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4 things Microsoft needs to do to fix its app store

Windows Store
Windows Store (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft has spent years trying to close the "app gap" between its Microsoft Store and Google Play and Apple's App Store. To some extent, these efforts have succeeded. While some key players remain absent from the Microsoft Store, a number of excellent apps are now available on Windows 10.

But in an effort to rush to close the app gap, Microsoft opened the gates too much, resulting in a store flooded with terrible apps that distract people from finding great applications. These apps make the store look worse as a whole and make it more difficult for good developers to get the exposure they need for their apps.

While app stores should generally be accessible to developers, there are some steps that Microsoft can take to clean up the app store and push the best apps to the forefront.

The Microsoft Store has changed into a home for powerful apps

1. Kill the flow of bad Windows apps

The first thing Microsoft needs to do is limit the number of bad apps that come into the Store. I go through the new and rising section of the Microsoft Store to find apps to review every week. This allows me to find unknown apps, but I have to sift through a flurry of terrible apps to find a few good ones. I don't have an issue with having 20 different flashlight apps available, or if a developer wraps a webpage into an app. What Microsoft needs to eliminate are apps that copy logos from popular services, apps that are solely for the purpose of streaming illegal content, and apps that generally trick or mislead users into downloading them.

I know a number of people who never use the Microsoft Store. If one of them decides to venture into the Store and tries to download a browser because it has the same logo as the browser on another one of their devices only to realize it's a knockoff, they might never try to use the Microsoft Store again. If you went to a restaurant and ordered food based on a picture, and a cheap imitation of that food came out, you probably wouldn't give the restaurant a second chance.

If bad applications were kept to a small section of the store, their potential for damaging the store's reputation wouldn't be that great. But some apps manage to get high ratings despite being either poorly made or just a copy of someone else's work. People searching for the best-rated applications are still presented with poor results.

2. Purge unsupported and terrible Windows apps

While it's tempting to leave any application in the Microsoft Store there to boost its numbers, having a million terrible apps doesn't help showcase the few hundred good ones that are within the store. Microsoft needs to weed out the poor apps that are either no longer supported, are ripoffs of other products, or that are otherwise not in line with the store. Microsoft should give developers a reasonable period to upgrade their apps or show that they are still being supported. After this grace period ends, the company could start clearing them out.

This might require updating the Store's rules and regulations, and would take some time. But ultimately it would result in a cleaner Store.

I used to find apps to review and enjoy for personal use in the featured app section. While there are some good apps featured in there from time to time, they aren't rotated enough to make this section meaningful. Is it really a featured section if some apps are there for weeks or months at a time? A better name for it would be "editor's choice" or "must have apps."

The strength of the Microsoft Store when it comes to featuring apps is the categories. When it's back to school season, there is a great selection of apps to help students. Similarly, there are categories for creative apps, money-saving apps, and others throughout the year that are well selected. This shows that Microsoft is more than capable of highlighting good apps when it puts resources towards it.

4. Separate the sections in the Microsoft Store

I'm surprised that I have to say this, but wallpapers aren't apps. I don't know why wallpapers show up in the trending apps section of the Microsoft Store. I like that Microsoft has made it easier to share and download wallpapers and themes, but they need to be kept in their own section. I'd love a trending themes section to keep my PC looking fresh, but at the moment they just crowd the apps in the trending section.

Little things like this make the Microsoft Store look worse than it is.

A work in progress ...

Despite being able to get a variety of good applications in the Microsoft Store, many users elect to not use it. While there are a number of contributing factors to that, not being able to find the desired app, or having to search through dozens of bad apps to find one good one, are going to turn people away.

Microsoft needs to stop the flow of bad apps into the store, clean up the existing bad apps, and organize the store in a way that better showcases the best applications that are available on Windows 10, for the better of all Windows users, and the company itself.

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).

