Microsoft will no longer force companies to pay it a cut of their revenue if they want a place on the Windows app store, the company has announced, in a move calculated to increase the regulatory pressure on Apple and Google’s mobile duopoly.
As part of the shift to Windows 11, unveiled on Thursday, the company will allow developers to use their own payment systems on apps they sell through the Windows store. Those who do will not have to pay a penny to Microsoft.
Currently, developers who sell apps via Window have to use the Microsoft Commerce platform for in-app payments and share 15% of the revenue with the company. A different set of rules apply for game developers: their share is lower, at 12%, but they will not be given the option of using their own payment processors.
The move is in stark contrast to Apple and Google’s mobile app stores, both of which require developers to use their in-app payment systems and charge sliding commissions ranging from 15% to 30% of the overall take. Microsoft has frequently voiced opposition to the two companies’ platform policies, even filing a brief supporting a court case against Apple from the Fortnite developer Epic Games.
In a recent interview with the technology site Verge, Microsoft’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, argued that Apple and Google had become too attached to running their app stores, at the expense of their broader platforms. “I sense a real opportunity,” he said, “because in some sense what has happened is the other two ecosystems that are at scale, for their own internally consistent set of reasons, have conflated – at least in my mind – what is the platform and the aggregation layer with one set of rules. There’s no reason why there should be one set of rules. They can be disaggregated.”
Microsoft has also taken contrarian stances in other policy debates. In February, its president, Brad Smith, came out in favour of an Australian law that imposed a requirement on Google and Facebook to negotiate fees with news providers for linking to their work.
“Democracy has always started at the local level. Today, far too many local communities must nurture democracy without a fourth estate,” Smith wrote. “As we know from our own experience with Microsoft’s Bing search service, access to fresh, broad, and deep news coverage is critical to retaining strong user engagement.”
The approach seems to be paying off. In multiple jurisdictions, Microsoft has avoided the scrutiny levied against other technology companies, despite being the second-largest public company in the US. A congressional hearing last July, for instance, required the chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook to appear in front of Congress. Microsoft was not asked to attend.