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The Microsoft Store has changed into a home for powerful apps

The Microsoft Store was once a second thought for many users on Windows 10, but in 2017 the store has transformed. Big name companies are bringing their apps to the store, and powerful apps are populating it. This transition is thanks to a continued effort by Microsoft to make bringing apps to the Microsoft Store more accessible as well as developers seeing value in bringing their apps to Windows 10.

The Microsoft Store, or Windows Store before its name change, has always had a set of dedicated developers. And these developers are still a core part of the community and Windows 10 experience, filling in the gaps big companies won't and creating their own impressive apps. But the addition of well-recognized powerful apps brings an additional boost to store, greatly improving its viability as a platform.

Big Names

Groove Music and Spotify

Groove Music and Spotify (Image credit: Windows Central)

Today, many users go to apps and services they are familiar with. Even if another app or a third-party client does the job as well, or even better, than a well-recognized app, people will search for the name they know. This makes apps that people recognize a core element to the store, and in 2017 some of the most important apps that were missing from the Microsoft Store arrived.

The most recognizable is Spotify. The massive music streaming service is so popular that companies like Apple are trying to play catch up. Spotify coming to the Microsoft Store helps legitimize the platform, making it a more desirable destination for more companies and developers. Even though Groove Music was a good app, before Microsoft decided to gut it, Spotify being available on Windows 10 is more important than Groove Music.

Spotify is a big name in the eyes of the general public but the Microsoft Store has also gained apps that are big names within their respective fields. Evernote jumped on board, Photoshop Elements (opens in new tab), Paint.net, Affinity Photo and designer are available for creators, dJay Pro, MuseScore, and Staffpad (opens in new tab) are available for musicians, and Slack (opens in new tab) became available for workplaces to communicate online. These apps aren't just good at what they do, they're some of the biggest names in their industries and will be some of the first things that people search for when opening an app store.

Bridging the gap

Microsoft has a number of projects that help developers port code from other platforms. These allow companies that have invested resources making their programs and apps work on older versions of Windows and other platforms like iOS to bring their apps to the Microsoft Store with significantly less effort. The store having these apps has led to confusion over what UWP actually means but the benefit is that more apps are in the Microsoft Store.

Project Centennial, the bridge that allows you to bring over traditional Windows programs into the Microsoft Store, has been especially successful. These apps are already recognized and used by PC users but now can be purchased or downloaded safely through the Microsoft Store. In fact, many of the most powerful apps in the Microsoft Store come from this bridge including Evernote, Slack, Spotify, and Affinity Photo.

Fewer apps come using Project Islandwood, which allows developers to use code from their iOS apps, but dJay Pro shows that it is possible to create a beautiful and powerful Windows 10 app using this bridge.

And if developed want to, they can use these bridges to do more than just port over the same experience. They can use the bridge to get the base of their app into the Microsoft Store and build on top of it. Djay Pro does this very well as it is optimized for the Surface Studio and works with peripherals exclusive to Windows 10 such as the Surface Dial.

Creators

Microsoft has made an effort to lure creators to its platform, naming two major Windows 10 updates after them, and that focus seems to be paying off. The makers of many creative apps brought their apps to the Microsoft Store this year making Windows 10 devices a more viable choice for content makers.

The Microsoft Store has seen an influx of apps for a variety of types of creation and art. Photo editors can use Photoshop Elements, Paint.net, and Affinity Photo. Musicians can use Staffpad and Musescore. Animators have Animation Desk, and digital artists have Krita. These aren't the only apps available in these categories but are solid examples of apps being available for a wide variety of content creation.

PC games

The Microsoft Store hosts other content than apps including movies and games. Games arriving in the Microsoft Store this year could warrant its own article, but it's worth mentioning that game developers are also beginning to see the Microsoft Store in a better light. More games support Play Anywhere than ever, and more companies are bringing their games to the Microsoft Store.

State of the store

The Microsoft Store has transitioned very well in 2017. Microsoft's bridges are gaining traction with developers and the store as a whole is being viewed more positively. Specifically, the makers of powerful PC software have jumped on board to the Microsoft Store. This shows great promise for the platform and Windows 10 S which is restricted to apps from the Microsoft Store.

This doesn't mean that the app gap is completely closed or that there isn't work to do by both Microsoft and developers, but it is a very positive trend. The reputation of the Microsoft Store is like a rolling snowball, the more powerful and diverse apps arrive, the more other developers will want to bring their software to it.