44 Comments
  • Wrapping a webpage into an app - the laziest most pointless way to get apps into the store. Either make a proper native app/PWA or don't bother. I agree with everything else here though. Changes sadly won't happen as developers and even MS have lost interest in it
  • webpage apps is the most intelligent and great movement in OSs for years.
    They just have one code for all the platforms.
    IT IS GENIUS (and great)
  • That would be great if the geniuses developed a web browser that didn't try to take over the world.
  • Well, you still can get that with PWAs - but still using features of the OS that websites cant.
  • Web page apps and PWA is essentially the same thing. Just that one will work everywhere and the other one just on Windows. PWA is a web page but with access to some of the OS functionalities.
  • I don't agree with you. In fact, many of the most famous apps can be fully replaced by a PWA with no loss of functions and mantaining the same look. Think Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Messenger, news apps such as Win Central, small games, Amazon app, Weather apps…. TONS of apps can be replaced by PWA!!!
  • There is absolutely no incentive for developers... Using my Surface purely for business, for everything else there is Android...
  • I go back in once a month or so and I have to say the number of apps and quality has gone up a lot, but yes, there is still room for improvement. Now that I no longer can have a Windows 10 Mobile phone and I have Android I can say that an Editors Choice would be very helpful to the Microsoft Store because that does carry some wait. But, they have to it be an Editors Choice for a specific time frame and then reevaluate to keep the designation relevant. Also, there really isn't that many more good games in the Android Store than in the Windows 10 Mobile Store. Yes there are a few big names, but there is a lot of junk games there that just try to display ads as much as they can.
  • If I may add my 2 cents... why is it so hard to figure out which apps are touch-optimized in a store that was born in an era of trying to make Windows relevant on tablets? In particular games... I have a Surface (non-pro) tablet, and it's pretty obvious that when I go to the Games section, I'm not looking for Forza Horizon 3 or Killer Instinct. Touch-first apps should be separated and, perhaps, put forward.
  • Secondly, your surface can't play Foeza Horizon at all even if it touch supported. Then why even show it in the store. One and only reason is marketing of the app. It may be helpful to a person who owns multiple windows devices like one is a normal laptop other one is a powerful gpu equipped desktop. That user might want to install Forza on his desktop after seeing it on laptop. This marketing problem can be solved because MS keeps the device list that are signed with same microsoft account.
  • Instead of the install button, they should replace it with add to "app library for compatible devices", for non compatible devices.
  • I love it. Is far better than Mac App store and Play store.
  • There are a few great apps I like to use (Spotify, Twitter, Instagram [although it is a second-class citizen on Windows 10, I don't have to pull out my phone anymore that much], WhatsApp Desktop). But for me, the real killer apps I use for work are not on the Windows Store, because I don't think developers who currently release them outside the store as Win32 apps are all that incentivized to give Microsoft a cut of their app sales in the store (even if it's 5% now if I'm not mistaken).
  • I use both Windows and Android. As stated the MS Store has improved, but still lags far behind the Android store. It's not just games and the number of games, because volume in itself is not that important to me. The MS Store is not alone in having a large number of inferior apps, finding the good apps among a multitude of very bad apps is an even bigger challenge in the Android app store. To me the real issue is that in a number of areas there are not nearly enough good/high quality apps on the MS Store yet. News apps are few and in my country not available at all, likewise no book/magazine reading apps like Kindle/Play Books (I'm outside the US), video streaming apps is limited to Netflix, no art apps like very good ones you can find on the Android Store, no Pocket app to store the bit and pieces you discover surfing the web and so on. As to high-quality touch friendly games the selection on MS Store is very narrow compared to the Android Store. And they are confusingly mixed with an increasing number of desktop games, that can only be played on a gaming PC with a powerfull GPU. I have also noticed that not many users on the MS Store help to review apps, which makes it even more difficult to find the good apps. However, there are also areas where the MS Store is quite good, productivity apps, inking apps, photo and video apps and such. I agree with the suggestions put forward in the article, and then perhaps more attention on the part of MS and willingness to put in an effort to make the MS Store really shine. After all, with 700 million Windows users the MS Store should be of interest to app developers.
  • I buy my books from the Microsoft store. Use Bing to read the books. It is far better than the Kindle app.
  • It's disappointing having a Surface and not being able to Cast directly from apps like Netflix, Spotify or even Groove to a Chromecast or the Xbox... You have to use Chrome to get those benefits and that sucks. It's not directly related with the Store, but the lack of cast support keeps Windows Apps out of the party..
  • For Spotify you can connect your phone to whatever other device is playing and basically use your phone as the remote for changing songs. But that's a Spotify specific thing they built into all their apps.
  • ..."But that's a Spotify specific thing they built into all their apps"..
    Right, as well as Netflix, OneDrive or whatever running on android. Not on a Surface running Windows 10 Pro...
