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April 29, 2015

Distributing Windows Apps to the World

Hello from Build 2015 in San Francisco! Earlier today we revealed more details about Windows 10 and the Universal Windows Platform and shared the new ways for building more personal mobile experiences that you can monetize across one billion Windows 10 customers. During the remainder of the conference, we’ll go deep into each of these areas. If you’re not able to attend in person, you’ll find links to the content below. I’d like to spend a few minutes today providing insight into your opportunities to publish, promote, and monetize your apps and games to capitalize on the global Windows 10 audience of consumer and business customers.

For those of you who develop for Windows today, I’ll touch on the biggest areas of change and opportunity for your planning purposes. For those of you who are checking out Windows development for the first time – welcome! I’ll try to touch on the most significant points of today’s announcements, what they’ll mean for you, and where to learn and do more.

One Store
Those of you participating in the Windows Insider Program have already had the opportunity to check out the new Windows Store, which will be available across all Windows 10 devices in 242 markets. The new Store features a single unified user experience that scales with the screen or window size, features a new unified Store search and recommendations engine, and offers a unified set of global and local payment options – all designed to greatly improve content discovery and acquisition.

The foundation for these improvements is that the Windows Store itself is now an app built on the new Universal Windows Platform. This means the Store exists in a windowed environment, making it more convenient to use (especially on PCs and laptops) and enables the Store to be updated outside of the OS update schedule. And, this helps the Windows Store stay flexible and more rapidly add new capabilities or address issues.

The new Windows Store will include two storefronts: an on-device storefront designed for consumers and a web storefront designed for business and organization customers.

One big Store for all digital content
The new Windows Store will be the single place to acquire Windows apps, games and more. It will include the existing catalog of over 650,000 Windows 8.x and Windows Phone 7.x/8.x Store apps, which will automatically move to the new Store. And, we’re currently adding the Xbox Music and Xbox Video catalogs of over 40 million songs and over 400,000 movies and TV shows.   Beginning later this year, the Store will also include familiar and new PC games and desktop software, applications and utilities.

By bringing all this digital content together in one place, the Windows Store will provide the largest “one stop” shopping experiences for free and paid digital content for Windows devices, with content certified by Microsoft to help keep devices safer.  And, that content will run on Windows 10 PCs, phones, laptops, tablets, Surface Hub, HoloLens, Xbox and other Windows 10 devices.

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Reach business customers with a new storefront: Business Store for Windows 10
We’re pleased to announce a new business storefront for Windows 10, which includes two components. One, the Business Store portal (pictured at left) which will enable organizational decision makers to acquire Store software or content for their organization in volume. And two, distribute and manage that software directly to employees either with built-in simple tools, via integration with popular software distribution and management solutions, or as a third option through the organization-managed private section in Windows Store app accessible only by employees (pictured at right).

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The expansion of the Windows Store to reach business customers and organizations represents both a new and a very large opportunity for developers. Based on Microsoft internal estimates, small to medium businesses alone spend roughly $70 billion (USD) annually on desktop software, applications and utilities. A plus for developers – the tools, workflow and polices used to create and publish apps for business are exactly the same as those developers use for Windows Store today, making this an easy opportunity to dramatically increase reach by simply opting in your apps during Dev Center submission.

Carrier billing available across all Windows 10 devices
As Terry Myerson stated earlier today, Windows 10 represents a one billion customer reach opportunity. However, the impact of that reach could be limited unless those customers also have a way to pay for digital goods. And, when roughly 88% of the world’s customers don’t have a credit card (Source: World Bank, 2014), alternative payment methods are needed.

I’m pleased to announce that all Windows 10 devices (not just phones), will be able to support the use of carrier billing later this year. That means that the growing number of carrier billing connections we have today (90 connections across 52 markets) may be used by Windows 10 customers to purchase all Store content. Carrier billing is having a positive impact today with an average 8x lift in purchase rates in emerging markets. Over 60% of Windows Store monthly paid users originated from carrier billing in March.

Of course, we will continue to expand our offering of traditional global and local payment methods like credit card, debit card, PayPal, Alipay, app gifting, digital gift cards and Bitcoin.

Finally, in addition to an expanded set of consumer payment methods, as part of the Business Store for Windows 10 we will be adding new purchase options designed for businesses in the coming months, including payments via purchase order.

New monetization options: subscriptions and video in-app ads
In-app purchase and ads-in-apps consistently drive the vast majority of revenue, representing 55% and 31% respectively of Windows Store sales last quarter (January – March 2015). With Windows 10, we will add new business models to provide developers with additional methods to generate revenue.

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New subscription support
In-app purchase capabilities will be expanded with Windows 10 to include a recurring billing, or subscription, option that will enable the Windows Store to sell subscription-based content using Store billing systems. Useful for content and productivity services, among others, this subscription capability will support the Windows Store consumer payment methods in most markets with developer-configurable time periods. Watch for more information in this blog as we get closer to launch.

Ads-in-apps enhancements
We’re also pleased to announce that with Windows 10, the Microsoft Advertising Ad SDK will be natively-coded and integrated into Visual Studio, making it much easier for you to incorporate Microsoft Advertising services into your apps and to stay up-to-date with the latest SDK. The Microsoft Advertising SDK will also add support for video interstitial ads. Industry-wide, mobile video ads deliver a higher CPM than standard display.  (Source: eMarketer, December 2014). Tomorrow we will launch the public preview of the Windows 10 Ad SDK. In parallel, we are testing the Windows/Windows Phone 8.1 Ad SDK with video interstitials in a closed beta, with the public release planned later in the year. You can learn more about the beta and how to participate tomorrow on the Microsoft Advertising blog.

