According to a post on the Verge, Microsoft is looking to merge its various iterations of the Windows Store—the different versions that serve Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows Phone users, at least—into one single digital app marketplace. Much like Apple’s App Store, the new Windows Store would offer users within Microsoft’s various OS ecosystems the opportunity to browse and shop apps for their various Windows-powered devices.
So does that mean that Windows Mobile apps are all going to run on Windows tablets? Maybe! The Verge post says it’s possible that Microsoft’s move may ape that of Apple, which allows for phone-specific apps to “scale to run on a tablet,” but not necessarily vice versa. It certainly would make sense for something like that to happen, and would help to remedy users’ feelings that the Windows Store is still a ghost town (even though it’s not: as fearless leader Jeff Weisbein reported on Monday, the Windows Store has over 100,000 programs to choose from).
But it’s important to note that the Windows Store isn’t the company’s only platform for digital software distribution. The Xbox 360—and soon enough the Xbox One—will be connected to online stores for users to purchase games, movies, music, and other Xbox-specific apps. There was some speculation this past summer that the Xbox One might be capable of running Windows 8 apps to a certain extent. While that capability has, to my knowledge, yet to be confirmed or debunked, this news of consolidation would seem to support some kind of Windows/Xbox integration and compatibility.
If nothing else, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were an easier, in-app way for gamers to buy and download software to their Xbox One consoles after the consolidation takes place. Considering how well both Google and Apple have synced up their mobile and desktop experiences, I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft followed suit. And considering that the Xbox is still the reigning console king in the United States, and it’s poised to do some decent damage at retail when the Xbox One launches this fall, it’s a good idea for Microsoft to milk that brand for all its worth. And if the rumored Surface Mini is indeed rebranded as the Xbox Surface, it could be true that Microsoft is doing just that.
Microsoft has everything to gain by integrating its digital distribution platforms into one. And users will win by being able to browse the best software for their devices from as many different places as they can. Will the Windows Store also be accessible through the Xbox One user interface? It’s possible—we’ll have to wait and see what Microsoft does this fall.