As part of its overall Windows 11 push, Microsoft is partnering with Amazon to make its app store available for Windows devices. It’s a smart move for Microsoft. Windows x86 users will be able to buy Amazon mobile apps and run them via Intel Bridge technology. ARM and AMD-based systems will still be able to take advantage of the feature, and we assume (though this has not been confirmed) that Windows on ARM users who download apps from Amazon through the Microsoft Store will receive native binaries.
This is an interesting move for Microsoft with some clear analogs in mobile. ChromeOS can run Android apps and new M1-capable Macs can run iOS applications. According to the head of Windows and devices Panos Panay, the inclusion of Amazon is hopefully just the beginning. The Verge reports him as explicitly hoping other major storefronts, like the Epic Game Store and Steam, agree to be part of the Microsoft Store as well.
“Windows already in many ways hosts those stores, and if we can host it through the Microsoft Store then of course,” says Windows and device chief Panos Panay, in an interview with The Verge. “For sure, it means as others want to come to the Store, they’re very welcome. As a matter of fact, encouraged, and that’s kind of why we’re building out some of these policies.”
From Microsoft’s perspective, this makes perfect sense. The company has been trying to build an ecosystem around its own storefront for nearly a decade at this point. Services like xCloud and Game Pass are intended to draw people into the combined Xbox/PC gaming ecosystem. Microsoft has made a lot of effort to integrate its gaming businesses, and Panay isn’t wrong when he says that Windows effectively hosts these storefronts already. It does. The same arguments for the security convenience of the App Store can be made for the Microsoft Store, and Microsoft has expanded the types of apps that can be sold there. Win32 apps, for example, are now included.
But would this be a good deal for Steam and Epic the way it might be for Amazon? The evidence there is decidedly mixed. When Amazon signs up to sell Android apps through the Microsoft Store, it expands its customer base. That’s a positive for Amazon. What do Steam and the Epic Game Store get in exchange for signing up to sell games through the Microsoft Store?
Gabe Newell famously launched SteamOS because he saw the Microsoft Store as a threat. The principal reason that threat never came to be is that gamers didn’t switch their buying habits. But selling Steam games (or Epic Store Games) through the Microsoft Store would seem to be a losing bet for both Epic and Valve. Neither company is hurting for visibility or the ability to attract new customers.
The Verge notes that having the ability to download all of your applications in one place would be a simpler setup method than visiting various websites to download installers. This is true. Reinstalling every necessary app for a new PC build is not an overwhelming chore, but it can take 2-4 hours to hunt down, download, and install every application, driver, and Windows Update, especially if you have to download a tranche of games. If you have a lot of games to download it could easily take 6-12 hours in total, depending on the games and the speed of your internet connection.
But while this might be simpler for users, it’s probably not in the best interest of Valve or Epic. It’s one thing for Amazon to work with Microsoft in the hopes of propping up its own app store, though I’ll note my colleague Sascha Segan at PCMag is dubious that this will work. It’s something else entirely for Steam or EGS to allow the Microsoft Store to function as a wrapper for their own content. Why jump through whatever additional hoop is required to buy from Steam through the Microsoft Store when you could buy from the Microsoft Store directly?
As an aside: If you want a one-stop application for downloading and handling the installation of multiple applications, I’d recommend the NiNite package installer. It’s a free-to-use batch installer that will download and install a fairly long list of applications (you customize your own list). It’s not quite the same thing as a universal Microsoft Store with Epic and Valve under the same roof, but it can simplify the process of getting software loaded on a new system.
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