Windows ad mediation will also be integrated into the Windows 10 developer tools, providing the opportunity to maximize ads-in-apps fill rates and revenue by incorporating multiple ad networks via a single piece of code. This capability launched initially for Windows Phone in November 2014, helping developers achieve near 100% fill rates while allowing for real-time modification of ad networks, contributing to a 2x year-over-year increase in ads-in-app revenue. Ad mediation will expand to include Windows with the Windows 10 launch.

Enhanced App Discovery
As you’ve read so far, we’ve made substantial improvements in the Store to help users more easily discover and find apps. We’ve also made investments to enable you, your partners, and new Windows services to help customers discover, explore and learn about apps.

First, we’ve enhanced your ability to promote your own apps:

  • Greater segmentation capabilities for ‘promote your app’ in Dev Center to enable you to buy ads-in-apps house ads for cross-promotion and new campaign tracking tools that will enable you to see the sources generating your downloads
  • New ability to self-generate promotional codes you can distribute to customers as part of your app promotions or customer retention programs
  • New ‘smart’ badge generator to create download badges and the necessary links automatically, making it easier for you and affiliates to promote your apps across your web site and communications (includes new badge creative and device art)

Second, we are pleased to announce a new Windows Store Affiliate Program, opening today for registration and launching with Windows 10 availability. The goal of this marketing affiliate program is to help you and other Microsoft partners in promoting Windows Store content – apps, games, desktop software, music, movies, TV shows and other store content on your web sites, in your communications and promotions with your customers. In exchange for this promotion, the Windows Store Affiliate Program will offer a commission for customers you refer who acquire the content you promote. You can sign up for the program and learn more by visiting the Microsoft Affiliate Program website today.

Finally, we are investing in enhancing app discovery and engagement, across the Windows experience to help the hundreds of millions of new Windows 10 customers discover the Store and the content most interesting to them, similar to how Cortana helps customers today. Over time, you will begin to see Store content – apps, desktop software, and games – highlighted for users across the Windows experience in places like the new Start menu, lock screen and Cortana.

One Dev Center
Last but not least – is the Dev Center, where the publishing journey begins. We heard feedback from the community, asking that we simplify the Dev Center experience, which has been the focus of the past year with changes including single registration and lifetime registration fee. While we’ve made a number of improvements, this work has been precursor to laying the foundation for a single, unified Dev Center that we are announcing today.

We started with what you told us were the best features of the Windows and Windows Phone Dev Centers, then integrated the ads-in-apps pubCenter portal to create one new unified experience, set of policies and supporting documentation that offers:

  • Single submission flow for your Universal Windows Apps, as well as legacy Windows 8.x and Windows Phone 7.x/8.x apps
  • Single dashboard to analyze and manage app performance across all your apps
  • Ability to distribute your apps to consumers who use Windows Store, as well as in a storefront specifically built for businesses and organizations, all via a single app submission
  • Management of your ads-in-apps from within Dev Center
  • And when the toolkits are available later this year, you will be able to submit and manage apps and games created with any of the Universal Windows Platform Bridges, a combination of developer tooling and runtime technologies that enables existing code to run in a way appropriate to the Windows platform including:
    • Classic Windows apps – bridge for traditional desktop applications and PC games into the Windows Store, making it easier to distribute and monetize PC games and applications that use .NET and Win32
    • Web apps – new ways for web sites to get discovered as apps in the Store, engaged by using notifications, and new ways to monetize using Windows Store payment options. Discussed at Mobile World Congress
    • For today’s app developer, we gave an early peek at Android subsystem and IOS toolkits that make it easy for developers to extend their reach using their existing code, be it C++, Java, OpenGL, or Objective C

Today we’re releasing a read-only preview of this new Dev Center for your feedback.

While not available yet for app submission, you can take advantage of the new reporting to manage your existing apps including:

  • App acquisition, in-app purchase and ratings/reviews
  • Export acquisitions, in-app purchase, crashes and ad mediation downloads
  • Analytics including crash details, app usage, customer demographics, OS version
  • Plus use the ‘Promote your App’ capabilities to purchase ads-in-apps or create your own house ads
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Example of Acquisitions with both Windows and Windows Phone integrated in a single report

To get ready for the Dev Center migration, you’ll want to also review guidance from Bernardo Zamora on Building Apps for Windows later this week. Depending on your app configurations, you may have pre-work to do.

We are very excited for the launch of Windows 10 and the new opportunities it represents and capabilities it provides for our developer community to reach and engage customers. You’ll want to stay tuned, we will have more details for you as we get closer to launch.

Today I want to encourage you to check out the new Windows Dev Center and continue to give us feedback on the beta to help us improve and finalize the release. You’ll also want to download the latest preview of the Windows 10 developer tools to begin to familiarize yourself (reminder you’ll need to join the Windows Insider Program to access the latest Windows 10 preview). Last, I hope you’ll tune in to Channel 9 to view keynote and session content to continue to learn more from Build.