Microsoft announces new rules for app stores

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Microsoft announced new rules for its app stores on Wednesday, as regulators consider the company’s plan to acquire game company Activision Blizzard.

Microsoft’s new Open App Store Principles reflect guidelines Congress is seeking to adopt to regulate Apple’s and Google’s dominant app stores, and will apply to the entire Microsoft Store on Windows and ” next-generation marketplaces we’ll build for games,” the Microsoft president said. Brad Smith said in a blog post.

The new rules are part of the company’s pitch to regulators weighing in on the company’s purchase of Activision Blizzard for about $70 billion.

“We have developed these principles in part to respond to Microsoft’s growing role and responsibility as we begin the process of obtaining regulatory approval in capitals around the world for our acquisition of Activision Blizzard,” said Smith.

“This regulatory process begins as many governments also move forward with new laws to promote competition in app markets and beyond,” he added. “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 are preparing to do so.”

One of the new rules asks Microsoft to allow developers to use non-Microsoft payment systems to process in-app payments, which has been a key issue app developers have raised against app stores. ‘dominant applications, especially Apple.

Microsoft’s rules also say it won’t prevent developers from communicating directly with their customers through their apps to offer pricing terms or service offerings, another point app developers raised in their backlash against Apple. and Google.

Microsoft’s new rules come a week after the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the Open App Market Act, with broad bipartisan support. The proposal would require Apple and Google to follow rules similar to those established by Microsoft.

Smith applauded the committee for moving the legislation forward.

Unlike Microsoft, Apple and Google, as well as industry groups backed by the tech giants, pushed back against the proposal. They argued that this could pose security risks.

Google President of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer Kent Walker specifically criticized Smith on Twitter about Microsoft’s lobbying for the bill.

“It’s disappointing that Microsoft is pushing so hard for a law targeting its competitors, while creating its own exception for Xbox, which requires its own billing system, doesn’t allow loading from other stores, and actually charges developers a higher fee,” Walker tweeted..

Smith, in Wednesday’s announcement, acknowledged that the new rules will not immediately apply to the current Xbox Console Store.

Emerging legislation being considered aims to establish rules for app stores on “the platforms that matter most to creators and consumers” including personal computers and mobile phones, he said. .

Smith argued that the concerns raised on app stores for phones or computers are different from those on app stores for specialized game consoles.

“These platforms have become essential to our daily work and personal lives; creators cannot succeed without access to them. Emerging legislation is not written for specialized computing devices, such as game consoles, for good reasons. “Game consoles, in particular, are sold to gamers at a loss to establish a robust and viable ecosystem for game developers. The costs are recouped later through revenue generated in the dedicated console store,” Smith said. .

But he said Microsoft will “adapt” its business model for the Xbox Store to apply some of the new rules to the console. The rules he said would apply, however, do not include those that allow developers to use alternative payment systems for in-app purchases.

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