Victor Wynne

Open App Store principles

Brad Smith, President and Vice Chair of Microsoft in his post on the company blog:

Today we’re announcing a new set of Open App Store Principles that will apply to the Microsoft Store on Windows and to the next-generation marketplaces we will build for games. We have developed these principles in part to address Microsoft’s growing role and responsibility as we start the process of seeking regulatory approval in capitals around the world for our acquisition of Activision Blizzard. This regulatory process begins while many governments are also moving forward with new laws to promote competition in app markets and beyond. We want regulators and the public to know that as a company, Microsoft is committed to adapting to these new laws, and with these principles, we’re moving to do so.

Microsoft is definitely getting ahead of pending fears from regulators about their Activision Blizzard acquisition with this announcement, but it also helps to distance themselves from the recent actions of Google and Apple. Apple has shown these past few weeks that they are sticking to a hard line, and almost daring the government to regulate them. Nobody can say that they will bend easily. Meanwhile Microsoft is implementing much of the assumed changes that would be asked of them in the near future and helping to ensure the FTC doesn’t put the kibosh on them becoming the third largest gaming company in the world.

As we’ve said on other occasions, we recognize that the emerging new era of tech regulation brings with it both benefits and risks, not just for a single company but for our entire industry. As others have pointed out, there are risks with any new regulation, and these deserve a fair hearing and thorough consideration. But as a company, we continue to be more focused on adapting to regulation than fighting against it. In part this is because we have been adapting for two decades to antitrust rules, and we’ve learned from our experience. While change is not easy, we believe it’s possible to adapt to new rules and innovate successfully. And we believe it’s possible for governments to adopt new tech regulation that promotes competition while also protecting fundamental values like privacy and national and cyber security.

Calling out the stance of Apple and Google while simultaneously making it known that the US government really doesn’t understand the industry well enough at this point in time to regulate it correctly either. A well executed statement that underscores the immediate anxiety that comes with considering how easy it could be for our lawmakers to really fuck this up big time for consumers.

Just as Windows has evolved to an open and broadly used platform, we see the future of gaming following a similar path. Today 2.8 billion consumers worldwide, including more than 190 million Americans, play games, and we expect the global number will reach 4.5 billion by 2030 as new generations turn to gaming for entertainment, community, and a sense of achievement. Our vision is to enable gamers to play any game on any device anywhere, including by streaming from the cloud. App stores on the most relevant and popular everyday devices like mobile phones; PCs, including Windows PCs; and, in time, the cloud, are important to realizing this vision.

Microsoft under Satya Nadella has certainly made a huge change of course in that the platform doesn’t have to be Windows, the focal point is no longer Windows everywhere. As long as the company has a presence it has a stake in the game, and a wider revenue net to throw regardless of who the hardware vendor is.

But too much friction exists today between creators and gamers; 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. We want to enable world-class content to reach every gamer more easily across every platform. We want to encourage more innovation and investment in content creation and fewer constraints on distribution. Put simply, the world needs open app markets, and this requires open app stores. The principles we’re announcing today reflect our commitment to this goal.

Put even more simply, Apple doesn’t allow video game streaming services like Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass on their App Store so please regulate the industry so that Apple has no choice but to provide us a native app presence. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc. are all allowed on the App Store but not Game Pass. It would be interesting to hear Apple try and explain why game streaming services aren’t allowed. I cannot think of a single good reason outside of Apple feeling as though they aren’t making enough money from the arrangement and that definitely will not fly with regulators.

You can click through and read the entire post for all of their stated commitments, but number 10 really stood out to me when considering the recent news cycle:

We will not disadvantage developers if they choose to use a payment processing system other than ours or if they offer different terms and conditions in other app stores.

In short; please allow our acquisition, and Google and Apple aren’t being fair to developers and consumers. Microsoft is definitely showing commitment to bolster openness on their platforms, but there are still discrepancies when it comes to their gaming ecosystem. Pending government involvement that forces similar changes to Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store would ultimately benefit Microsoft’s bottom line. That is a very key takeaway when considering the why of their strong stance in favor of regulation.