Microsoft is out today with an update to its app store that features 10 new policies to “promote choice, fairness and innovation.” While detailing the changes, the company took a shot at Apple over its App Store rules. Notably, the move sees Microsoft align with the Coalition for App Fairness that’s leading the Apple antitrust charge.

Microsoft’s VP and Deputy General Counsel Rima Alaily published a blog post today covering the company’s new policies aimed to promote app fairness and development for Windows 10 (via The Verge). In the opening, Alaily says app stores “have become a critical gateway” and that Microsoft is working to “practice what we preach.”

Notably, Microsoft’s 10 new app store policies are based on ideas shared by the Coalition for App Fairness, which was founded as companies like Epic Games, Tile, Spotify, and more oppose Apple’s App Store practices.

For software developers, app stores have become a critical gateway to some of the world’s most popular digital platforms. We and others have raised questions and, at times, expressed concerns about app stores on other digital platforms. However, we recognize that we should practice what we preach. So, today, we are adopting 10 principles – building on the ideas and work of the Coalition for App Fairness (CAF) – to promote choice, ensure fairness and promote innovation on Windows 10, our most popular platform, and our own Microsoft Store on Windows 10:

In the section describing how the new principles will work, Alaily made a clear dig at how Apple runs its iOS App Store (a closed ecosystem):

Windows 10 is an open platform. Unlike some other popular digital platforms, developers are free to choose how they distribute their apps. The Microsoft Store is one way. We believe that it provides significant benefits to consumers and to developers by ensuring that the available apps meet strong privacy, security and safety standards, while making them easier to find and providing additional tools and services so developers can focus on development.

The comment comes after Microsoft has recently argued with Apple over its game streaming policies that prevent Microsoft’s xCloud gaming service to work on iOS.

Going further, the post highlights the benefits of developers choosing to distribute software on their own, including the ability to use whatever payment options they’d like.

But there are other popular and competitive alternatives on Windows 10. Third-party app stores, such as those from Steam and Epic, are available for Windows and offer developers different pricing (or revenue share) options, standards, requirements and features. And developers can also easily choose to distribute their apps on their own terms directly over the internet without restrictions. The first four principles are designed to preserve this freedom of choice, and the robust competition and innovation that it enables on Windows 10.

Other new principles Microsoft says it will stick to include holding its own “apps to the same standards to which it holds competing apps.

However, the new principles won’t apply to Xbox at least yet, here’s Microsofts justification:

We also operate a store on the Xbox console. It’s reasonable to ask why we are not also applying these principles to that Xbox store today. Game consoles are specialized devices optimized for a particular use. Though well-loved by their fans, they are vastly outnumbered in the marketplace by PCs and phones. And the business model for game consoles is very different to the ecosystem around PCs or phones. Console makers such as Microsoft invest significantly in developing dedicated console hardware but sell them below cost or at very low margins to create a market that game developers and publishers can benefit from. Given these fundamental differences in the significance of the platform and the business model, we have more work to do to establish the right set of principles for game consoles.

Here’s the full list:

  1. Developers will have the freedom to choose whether to distribute their apps for Windows through our app store. We will not block competing app stores on Windows.
  2. We will not block an app from Windows based on a developer’s business model or how it delivers content and services, including whether content is installed on a device or streamed from the cloud.
  3. We will not block an app from Windows based on a developer’s choice of which payment system to use for processing purchases made in its app.
  4. We will give developers timely access to information about the interoperability interfaces we use on Windows, as set forth in our Interoperability Principles.
  5. Every developer will have access to our app store as long as it meets objective standards and requirements, including those for security, privacy, quality, content and digital safety.
  6. Our app store will charge reasonable fees that reflect the competition we face from other app stores on Windows and will not force a developer to sell within its app anything it doesn’t want to sell.
  7. Our app store will not prevent developers from communicating directly with their users through their apps for legitimate business purposes.
  8. Our app store will hold our own apps to the same standards to which it holds competing apps.
  9. Microsoft will not use any non-public information or data from its app store about a developer’s app to compete with it.
  10. Our app store will be transparent about its rules and policies and opportunities for promotion and marketing, apply these consistently and objectively, provide notice of changes and make available a fair process to resolve disputes.

Last month Apple updated its App Store policies to include greater transparency and some tweaks, but the company’s critics, including Microsoft weren’t happy with slight changes.

Apple did also create a way for developers to challenge the App Store review process as announced at WWDC 20, but the antitrust concerns around its business practices are certainly not resolved.

Read the full post from Microsoft about its app store changes on its blog here.

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