Do you think the Microsoft Store has turned a corner and become a destination for powerful apps? Let us know in the comments below.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

79 Comments
  • No
  • Based on what?.. Your perception of apps available for smartphones?
  • Yeah, it's phones or bust.
  • What a ridiculous comment. Whether the store has turned a corner or not is subjective with no right or wrong answer. It simply has nothing got to do with "perception". You are as shallow as you comment.
  • The Microsoft Store is very helpful now, and I've seen myself download more and more programs asapps from the Store. But even with apps, movies, games, and books, I feel the loss of music and Groove a lot. They could've just given up on Groove's subscription service but allow us to buy music from the Store and play on the Groove app...
  • Same here. Just discovered Inkscape a few weeks back and if or when Gimp and Office 365 is there I won't need anything else.
  • Record label greed my have play a part. I've bought albums And singles and for some reason, when the album comes out. I no longer have access to download/stream the single Luckily, I've always had it downloaded to one of my devices . So it's never been too much of a problem
  • I absolutely think the Microsoft Store has turned a corner in 2017. The more content in the store the better because that means more people will use the store which in turn will drive more developer attention. Bringing desktop apps to the store has gone a long way to making the store more useful for most users. However I wonder if bringing these apps into the store also will keep developers on old technology and supporting old legacy applications. Either way I'm excited. As a new UWP developer myself, I like that the store is being used more and is viewed in a more positive light. Hopefully when people are looking for Paint.net they'll find my apps too!
  • What is you app ;)
  • I have a few: Ink Calendar: a pen first calendar app Binary Timer: this is a goofy project I did for fun Ink Tac Toe: a modern ink first take on the classic tic tac toe game
  • It is still not particularly easy to find the app I need or want without knowing the exact name or having a link. The store itself did not change a lot. What may have changed are the contents, but basic things like wishlist, searching by discount, search by publisher, filtering, gifting ... All that is missing or unfinished. This is what caused the main dissatisfaction with W10M and with that platform being abandoned, UWP lost the trust of many developers.
  • Not all you said is true anymore. Keep yourself updated man.
  • Search function is broken.
  • I agree the search still needs to improve but the store has improved a lot since its inception.
  • Appreciate the positive article but no. lol
  • Hopefully progress will continue..
    Now, update the **** out of that Spotify app.
  • Amazon Music is constantly getting updates every few days! :)
  • There's an Amazon Music app in the store now? I will need to look it up.
  • NO. Stop! Lying!
  • I am sorry the the Store is still a big embarrassment.  UWP, unfortunately doesn't appear that it will take off.
  • regardless of the store, more developers should definitely embrace project centennial just to offer an appx package to sideload. the clean, hassle-free install should be incentive enough.
  • If you have an App that runs on 99% of all SmartPhones, one wouldn't bother to extend it to the paltry 1%, but if Windows Phone had even a 10% Marketshare, every Developer would be anxious to corner a slice of the 10% share as well! Classic Catch 22 situation... no easy answers here...
  • The store is still completely worthless to me. I get barely anything from it. All the programs I use and need don't come from it and I'm glad they don't. I don't want to be limited by the stupidity of ONE store selling software and denying users the ability to shop around. That's good for communists, not people who enjoy the benefits of the free market. If I can shop around for the best priced version of a certain software (or get it from the developer's website directly, without them having to pay Microsoft a single dime), why on Earth would I pay more to get it from the horrible looking and terribly organised Microsoft Store? Laziness? No, thanks.   And then there's the falacy of the "big names". "Ohhh, big names are on Store". Who? "Spotify". And who else? "Uh...a couple of more obscure photo editing programs?". Yeah, no. Big developers aren't embracing anything. Most Antivirus solutions aren't there, most Cloud services (like Western Digital, Google Drive, iCloud etc) aren't there, the good web browsers (Chrome and Firefox) aren't there, most video and imaging software solutions aren't there, and so one and so forth. And the gaming...well, as long as Steam, Origin and Uplay are around, the Windows Store will continue to be an overpriced joke. So yeah. I'm continuing to ignore the Store. Just like everyone else. 'cause it's pretty much as useless in 2017 as it was in 2016. Except now it looks even uglier to look at.
