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Microsoft's new app store pledge preserves its walled garden on Xbox

Microsoft has announced a series of 11 pledges to do with App Store and fair dealing with developers, but won't apply 4 major ones to its Xbox store.

As governments around the world put pressure on Apple and Google over regulating their platforms, Microsoft has announced what it calls "a principled approach to app stores." Specifically done to adapt "ahead of regulation," Microsoft says its 11 principles address its "growing role and responsibility" in the market since its acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

"[Too] much friction exists today between creators and gamers," says Microsoft in a blog post, "app store policies and practices on mobile devices restrict what and how creators can offer games and what and how gamers can play them."

"Our large investment to acquire Activision Blizzard further strengthens our resolve to remove this friction on behalf of creators and gamers alike," it continues. "We want to enable world-class content to reach every gamer more easily across every platform."

"Put simply, the world needs open app markets, and this requires open app stores," says Microsoft. "The principles we're announcing today reflect our commitment to this goal."

Open App Store Principles

What Microsoft calls its Open App Store Principles, are 11 pledges that fall into four categories:

  • Quality, Safety, Security & Privacy
  • Accountability
  • Fairness and Transparancy
  • Developer Choice

The pledges in these categories include ones such as enabling all developers to access the store, and protecting consumers with security and privacy tools. Microsoft says it will "hold our own apps to the same standards we hold competing apps," and by implication, avoid the anti-steering criticisms that Apple has faced.

Of the 11 pledges, Microsoft says only its first 7 will apply to the Xbox store. That means Xbox won't benefit from any of the Developer Choice category.

The pledges in this category all revolve around payment systems, which is key to the major criticisms of Apple and Google.

"[Some] may ask why today's principles do not apply immediately and wholesale to the current Xbox console store," says Microsoft in its blog. "It's important to recognize that emerging legislation is being written to address app stores on those platforms that matter most to creators and consumers: PCs, mobile phones and other general purpose computing devices."

"Emerging legislation is not being written for specialized computing devices, like gaming consoles, for good reasons," it continues. "Gaming consoles, specifically, are sold to gamers at a loss to establish a robust and viable ecosystem for game developers."

Microsoft concludes by saying that "we recognize that we will need to adapt our business model even for the store on the Xbox console," and that it will be "closing the gap... over time."