on clutter will demand that apps have appropriate icons which reflect their actual purpose and which aren’t soullessly ripped off from other developers. There’ll also be no more pointless cloned apps, like the slew of ‘torch’ offerings which don’t actually do anything different.
Pricing will be monitored more closely under the new certification scheme too, with a view to promoting fair price-tags which reflect the value and usability of an application. While devs will retain control over the price of their wares, they will now have to keep in line with similar apps, so users aren’t duped into falling for the “if it costs more then it must be better” shtick.
Next on the hit-list is labelling. Microsoft’s new policies state that apps bearing information should be clearly marked as such, which hopefully means no more game guides using the same icon as the game itself (rage!) or spangly icons cryptically promoting what is essentially a link to a web page.
Lastly, new controls will be enforced which govern the naming of apps and how they’re described. If you’re submitting an app to the Windows Store you’ll have to ensure that its name reflects what it actually does and that keywords are kosher too, which should put an end to those spammers who use buzzy, irrelevant keywords to surge up the search rankings.
Games worth playing
Overall, the new system sounds like it could be the perfect shot in the arm for the Windows Store ahead of the rollout of Windows 10. We only wish the company had taken control sooner, as for years the virtual marketplace has been flooded with crapware and lacking in quality content.
Thankfully things really do seem to be turning around. For a start, you can now pick up some great games for Windows Phone devices, rather than the non-stop stream of knock-offs and buggy rubbish. And big names are finally signing on in other areas too, with the likes of VLC, BBC Sport, Netflix and Instagram all available.
Hopefully, under Microsoft’s new system this fresh cream will have a chance to rise to the top.