  • @DJCBS, when you say "free market" you're speaking my language. I'm all for freedom and capitalism, but I don't see the store being at odds with that at all. At a 30% take, that's a lower cost of distribution than most alternatives. And there's nothing to stop any developer from offering their code directly from their website. Of course, for small developers, the Store should be (if it becomes widely used, not there today) a key discovery tool. I prefer apps from the store (and vote so with my capitalist dollars) because They never bother me to update (I HATE when apps tell me "An update is available. Would you like to update now?" -- with lots of apps, I got those several times a week slowing my productivity, or at least I used to before the Store) They are more likely to support Live Tiles (Slack and Skype, for example) For lesser-known apps, they are safe (no malware) and definitely removable. Those are true value-added benefits to me and I would even be willing to pay slightly MORE for the same app from the Store than direct from the developer. Not a 30% more for an expensive app, but maybe 5 more, and 30%+ more for a cheap little app.
  • "And there's nothing to stop any developer from offering their code directly from their website." Well, there's always the costs. If a developer has a site where the program is sold directly to the consumer, why would he then lose money by putting the program in the store? Even if Microsoft's take was 15%, it's 15% of revenue that the developer doesn't get which would, likely, allow him to offer the program at a more competitive price. You mention Live Tiles as a plus for you. As far as I know, developers can offer their programs in apk style (well, whatever the Windows app equivalent of Android's "apk" is. appx?) which would enable that live tile. Now for your other two reasons: they're perfectly valid. No argument there. You are, however, on a very specific (and minoritarian) segment of the market that values those things over price. I for one couldn't care less for Live Tiles (I don't use them) and updates don't bother me either.
    Security might be the strongest argument one can make in favour of the Store...but even that one would require Microsoft to be much more active in cleansing the store of crapware.
  • @DJCBS, fair points on the values not appealing to everyone. That's the beauty of the free market. If I am in the minority, my preferences and purchase votes won't have much effect. Fair enough. But on your point on costs from the developers' perspective, unless I misunderstand you, that's not a correct understanding of how distribution costs work. First, the Store only needs to generate less than 1 incremental sale for every 3 sold to pay for itself (because the cost of production is zero, every sale is 100% incremental revenue). Second, because the developer can list it in both places (and at different prices, I believe), there's nothing to step him from incenting people to buy on his site by providing a small discount, well below the 30% share that Microsoft would otherwise take. That would allow him to ensure that the vast majority of sales that occur on the Store are incremental sales that he never would have received otherwise, because he's still selling just as many through his own site. Third, the developer could instead to choose to stop also offering it on his own site, cutting maintenance costs and reducing the hassle -- maintaining a web store front takes some effort and credit card acceptance can cost more than 5%, depending on the size of the transactions. (on one of my stores, we accept purchases as low as $.10, which carries a credit card fee of $.06, or 60%!) Fourth, if the developer previously distributed through any traditional retail channels, those "costs" are more like 40% - 50% (in that most retailers will add 40 of the wholesale price in setting the retail price), making the Microsoft Store's cost (same as the App Store and Google Play), a bargain for what it does.
  • While it is nice if there was a competition, the Store is something that at least in theory makes more developers able to publish applications. There are no entry costs as store covers the costs of DRM, app presentation, payment gateway, invoicing, paying taxes, etc, etc. You can't get all those services in one place and most of them are also fairly expensive. Making this available to small developers for free can be considered as pro-competition.
  • It is, however, a model mostly aplicable to mobile apps. Then comes into play the fact that most Windows desktop users (be it PC or laptop) are looking for the power they lack on their mobile apps. And small developers play no role in that area. It is pro-competition by providing small devs with a platform for them to publish their apps. But it's anti-consumer as it prevents consumers to take advantage of the competition between developers.
  • All I want is apps. I listen to music, watch videos, read a lot of different shot, check my email, and play games. All of this is done from apps except gaming. Most of my gaming is on my Xbox one X. Which is why I love Play anywhere! I may be the minority. lol
  • Still waiting on WhatsApp desktop, promised about a year ago. ITunes has been delayed until who knows when. Promises made but not kept
