Tag Archives: windows store

Lifetime registration as a Windows Store developer, now from £12

Microsoft has removed some friction from developing for the Windows Store (whether phone or Windows 8) by removing the requirement to pay an annual subscription:

As we continue to execute on the vision to integrate the Windows and Windows Phone developer experiences, we have taken another step by moving to a one-time lifelong Dev Center registration fee.

says Microsoft’s Todd Brix in a post today. He adds that the 600,000 developers already registered are covered, with no additional fee required.

How much is the fee? Brix does not say, and I could not find it quickly, so I started the signup process. I was offered individual registration for just £12.00. A company registration is £65.00.


Both fees are of course negligible for a developer, compared to the cost of developing an app that is worth installing. Considering that Microsoft has had problems with junk apps filling its store, you could argue that fees are justifiable as a means of restraining the flow of meaningless or malicious apps.

The counter-argument is that fees deter developers from getting started, and that today’s hobbyist may come up with the next Minecraft. It is better to control quality with a robust checking process before apps are admitted into the store.

I had a quick glance today, and have the impression that Microsoft has made progress in removing the worst offenders, following some agitation at the end of last month.

Microsoft is laying the foundation for another go at its app platform with the launch of Windows 9, about which we will hear more in a couple of weeks time.

Microsoft’s broken Windows Store: an unconvincing official response and the wider questions

Microsoft’s Todd Brix has posted about misleading apps in Windows Store:

Every app store finds its own balance between app quality and choice, which in turn opens the door to people trying to game the system with misleading titles or descriptions. Our approach has long been to create and enforce strong but transparent policies to govern our certification and store experience. Earlier this year we heard loud and clear that people were finding it more difficult to find the apps they were searching for; often having to sort through lists of apps with confusing or misleading titles. We took the feedback seriously and modified the Windows Store app certification requirements as a first step toward better ensuring that apps are named and described in a way that doesn’t misrepresent their purpose.

Although it is not mentioned, the post is likely in response to this article which describes the Windows Store as “a cesspool of scams”:

Microsoft’s Windows Store is a mess. It’s full of apps that exist only to scam people and take their money. Why doesn’t Microsoft care that their flagship app store is such a cesspool?

That is a good question and one which Brix does not answer. Nor are the complaints new. I posted in November 2012 about Rubbish apps in Windows Store – encouraged by Microsoft? with the extraordinary rumour that Microsoft employees were encouraging trivial and broken apps to be uploaded multiple times under different names.

The facts in that case are somewhat obscure; but there was no obscurity about the idiotic (if your goal is to improve the availability of compelling Windows Store apps) Keep the Cash campaign in March 2013:

Publish your app(s) in the Windows Store and/or Windows Phone Store and fill out the form at http://aka.ms/CashForApps to participate. You can submit up to 10 apps per Store and get $100 for each qualified app up to $2000.


Microsoft decided to reward mediocrity – no, even that is not strong enough – rather, to reward the distribution of meaningless trivial apps in order to pad out its store with junk and make the actual high quality apps (yes there are some) harder to find.

I agree with the commenters to Brix’s post who call him out on his claim that “Our approach has long been to create and enforce strong but transparent policies to govern our certification and store experience”. How do you reconcile this claim with the torrent of rubbish that was allowed, and even encouraged, to appear in the store?

Every public app store is full of junk, of course, and it is hard to see how that can be completely avoided; if Apple, Google or Microsoft declined apps for subjective reasons there would be accusations of exerting too much control over these closed platforms.

That does not excuse the appearance of apps like Download Apple Itunes (sic) for PC, listed today under New & rising apps:


The app is nothing to do with Apple; it is a third-party downloader of the kind I analysed here. The idea is to persuade people to run an application that installs all sorts of adware or even malware before directing them to a download that is freely available.

It seems that users do not think much of this example, which apparently does not even do what it claims.


While apps like this are making in into the store, I do not see how Brix can justify his claim of enforcing “strong but transparent policies to govern our certification and store experience”.

Even VLC, where scammy apps have been largely cleaned up following many complaints, is still being targeted. Apparently Microsoft’s store curators are happy to let through an app called “Download VLC Letest” (sic).


How much does this matter or has this mattered? Well, Microsoft launched Windows 8 at huge risk, trading the cost of unpopular and disruptive changes to the OS and user interface for the benefit of a new more secure and touch-friendly future. That benefit depended and depends completely on the availability of compelling apps which use the new model. The store, as the vehicle of distribution for those apps, is of critical importance.

Another benefit, that of protecting users from the kind of junk that has afflicted and diminished the Windows experience for many years, has been scandalously thrown away by Microsoft itself. It is a self-inflicted wound.