  • You can actually. If you have a bluetooth device (such as a Surface) and a Miracast device (some TVs have built in, or I use the awesome Microsoft Wireless Adapter). Then from anywhere, you swipe from the right, and click Connect. And it projects the screen/app to that Miracast device. I can watch Netflix in 4K hehe. I know it's not 100% the same as 'casting', but the APIs for casting are there, it's up to the devs to actually implement it in their apps. I think amazing myTube! app uses it if I'm not mistaken.
  • Yeah, that's what I thought but the feature is there for there for a very long time. I'm not even sure what the OP was commenting about.
  • Right, the feature is there. Easy to find and use, but honestly it does not works as expected. It is simply not integrated.
    I know this is not the most appropriate place to set this comment, due is not related with the Store, but is a valid comment.
  • Miracast is not reliable in Windows 10 Pro or Windows Phone or whatever coming from MS, honestly...
  • What does bluetooth have to do with Miracasting Win10 to other Win10 devices or Miracast devices like the MSWA? They use WiFi direct (Miracast) that doesn't need a LAN/Wifi over a router to work. That's it's main advantage over Chromecast that requires a wireless network system, and one of the best features of Windows 10.
  • Completely disagree with #2. I can see how it would appeal to the consumer, but as a dev I have several small, older apps in the Store which work just fine, and people still use them. However, I have no interest in updating them (they work as intended), and having them removed would simply discourage me from doing any further UWP development if I'm forced to commit to regularly fixing what isn't broken. All your suggestion would do is make the problem worse.
  • I wouldn't want to clear out apps that still work. Microsoft would have to do something like email the devs or contact them and if the devs say the apps are still working as intended then it's fine.
  • Ah, I see. I'd be fine with that, though I wouldn't count on Microsoft caring that much about their devs; just a week ago one of my apps which had been on the Store almost ever since Windows 10 came out and had 4.5 stars was pulled with zero explanation of why or what they want changed.
  • The Microsoft Store is atrocious when it comes to VR. Steam is probably close to 100x better than Microsoft Store even for the Windows Mixed Reality devices
  • I pretty much agree with most of the article. I find the Store annoying to look at. Of course, the Android and Apple stores are even worse (especially Android). I don't need "featured". I don't go looking for apps to be "recommended" to me. If I need something, the ONLY thing I need is a well-designed and fast search mechanism. One that is accurate and allows sufficient specificity in my search criteria. I never, ever install an app because "ooo, look here's this great app we think you'll like". I'm the same way with music. I don't care what other people listen to and I don't care what some algorithm THINKS I like.
  • There are lot of good developers with their apps on the store but the people can see that beatiful apps... It is a lame :(
  • shut down the store, why compete with apple store and play store?
  • Sean, how about reviewing PhotoScape X and PhotoScape X Pro. I think it's one of the best free/ low cost photo editing app coming to Windows store. It's also updated regularly.
  • I agree with the author's main points; hopefully, we'll see some improvements made to Microsoft's app store in the not-to-distant future.
  • Totally agree they need a cleanup. Sometimes less is more. Also, they should stop segregating ratings by country. They should show all the rating and use Bing translate for reviews. Otherwise, the store looks even less used than it is. Finally, they really do need to show download stats even if they are low compared to other stores. No point in hiding them. This is the main trouble with quality in the store. You can't really tell. Download stats and reviews is how you can tell on Android, here you are left in the dark.
  • They have not succeed at all! Not even closed to Google and Android. Besides, without mobile, that app store is plain useless.
  • Let me put it to readers that Nadella has expressed his desire to focus on business. If we take him at his word and follow to its logical conclusion, why would he not let the Store wither and die because it's largely got a consumer focus. Anyone got a contrary view?
  • Yeah, the store has improved under nadella. Also it's not one or the other, lots of stuff they're doing with the store benefits both users and business. I think nadella understand a is that Microsofts focus on business is what allowed them to be so successful in the consumer space in the past.
  • If that's what he wants then he just needs to pull down the shutters and kill it. It's bad for the brand.
  • They could take a page from steam and allow trusted users to recommend apps and even remove bad and misleading apps. It would also improve relationship s with some users who feel like windows 10s is too closed.
  • I'd love to see this happen.
  • As a Surface Pro owner I wish I had filters to find games that:
    - will run fine on my device
    - support touch
    - that support Xbox controller
    I have no interest in AAA keyboard gaming. I want more stuff like Cuphead, Alto's Adventure, Halo Spartan Assault, etc. where I can lean back at my desk and use a controller for a few minutes of relaxation.
  • I have been buying books from the Microsoft store. I prefer using Bing to read books over the Kindle app. I will say the number of books and the ability to sort through different types of books is a bit tedious, which is the same for the Amazon site. The store seems to get better over time. Patience people.
  • Good article. They need to do or kill.
  • All this because they're behind but the other guys don't need these, what a crock! 😒
  • With 99% of the content being junk (xbox games not included), what on earth can they fix about it :)) too late. Without mobile is useless.