  • Same here.
  • It can't be that hard to go on WhatsApp's website and download it surely?
  • Been waiting on apple music. My 3 months free of Spotify premium and apple music are almost up. Looks like Spotify is getting my $$$ because its on my pc, xbox, iPhone, and my pos work phone!!
  • Whats WhatsApp got to do with the Microsoft Store? I was running WhatsApp very well on my 920, before the 920 kicked the Bucket! Updates too happened fairly quickly, in sync with WA updates for the Android/ iOS Platform If you meant web.whatsapp.com, it works just fine on Firefox, Chrome or Edge - haven't tried it on good ole' IE... maybe it will run on it too, who knows?
  • I think it's great news. The uwp shows a lot of promise for the future. I only hope that trend continues. I remember when I messaged Soundcloud and they said they have no plans for an app. But now there is a sound cloud beta in the store. So there is a market and the more devices we see the more developers will take notice and bring their amazing content.
  • No! I hope ITunes come to Windows 10 mobile
  • I don't recommend holding your breath on that one...
  • The only "big" name is Spotify. Really the others are more niche apps. Games are still very expensive on the Microsoft store. I doubt it will improve till PWA apps are fully fledged but by then a store will be irrelevant.
  • It depends on one's app need. For me it pretty much is.
  • Getting to dekstoo version of the Citrix Receiver in the store was a huge win over the moble focused UWP Citrix Receiver. The next hurdle is the get decision makers to see the benefit of downloading it from the store vs manual or client installs of exe installers.
  • I would like it to be more consistent across regions. I've been told that for US there's a specific section for Mixed Reality titles. For my country's version of the store, you need to search and pick them manually. It makes no sense. Also, Halo Recruit is not available for my region. Come on, it's a tech demo, and you own the company that makes that game (which is available in my country for xbox) so what's the deal???
  • Many big names coming in 2017? They'd better hurry up then. Unless you meant they came in 2017.   Honestly who proof reads this junk? No one.
  • Hey ahole , stfu. No one needs your armchair 'editor in chief' BS here..
  • They are still COMING and it IS 2017 still. Coming is correct.
  • This article is basically just spinning Microsoft's abandonment of UWP. I am sure they will never announce it, just ignore it and hope it goes away.
  • You know UWP is failing when Microsoft themselves take forever to develop their own apps.
  • Wow...the only Micosoft Store I knew is in Mission Viejo😁
  • When did PWA overtake UWP ? And...what IS PWA ?
  • Progressive web apps.
  • What's the point when you have no mobile presence?
  • Yeah why even bother with getting out of bed in the morning or brushing their teeth either. Oh yeah and Google putting apps on their Chromebooks. Why bother right?
  • Why bother Monte? Simple, if you can't capture the mobile space then you have minimal chance in the long run of having any presence.
  • Very true indeed, SmartPhones have been outselling Desktops+Laptops+Servers+Hybrids for many years running, now. Microsoft as a whole CANNOT be blind to this fact, even if the Satya-bashers heap insults on Saya's pate! I am extremely hopeful of a Mobile Calling+ Device from the MS Stables, in 2018 - call it Win 10 or Andromeda...! Attracting big names to the MS Store is housecleaning stuff, in preparation for the family arriving!!
  • I bought a couple play anywhere games as my first purchases on the store last month.  None of my purchases installed correctly.  I received cryptic install error numbers comparable to windows update and no one at Microsoft was available to call.  I did get them working eventually by reinstalling.   I might buy more in the future if they staff a call centre on weekends and have a backup feature so I don't have to wait days to install AAA games over slower internet.  I don't think they are very serious about the store and customers as of yet.  I’ve never had a problem with Steam, knock on wood.
  • If iTunes and Snapchat make it to the store others will follow but I think banks need to seriously look at this also. Without banking apps or at least the ability to make a good web app the store isn't going anywhere.   
  • I put W10 on my Mac using Parallels.The Windows store blows away Apple's Mac store. Onwards and upwards.
  • i just tried a mac, wow, macOS feels like an old linux distro ...
  • Lol! Ditto, for the Mac Hardware too - addition of a bleating Touch Bar does not make a MacBook look different, nor has the Mac OS changed in terms of UI and UX, despite using up every fleet-footed carnivore's name! :D :D
  • I've been playing with the home automation on windows lately and the things that I've noticed that are missing are applications like Alexa from Amazon, SmartThings from Samsung, and Hue from Phillips. Oddly enough SmartThings is on the windows phone but not on the Windows PC. There's a really excellent third party replacement for Phillips Hue called HueTro.