What could Microsoft do? It is too late for Windows 8 of course, but the correct approach to this problem, aside from not approving harmful and deceitful apps in the first place, is to take a strongly editorial approach. For less cost than was spend actually undermining the store by paying for rubbish, Microsoft could have appointed an editorial team to seek out strong apps and include within the store features that describe their benefits and tell their story, making the green store icon one that users would actually enjoy tapping or clicking. Currently there is too much reliance on automated rankings that are frequently gamed.

There are some excellent apps in the store, and teams that have worked hard to make them what they are. Apps to mention, for example, include Adobe’s Photoshop Express; Microsoft’s Fresh Paint; or Calculator Free. Those developers deserve better.

Windows 8 launches: key questions remain, but Surface shines

I am in New York for the launch of Windows 8. This morning was the general launch; the Surface RT launch is to follow this afternoon. Windows chief Steven Sinofsky introduced the event. I was intrigued by how dismissive he was about a key Windows 8 issue: the learning challenge it presents to new users. He gave the impression that a few minutes experimenting will be enough, though he also referred to a guide that may be new; yesterday I picked up a small booklet which I had not seen before, introducing Windows 8.

Next Microsoft’s Julie Larson-Green and Michael Angiulo came on to show off a few details about the Windows 8 user interface, followed by Ballmer who gave what is for him a muted address about how great Windows 8 is going to be. Solid facts were few, but Microsoft did mention that over 1000 devices are certified for Windows 8.

So what is Windows 8 all about? It’s a tablet, it’s a laptop, it’s a PC we were told, in other words, everything. But everything is also nothing, and my sense is that even Microsoft is struggling to articulate its message, or at least, struggling to do so in ways that would not offend key partners.

Personally I like Windows 8, I find it perfectly usable and appreciate the convenience of the tablet format. That said, I look at all these hybrid devices and my heart sinks: these are devices that are neither one thing nor another, and pay for it with complexity and expense. Will they win over users who might otherwise have bought a MacBook? I am doubtful.

Windows RT and Intel Atom devices are more interesting. If Microsoft and its partners can push out Windows 8 devices that inexpensive and work well on tablets without keyboard clutter, that is what has potential to disrupt the market.

That brings me on to Surface. It is all in the body language: the conviction that was missing from the Windows 8 keynote in the morning was present in the Surface keynote in the afternoon. Even the room was better, with stylish Surface fake pavement art in the corridor and smart white seating.


General Manager Panos Panay showed off little details, like the way the rear camera angles so that it is level when the Surface is set on its kickstand. He talked about Microsoft’s drop tests, claiming that they had tested 72 different ways to drop a Surface and designed it not to break. He demonstrated this by dropping it onto a carpet, which was not too challenging, but the fact that Sinofsky successfully used it as a skateboard was more impressive.


No doubt then: Microsoft has more enthusiasm for Surface, described by Panay as “the perfect expression of Windows”, than it does for the 1000 certified devices from its partners, though the company would never admit that directly.

What is the significance of Surface? It goes beyond the device itself. It will impact Microsoft’s relationship with its hardware partners. It embodies an Apple-like principle that design excellence means hardware designed for software designed for hardware. It shows that the “OK but nothing special” approach of most Windows hardware vendors is no longer good enough. If Surface is popular, it will also introduce demand for more of the same: a 7” Surface, a Surface phone, and more.

Despite its quality, the success of Surface is not assured. The biggest problem with Windows 8 now is with the lack of outstanding apps. That is not surprising given that the platform is new, and you would think that users would make allowance for that. On the other hand, they may lack patience and opt for better supported platforms instead, in which case building app momentum will be a challenge.

ITWriting app hits the Windows 8 store

Hands on where possible is part of my technical journalism philosophy, so I have been trying out Windows 8 development for some time. After playing around with and adapting Microsoft’s blog reader sample I decided to take it further and try submitting it to the Windows 8 Store.

Today it was certified so you can install it now. It is free of course. 


There is not much to it. It features quick access to recent posts on itwriting.com and gadgets.itwriting.com, recent tweets, and dedicated links to Windows 8 survival guides for both keyboard/mouse and touch/tablet users.

Despite its simplicity, creating the app was an interesting exercise. Having the app layout change in a moderately sensible way when switched between portrait and landscape, and filled or snapped, taught me a bit about XAML and the VisualStateManager element. I also struggled a bit with the flyouts that you use to implement app settings, the ones that appear when the user displays the Charms menu and taps or clicks Settings when your app has the focus. I used the official sample though I discovered that it will not compile as-is because the standard brush names have changed since the release preview for which the sample was apparently created. I have have some sort of z-order bug there which I have not yet solved.

Creating apps for Windows 8 is not difficult exactly, but it is fiddly. It seems to me harder than, for example, creating a desktop app using Windows Forms. In mitigation, setup and deployment is done for you which is a significant advantage. I was also pleased to discover that the app works fine on a Surface RT.


