Two Marketplace changes and how they affect you

Hi everyone. Today I want to tell you about two changes we’re making to Marketplace to help pave the way for new store features and new apps in the months ahead.

First, we’re removing the option to shop for Windows Phone apps from the Zune PC software. Second, as part of a larger Marketplace improvement effort, you’ll soon need Windows Phone 7.5 installed on your phone to buy and download new apps, or update existing ones.

As you’ll see in a moment, most of you likely won’t even notice these changes. Let me elaborate.

Focusing on phone and web

Until today you could shop for Windows Phone apps and games in three places: on your phone, on the web, and via the Zune software on your PC.

But we know—probably not a huge surprise here—that most Windows Phone owners browse and buy apps on their phones. The web Marketplace, which debuted last September on the Windows Phone website, has also become a popular place to shop, since it’s available from any Internet-connected PC or Mac.

The web Marketplace makes it easy to browse and buy apps from any internet-connected PC (or Mac). That convenience makes it very popular with customers. 

As a general rule, we like to focus our engineering efforts where they matter most, and your taps and clicks tell us that’s our phone and web stores. So starting today we began the process of removing the Windows Phone apps option from the Zune software. The Zune HD app store will remain open.

This change won’t require you to do anything special. Next time you run the program, you’ll simply see a pop-up letting you know features have changed. After you restart the software, it will look like the screenshot below. By the way, the Zune software is still important for things like installing Windows Phone software updates and making backup copies of photos and videos stored on your handset. And, of course, many people use it to play and buy music.

Once the Windows Phone store is removed from the Zune software, this is how it will look.

Paving the way for new features

Speaking of updates, most of you already carry phones running Windows Phone 7.5, the latest version of our smartphone operating system. But a handful of folks haven’t upgraded from earlier versions yet. If you’re one of them, and you like apps, now would be a good time to update.

That’s because starting in the next few weeks anybody who wants to buy or download a new app, update an existing app, or submit app reviews to Marketplace will need Windows Phone 7.5 on their phone. Updating your phone isn’t hard—typically all you need to do is plug it into your computer. Before you start the process, which can take an hour or more, you’ll want to read over the checklist on Update central, our comprehensive how-to and troubleshooting resource. To install the update, follow the steps in this article.

Update Central on the Windows Phone website is a one-stop shop for how-to and troubleshooting info on software updates for your phone.

Why are we doing this? Marketplace is growing fast. It now has over 80,000 apps overall and is available in 54 (soon to be 63) countries around the world. Requiring Windows Phone 7.5 is part of a larger effort aimed at improving Marketplace performance and security, and paving the way for even faster growth and more new features.

If you don’t update to Windows Phone 7.5, you’ll still be able to browse Marketplace. But you’ll get an error message if you try to install an app or game, or update one already on your phone. Still need convincing that updating is worth it? Check out some of the hundreds of improvements and new features Windows Phone 7.5 makes possible.

I look forward to your comments and questions.

UPDATE: Several of you asked whether you’ll still be able to download large apps and especially games using the Zune software. The answer is yes. You can find instructions for using Zune as your Internet connection here in the first Q&A pair. Sorry for not specifically calling that out.