If Windows 11 really wants to compete with iOS and Android, it’s doing it wrong

Back view of a man using a laptop with Windows 11's Microsoft Store app open
(Image credit: Foxy burrow / Shutterstock / Microsoft)

When Windows 11 launches later this year, it will be bringing an overhauled Microsoft Store with it, but while it looks like there will be some welcome fixes and new features, it looks like Microsoft is still failing to nail what makes its competitors’ so successful.

The Windows 11 Microsoft Store will now support apps built on several different platforms, not just UWP, and this means traditional Windows apps (known as Win32) apps can now be downloaded straight from the Microsoft Store, along with .NET, Java and web apps as well.

This is good news as it will make finding and downloading programs to run in Windows 11 easier and more secure (as applications will be presumably vetted by Microsoft), as well as upping the number of apps in the Microsoft Store – which was one of the biggest issues with it, compared to the competing App Store and Google Play stores on iOS and Android devices, respectively.

However, as Windows Latest reports, it looks like the Windows 11 Microsoft Store could come with a rather disappointing caveat – as Win32 apps won’t receive updates via the store – and that could be a bit of a pain.

Update annoyances

With UWP (Universal Windows Platform) apps that you install, if the developers release an update, you’ll be alerted in the Microsoft Store, and you can quickly and easily update all the apps on your PC via the Store.

However, Microsoft has confirmed that Win32 apps won’t do this. Instead, after you’ve installed it from the Microsoft Store, the app will need to be updated separately by the developer – either from inside the app, or by downloading updates from the website.

That means they miss out on one of the key benefits of installing apps through an app store like the one found in Windows 11, as it makes keeping the apps updated more complex, especially when you have lots of apps installed.

It will also make Win32 apps feel a bit like second-class citizens compared to UWP.

Analysis: Microsoft Store needs a lot more work

Frustrated User

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Since its launch as the Windows Store with Windows 8 back in 2012, the re-branded Microsoft Store has been a bit of an embarrassing failure compared to rival app stores on macOS, iOS and Android, and while Microsoft is making some welcome changes, they don’t go far enough.

The biggest issue with the Microsoft Store was its lack of apps. With the Apple App Store and Google Play have thousands of apps, the Microsoft Store suffered from a distinct lack of apps.

A big part of this was that developers could already get their programs running in Windows pretty easily. Unlike iOS and Android, which are ‘walled gardens’, which means you can only download apps via the apps stores (unless you side-load them), Windows is a more open platform.

This means you can install applications from anywhere – including DVDs, USB sticks and websites. This is good for developers, as it makes it easy for you to make your app available to Windows users (as you don’t have to leap through certification hoops to get it approved for an app store), and good for users, as it gives them much more choice and control over the applications they install on their devices.

However, it’s bad for Microsoft, as it means there’s little incentive for developers to make their apps available on the Microsoft Store, especially in the past when they would have to create a new UWP version of their application. And, with a lack of apps, users are less likely to even open the Microsoft Store.

By opening the Microsoft Store to non-UWP apps, it should hopefully help encourage more apps to be made available there. Android apps will also be coming to the Microsoft Store, further swelling the amount of apps that are available.

While some people may bristle at the idea of a walled garden-like app store in Windows 11, it does make sense for some users. It offers a convenient way to find apps, and with the apps being vetted by Microsoft, it should mean it’s difficult, or even impossible, to sneak viruses onto the store. It stops people going to websites and downloading apps from dodgy websites, and can help ensure that the latest version is installed.

It can also help keep those apps updated, which is always important as it adds new features, fixes bugs and addresses any security issues.

However, if Microsoft won’t be allowing Win32 apps to be updated via the Microsoft Store, that means they’ll be missing out on that key feature.

One thing that makes these apps stores worthwhile is their ease of use and uniformity. However, if certain apps on the Microsoft Store don’t have the same features as other apps do, that can lead to confusion and frustration.

Worse, if some apps get updated via the Microsoft Store, but others don’t, it may make it easier for some people to not keep all their apps updated.

So, while we’re pleased to see Microsoft introduce some improvements, it still has a lot of work to do to make the Microsoft Store be able to compete with its competitors.

Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. He’s personally reviewed and used most of the laptops in our best laptops guide - and since joining TechRadar in 2014, he's reviewed over 250 laptops and computing accessories personally.