Microsoft lays out new open App Store principles

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Perhaps attempting to soften the blow with regulators over concerns about Microsoft’s announced acquisition of Activision, President Brad Smith took to the Microsoft on the Issues blog today to lay out a new set of open guidelines for Microsoft’s app stores.

Federal approval of the acquisition isn’t a slam dunk, and the company is already working to position itself as one of the good guys, with Smith saying “(w)e want regulators and the public to know that as a company, Microsoft is committed to adapting to these new laws, and with these principles, we’re moving to do so,” noting that Microsoft has been adapting to regulations for two decades after its antitrust issues, and that “we believe it’s possible to adapt to new rules and innovate successfully. And we believe it’s possible for governments to adopt new tech regulation that promotes competition while also protecting fundamental values like privacy and national and cyber security”

Smith then goes on to say that there’s currently too much friction between creators and gamers, and perhaps takes a bit of a shot at Apple: “app store policies and practices on mobile devices restrict what and how creators can offer games and what and how gamers can play them.”

To help to ease that friction (and to butter up government regulators), Smith announced  a set of Open App Store Principles for “Microsoft Store on Windows and to the next-generation marketplaces we will build for games,”  in four main areas:

Quality, Safety, Security & Privacy

We will enable all developers to access our app store as long as they meet reasonable and transparent standards for quality and safety.
We will continue to protect the consumers and gamers who use our app store, ensuring that developers meet our standards for security.
We will continue to respect the privacy of consumers in our app stores, giving them controls to manage their data and how it is used.


We will hold our own apps to the same standards we hold competing apps.
We will not use any non-public information or data from our app store to compete with developers’ apps.

Fairness and Transparency

We will treat apps equally in our app store without unreasonable preferencing or ranking of our apps or our business partners’ apps over others.
We will be transparent about rules for promotion and marketing in our app store and apply these consistently and objectively.

Developer Choice

We will not require developers in our app store to use our payment system to process in-app payments.
We will not require developers in our app store to provide more favorable terms in our app store than in other app stores.
We will not disadvantage developers if they choose to use a payment processing system other than ours or if they offer different terms and conditions in other app stores.
We will not prevent developers from communicating directly with their customers through their apps for legitimate business purposes, such as pricing terms and product or service offerings.

In addition, Microsoft is making a further and broader set of commitments:

  • We will continue to enable developers to choose whether they want to deliver their apps for Windows though our app store, from someone else’s store, or “sideloaded” directly from the internet.
  • We will continue to give developers timely access to
  • We will enable Windows users to use alternative app stores and third-party apps, including by changing default settings in appropriate categories.

Finally, Smith addresses a couple of questions regulators and consumers may have about the Activision acquisition. First, he commits to making “Call of Duty and other popular Activision Blizzard titles” available on Playstation not only through Sony’s current agreements with Activision, but “beyond the existing agreement and into the future so that Sony fans can continue to enjoy the games they love,” and says they are working to support Nintendo in the same way.

He then notes that these open app store policies, while they apply specifically to mobile app stores, will at least in part apply to the store on the Xbox console, as well: “beginning today, we will move forward to apply Principles 1 through 7 to the store on the Xbox console. We’re committed to closing the gap on the remaining principles over time. ”

Microsoft appears to know full well it’s facing a tough challenge to get the Activision acquisition approved by regulators, and is already pushing to plead its case. Whether it will be enough to appease those regulators remains to be seen.