  • The Microsoft Store is full of bugs. Open the store and while you are in the home screen enter a search term then press enter. It will take you to an empty page with no search results. Enter the same search term again. Voila results!  
  • um, I just did a search and had no such problems.  Maybe it's a localization issue?
  • May want to do a app reset. I have not experienced this.
  • Well, I definitely got a Blank Screen for Serif Affinity and Serif Affinity Suite... :P
  • You know, I never noticed that Store glitch! Tried it just now and yes, it is as you describe it! Zanky!!
  • I would believe in store when I see main Adobe and Autodesk apps. Not just Photoshop Elements and Sketchbook which are actually mobile apps. However, it's nice to see Serif Affinity suit there. Now It's like how Windows Phone store looked like in 2013 when big names started to appear in the store one by one. About apps currently, they're following "taillights" which means they're on the right track and just need to push a little harder. About PC games though I think there's no hope. They don't even let users create and keep backups from the game data which in some cases they are more than 100GB. 
  • I was thinking something similar about the store. There's some good stuff there and it appears they're being ignored, IMO.
  • Why is there still confusion on what the UWP is? It's a modern application framework that allows for the creation of applications with dynamically adaptable layout to accommodate various Windows 10 devices.
  • yes,     A webpage is like a magazine shelf,  but an OS should be more like a book shelf..   Live tiles let a book change its dust cover to attract attention and stay relevant.  And, Windows Store is the way for MSFT to make phones again, by runing win10S or win10 on ARM.   "universal " app, means tablet convertibew, PC, and xbox, Not multiplatfrom , but Apple and Google dont really have their respective shizen together, see , as they have separate apis for mobile vs keyboard devices.  MSFT,   yo may  rise from the ashes after losing 5 billion dollars on mobile, .  Or roast me again, your losership.
  • lol, that was a challenge!!!
  • I think the store should be looked at on the spectrum for me app that i would want on the desktop it has just about everything I need, but of course if move to my more mobile devices i.e laptop,tablet,phone of course, it change but it's definitely getting there.
  • Talking about Spotify replacing Groove, I still haven't been able to figure out how to purchase and download music like I did with Groove and Microsoft Store.
  • I don't think you buy anything on Spotify, just stream.
  • My one-note and mail app from the store won't update to unknown errors. Articles I have search tell me a need to use power shell commands (as of 2014) bt in the current version of power shell those commands no longer exist. The uninstall power shell "spell" (its six lines long...certainly not a command) no longer is a recognized command.
  • Wait for it, it's coming........... Windows 10 on Arm will get a ton of XDA hackers and developers flocking to it to fork a version of Android to run on it....... Which means, no more emulation required (ex. Bluestacks, or similar), which run like crap on a spec'd out PC. I also think Microsoft should add .apk compatibility to the store for Windows Arm based PC's. That way you can run any Android app, any windows software on it......... Would love for this folding Andromeda device we keep talking about to be the best solution for all, but more than likely, it will be another cool niche device nobody buys cause they have their heads too stuck up an Apple to give a damn.
  • Make sure you have CPU that supports Virtualisation and have sufficient amount of RAM. It's the Virtualisation element that helps with performance and not many high end cpu's have support for virtualisation (intel is pretty sly when it comes to that side of things... ). Personally I find Nox performs better than Bluestacks. The biggest flaw with .apk support is that you also get android designed malware as well. So it's a balancing act and there is always a catch 22 when it comes to programming as it's linear due to binary. However with quantum computing the entire paradigm shifts as you can have both linear and non linear behaviour. So logical and illogical, rational and irrational similiar to the human conscious.
  • Microsoft needs to put more emphasis and resources on UWP, sure there are some big names but it's still pretty barren.
  • I have used the app store since 2016 July when I first got my very first windows phone a Lumia 950 XL and I must say that I have never felt any app gap. On the contrary I have felt overwhelmed with the amount of apps in that store. The category and collections did help out a bit in the beginning. I still use my phone with great enthusiasm and should it die after the warranty expires then I will without doubt go for another windows 10 phone. The universal apps are really great as I use them across my phone, laptop 💻 and desktop. On a side note I also think that I have the most beautiful phone in the world 😊🐱‍👤🐱‍👤🐱‍👤🐱‍👤🐱‍👤🐱‍👤🐱‍👤🐱‍👤🐱‍👤🐱‍👤🐱‍👤🐱‍👤🐱‍👤🐱‍👤🐱‍👤🐱‍👤