For years Microsoft has been running its own storefront for Windows 8 and 10 for different apps and games, but you were always restricted to the small variety of software available, especially if you were using a device with S-Mode enabled. Luckily, that's changing a bit now.
Microsoft has announced that its opening its storefront in Windows 11 to more apps in a blog post (opens in new tab) today. And while right now that includes some super-useful apps like Discord and Zoom, it's also opening its doors to third-party store apps, which is huge.
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Over the "next few months", both Epic Games and Amazon will be bringing their storefronts to the Microsoft Store, and a pretty big reason for that is probably that Microsoft isn't going to require these companies to share revenue. In that blog post, Microsoft states that "Microsoft Store on Windows no longer requires app developers to share revenue with Microsoft, when apps manage their own in-app payment systems". No wonder Amazon and Epic Games are rushing to be included.
But the real benefit here is going to be for the Windows 11 users, especially those that aren't that comfortable scouring the web for useful software – or the risks that entails.
Useful and safe
I'm going to just come out and say it, right now I don't really use the Microsoft Store for anything beyond getting games through Xbox Game Pass. Even apps that are available through Microsoft's storefront, I'm probably going to go and get elsewhere. Not only is the Microsoft Store UI on Windows 10 kind of clunky and ugly, but it's so tied into a Microsoft account that I usually don't want to deal with it – especially if it's on a laptop I'm reviewing that I'm not signed in on.
But I know that nerds like me that like to do things the old way are kind of a dying breed, especially as people get more and more used to not only phones having app stores, but even other computing platforms – like macOS and Chrome OS. Both of those platforms have way more useful stores than Microsoft's and it's almost entirely due to the fact that both Google and Apple have built up such a huge catalog of software that is readily available.
This is especially true now that Apple has essentially brought over all iOS and iPadOS apps to the Mac, starting with 2019's macOS Catalina. But because Microsoft has always struggled getting the same saturation of software on its platform, it's probably going to need some help if it wants users to see the Microsoft Store as the central hub for software.
Adding storefronts like the Epic Games Store and Amazon will absolutely do that, and we're sure that there will be other storefronts that Microsoft hasn't listed that will further expand what's available on Windows 11. We already know that Microsoft will be allowing Android Apps to run on Windows 11 later this year, and that is going to be huge for folks that just want useful software without opening themselves to risk.
Because while more tech-savvy computer users like me know how to find legitimate software and avoid downloading malicious code, I got there through trial and error when I was growing up, and it's just as rough out there as it ever was.
You can still go out looking for a piece of freeware to get a specific thing done and stumble on a webpage that absolutely has a safe version of that software to download – but it will be surrounded by a bunch of ads with big "download" buttons that will almost certainly not be what you wanted to download.
And it does seem like basic computer safety to avoid these things if you're a longtime internet denizen, but there are a lot of people who are coming to Windows that have only used smartphones and tablets, and probably aren't quite so prepared to download a bunch of apps through a search engine. And this is going to be excellent for them.
Even big-name software can lead to vulnerabilities
It wasn't so long ago that I probably would have scoffed at this news like "who needs this, you can just Google EGS and download the software there", but then when earlier this year people were getting malware from downloading MSI Afterburner – easily one of my most-recommended pieces of software for PC gaming – it started to make sense.
What happened there is that some hackers put up a spoofed version of the MSI Afterburner software page that looked pretty legitimate – and it was up for about a month. Again, this could be avoided by simply practicing due diligence – the fake site had a 'afterburner-msi.space' URL, which is, uh, fishy to say the least, but again, I could totally see someone not even notice that and fall victim.
So while right now it's pretty easy to just type in 'Epic Games Store' into Google and quickly get the right page for a safe download, I think it's pretty naïve to think that hackers couldn't spoof the EGS landing page to gain access to people's computers.
Hopefully Microsoft leaves the OS open
But while it's undoubtedly a good thing that Microsoft is letting a wider amount of software onto its store – which is a nice, safe method of getting software – I don't want to use it myself. I like messing around with my own computer on my terms, and hopefully Microsoft keeps that as a possibility.
In Windows 11, Microsoft isn't going to lock down the operating system to just the Microsoft Store and it probably never will. But I want to take a moment to say that while I think its definitely a win for accessibility and ease-of-use to make more software available through the official Microsoft Store, I never want that to become the default way you have to get software.
One of the most magical things about computers is that they're these little boxes filled with rare metal that we channel lightning into to do whatever we can dream of. And while that will still be true with the Microsoft Store, there's definitely something magical about using new software that was made in someone's basement – or even making your own software and running it.
The world of Windows software can be a little scary if you're not careful, so definitely use the now more-expanded Microsoft Store if you just want to get the tool you need and call it a day. But I don't think I'll ever be ready to give up the freedom to download software from wherever and really craft my PC in whatever way I want to at the time.
But then again, I'm a weirdo that actually likes wiping her PC and installing a bunch of Software to set it up from scratch. And I don't know many other people like that, but we really can have the best of both worlds, and I hope that's how it stays.