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Why Microsoft needs to solve the Windows Store 'crap app' crisis before Windows 9

Jared Newman | Sept. 3, 2014
Two years into the creation of the Windows Store, Microsoft is facing up to the mess.

Two years into the creation of the Windows Store, Microsoft is facing up to the mess.

This week, the software giant removed 1,500 "misleading apps" from the Windows Store. New apps now face tighter guidelines, and Microsoft says it's putting more resources into identifying apps that "game the system with misleading titles and descriptions." In other words, Microsoft is trying to clean up the lame shovelware and outright scams that run rampant in its app store.

The crackdown may have been a response to recent reports that pointed out just how bad the situation has become. But there's a larger reason Microsoft needs to whip the Windows Store into shape right now: The Windows Store will be making a major push onto the desktop in Windows 9, and it needs to be presentable or else those desktop users will be turned off for good.

The bland reality of desktop software

Only the most grizzled Windows veteran would contend there's nothing wrong with the status quo. For too long, the Windows desktop has lacked a centralized — not exclusive, mind you — app store, and the Windows ecosystem is suffering for it.

A centralized store is more than just a single place to find, purchase, update, and manage all your software. It's also a place to set standards, so that programs share common features and have a unified look and feel. The Windows Store, for instance, introduced a modern design language, enforced support for high pixel density displays, and gave apps a powerful way to share information amongst themselves. It also introduced "Snap," a feature that allows apps to remain useful even at reduced window sizes. If recent rumors are correct, future Windows apps could provide rich notifications and tap into Microsoft's Cortana virtual assistant software.

Without these things, Windows software is stuck in the past. Too many desktop programs look like they were designed at the turn of the century and don't support modern technology advancements such as ultra-high resolution displays. You're never quite certain whether that random .exe file you just downloaded is safe, and you have no easy way to re-download all your software when you install a new machine. For all the talk of Windows' vibrant desktop ecosystem, most desktop users likely have a handful of old standbys — things like Office and Photoshop — and don't bother to venture much further, despite the wealth of superb lesser-known software that's out there. It's easier to stick with what you know or stay in the confines of a web browser.

The Windows Store could have been the answer, but it wasn't the solution that laptop and desktop users were looking for.


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