Microsoft puts AI in the spotlight in the Windows App Store

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In the beginning, the Microsoft Store (formerly known as the Windows Store) had a bit of a mediocre reputation, partly because it was full of low-quality tools. With the launch of Windows 11, Microsoft has given the store a major overhaul, and today at its annual Build developer conference, it’s adding a number of new features to the store. Given where Microsoft is headed as a whole, it’s no surprise that many of these new features revolve around AI. There’s a new section highlighting AI-focused apps, for example new AI-generated review summaries and, coming soon, AI-generated tags in the Partner Center to help developers make their apps more discoverable.

Learn more about Microsoft Build 2023Perhaps even more important than these relatively minor changes is the fact that Microsoft is taking this opportunity to reintroduce the store to users. A lot has changed in the Windows ecosystem and the store – but given that Windows users traditionally had a direct relationship with their software vendors, undiminished by a central store, I’m sure most still bypass the store (I know I always forget it exists – and so do I for the Mac App Store).

With the launch of the store on Windows 11, Microsoft made one crucial change: it opened the store to all apps, be it native apps, progressive web apps, Android apps, or Flutter apps. As Giorgio Sardo, general manager of Microsoft’s Microsoft Store, pointed out, Microsoft also allows app developers to either use its trading platform or bring their own, keeping 100% of the revenue.

“We’ve been on this journey for two years now and it’s interesting to think about how that’s going so far,” Sardo told me. “I am quite excited. I’m proud of the momentum and commitment we’ve made to openness. I think a commitment to openness helps us create better products for end users and developers.”

He noted that over the past year, the number of Win32 and Progressive Web Apps on the store has doubled, and a number of key apps, including WhatsApp, Adobe Express, TikTok, Disney+, and SnapChat, are now available on the store. Sardo also noted that about 50% of users who buy a new Windows 11 device now use the store in the first 30 days.

Image Credits: Microsoft

With the new AI hub, Microsoft is introducing its first themed hub in the prominent left sidebar of the apps. The other options are apps (in general), games, movies, and TV shows. Now in the AI ​​hub, the company offers apps such as Luminar Neo, Lensa, Descript, Podcastle and Partly that’s to capitalize on the overall hype surrounding AI, but also to emphasize that these kinds of app experiences are available on Windows, not just mobile apps and the web.

With this update, Microsoft is also announcing some changes to Microsoft Store ads, which developers can now also serve on for relevant search results and will soon expand outside the US and to 150 regions worldwide. In addition, they can now create eye-catching ads that appear in the spotlight section of the Microsoft Store (that is, the large featured area at the top of the store). This section supports video ads and is clearly one of the most prominent surfaces for these ads. Until now, the selection of apps here has been an editorial choice of the Store Team, but now this gallery will also contain advertisements.

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