The Windows Store certification process was rather straightforward in my case; the app passed first time. I had noticed from other reports that having a privacy policy in place is important, so made sure that this is linked in this settings.

I do have some ideas for making the app a little more interesting. Share support and offline support would be obvious enhancements. Watch out for future updates!

The Windows Runtime App Certification Kit: not too good detecting crashes and hangs

Now that I have a lovely ITWriting.com App I thought I should check out whether it is ready to fly.

I therefore ran the App Certification Kit that installs with Visual Studio 2012.


The tool asks you to select an installed app and then exercises it. I saw my app open, though I did not see it get beyond the first screen.


Eventually – bad news:


However, there is only one thing wrong with it:


Yes, the version installed is the debug build. I can fix this simply by rebuilding in release configuration.

What does the Kit test? Here is the list:

  • Crashes and hangs test
  • App manifest compliance test
  • Windows security features test
  • Supported API test
  • Performance test
  • App manifest resources test
  • Debug configuration test
  • File encoding
  • Direct3D feature level support
  • App Capabilities test
  • Windows Runtime metadata validation

That sounds most impressive and makes a great list for you to show to your customer.

I am sceptical though. If the app was not exercised beyond the opening screen, might it not be a bit buggy after all?

I inserted the following line of code into the the Click event handler for reading a blog:

int iCrash = 1 / string.Empty.Length;

I then rebuilt the app in release mode and ran the App Certification Test. Great news!


and specifically:


Thanks though to my umm, bug-unfix, the app crashes whenever I click to read a blog.

I mention this not to poke fun at the App Certification Kit, but to observe that it does not do a good job of automatically detecting crashes and hangs.

The implication is that the human testers are the ones who will do this before an app is admitted to the store. I think they would find my obvious bug; but how much time will they have to test every feature of an app?

Not allowed in Windows 8 Metro: porn, ads in live tiles, bugs, or opt-out data collection

Microsoft’s newly published Certification Requirements for the forthcoming Windows 8 store includes some notable points. Here are a few that caught my eye.

2.3 Your app must not use tiles or notifications for ads

No complaints about that one.

3.2 Your app must not stop responding, end unexpectedly, or contain programming errors

Hmm, this could be a tough one.

3.3 Your app must provide the same user experience on all processor types

OK, no “Intel-only” features. However you could by implication submit an “Intel-only” version of your app as long as it is called something different than than the ARM version.

3.7 Your app must not use an interaction gesture in a way that is different from how Windows uses the gesture

This is interesting as an example of enforcing application style guidelines. The intent is a consistent user experience, but is this heavy-handed?

4.1 Your app must obtain opt-in or equivalent consent to publish personal information

No stealthy personal data collection. A good thing; though if opt-in means “Hand over your data or you cannot run the app” it can still be difficult for users to avoid.

4.4 Your app must not be designed or marketed to perform, instruct, or encourage tasks that could cause physical harm to a customer or any other person

What a relief!

5.1 Your app must not contain adult content

Windows Metro a porn-free zone? This could be troublesome though. No games beyond PEGI 16? This is a preliminary document and it would not surprise me if there is some change here; maybe this is a restriction for the beta period only.

Windows Store: Microsoft explains another piece of its new platform

Microsoft’s Ted Dworkin, Partner Progam Manager, has posted details of how the forthcoming Windows Store will work. There is also detailed new information on MSDN. It is a key piece if you care about the next version of Windows, including details of how enterprises will be able to deploy apps as well as the terms of business for independent developers.


Here is a quick summary:

  • The store is both an app and a web site. The same content will automatically appear in both.
  • The store is for Metro-style apps, which run on the Windows Runtime. No word about desktop apps; my presumption is that they are excluded. The certification requirements refer only to Metro-style apps.
  • Apps can be offered as full-featured, limited or unlimited trial, upgradeable via in-app purchases.
  • Enterprise apps can be deployed through the store with access limited to employees.
  • Enterprise apps can also be deployed outside the store, using PowerShell scripts to domain-joined machines. Apps must be signed.
  • App vendors can use their own transaction engine and/or ad service if they choose, or use the built-in services for sale, in-app purchase and advertising. Subscriptions do not have to go through the store. My impression is that the initial sale does not have to be transacted through the store either but this is not 100% clear to me.
  • Developer registration for the store costs $49.00 for individuals or $99.00 for companies.
  • Revenue share is 70%, rising to 80% if you achieve over $25,000 revenue for an app.
  • Apps are subject to approval, but developers are given the App Certification Kit as part of the SDK. There is still scope for disagreement over the interpretation of policies.


There is an initial beta preview period during which all apps will be free. Microsoft has also annoyed most of the world’s developers by restricting a First Apps Contest to those who:

 are a developer – professional, hobbyist, or student – and you are a legal resident of the 50 United States and District of Columbia, France, Germany, Japan, or India