Microsoft’s Windows Store opened its virtual doors today, and “developers are working fast and furiously to stock the shelves” with cloud-based apps for it new Windows 8 operating system, according to CEO Steve Ballmer.
For publishers, the download center represents a new frontier with two major benefits: the potential to tap into a large global audience, and a more favourable division of revenue from digital subscriptions.
The Windows operating system is currently used by most of the world’s PCs, but PC sales have been stagnant for the past two years. With the new software, Microsoft appears to be betting on tablets and smartphones (Windows 8 features an interface optimized for touchscreens), sales of which are rising around the world. It has opened its Windows Store in 231 countries as of today, and is allowing developers to write apps in 109 languages thus far. Ballmer has said that he expects nearly 400 million computers, tablets and phones to run Windows 8 software within the year.
Moreover, while apps for Windows will all initially be subject to the 70/30 profit share that has become industry standard thanks to longtime rival Apple, Microsoft has declared intentions to drop its cut to 20 percent when an app surpasses $25,000 in revenue, giving the developer a full 80 percent of profits.
“We approach this with one really clear goal: we want to return as much money as we can into the hands of developers. And we want to provide the best economics of every platform,” says Antoine Leblond, Corporate Vice President of Windows Web Services in an early promotional video for the Windows Store (here). This is certainly welcome news for revenue-strapped publishers, for whom giving a 30 percent cut to the world's wealthiest company has long been a point of contention.
Publishers who have already launched Windows 8 apps, available today via the Windows Store, include Condé Nast, Bonnier and The New York Times Company, ABC and Gannett.
“We really want to be where the consumer is,” said Condé Nast President Bob Sauerberg, citing the “significant” scale of Windows 8. The publisher of magazines such as The New Yorker and Wired has already made 22 apps available (some of which are free samples and others special issues designed with revenue in mind), and plans to unveil more early next year, according to Adweek.
Meanwhile, Bonnier CEO Terry Snow said in a statement that Windows 8 provided an opportunity to "connect with a new audience, expanding our reach and further building our brands for long-term success." The publisher of Saveur and Parenting has already placed full digital editions for 16 of its magazine titles in the Windows Store, and plans to roll out the rest of its brands over the next six months.
The New York Times has also brought out both a specialized Windows 8 app and a channel in the Bing News app, both of which will give Top News away for free, and will offer the rest of the newspaper’s content to its paying subscribers.
In parallel with the launch of the Windows Store, Microsoft is throwing wide the tangible (but ephemeral) doors of 34 pop-up stores across the United States and Canada, set up to flaunt its Surface RT tablet (sized 10.8” priced at $499), officially unveiled at a lavish bash in New York last night. On Monday, it is expected to launch its new smartphone, the Windows Phone 8.
It’s a risky new dawn for the company that introduced the first tablet computer prototype 21 years ago, when Microsoft was still at the center of the tech universe. The company has been shedding relevance since Apple’s miraculous comeback, which began, ironically, with a $150 million investment from Microsoft 15 years ago.