According to a report on ZDNet by Mary Jo Foley, Redmond could be looking to phase out the Microsoft Store for Business and Store for Education. Not to be confused with the consumer app that is bundled with Windows 10, the Store for Business and Store for Education allows organizations to control licensing and distribution of public Store apps and to distribute line-of-business apps that are developed in-house.
The Store concept was originally developed to distribute and update Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps securely in Windows 10. But UWP never really took off with developers. And along with the demise of Windows 10 Mobile, UWP as a stand-alone development platform is considered by most to be dead in the water.
The Store technologies have developed over time to reflect this reality. Win32 apps can now be packaged and distributed using the Store. Microsoft also replaced the original APPX installer technology with MSIX, which allows packages to be distributed from any source, including the web and Microsoft Store.
For more information on MSIX, see Improve Windows Enterprise Application Deployment Reliability and Security using MSIX and MSIX Core Coming to Windows 7 and 8.1 in December, Plus New Features on the Horizon on Petri.
Last spring, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of the Windows Developer Platform Kevin Gallo told Foley:
“The Store is about commerce. It’s another channel for distribution, but not the only way Windows 10 users will be able to get apps.”
Now Foley is reporting that while Microsoft isn’t saying anything publicly at the moment, officials across various teams are trying to develop a new strategy. The web version of the Store is likely to remain but it’s not sure what will happen to the built-in Windows 10 Store app.
But Foley says that it sounds as if the Microsoft Store for Business and Store for Education will be deprecated by June 30th, 2020. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean that customers with an investment in the Store won’t be able to keep using it for a limited period beyond that point.
Gallo also told Foley that Microsoft is looking at ways to let users know which apps were recommended and trusted by Microsoft regardless of whether they come from the Store.
“You can trust apps differently. They don’t need to be in the Store. People really just want to know if Microsoft considers an app good,”
MSIX plus a trust model on Windows
It sounds like Microsoft is working on a trust model for Windows apps. The model would allow users to download apps from any location and still be sure of their trustworthiness.
Windows 10 App Installer, which first appeared in Windows 10 version 1803, allows APPX/MSIX applications distributed from a website or Intranet share to be automatically updated. Automatic updating is one of the main features of the Microsoft Store. Apps distributed via the Store don’t need to provide their own automatic update mechanism. Everything is handled by Windows.
What does this mean for Windows 10 S Mode and Windows 10X?
If Microsoft can provide a trust model that is equal to that today in the Store, there’s no reason why the Store can’t be disposed of in Windows 10 SKUs that are only permitted to download and install Store applications. The other supporting technology for installing and updating applications is already available separately as part of MSIX.
The only open question is related to how organizations would control licensing. But I don’t believe that’s an insurmountable problem.
Will anyone miss the Microsoft Store?
If the consumer Microsoft Store also disappears in Windows 10, I don’t think anyone will miss it. More important is that Microsoft continues to invest in the technologies that are behind the Store to provide a secure, automated, and trustworthy way for users to obtain and maintain applications in Windows.