Windows Store app licensing model explained

The Windows Store feature in Windows 8 will likely become the centerpiece of the OS in terms of offering Windows 8 users better access to PC software. In a new entry on the official Windows Store developer blog, Microsoft's Alwin Vyhmeister talks about how users of Windows 8 will interact with apps from the Windows Store via the company's app licensing model.

For the current Consumer Preview version of Windows 8, Microsoft still requires that users sign in to download apps from the Windows Store, even though all of the apps in the Consumer Preview are free. Why? According to Vyhmeister:

The Store’s licensing service registers a license to your Microsoft account for each app you acquire. That is how it remembers which apps you’ve acquired. It uses that information to make it easy for you to quickly reacquire those apps on another PC. It also saves a copy of that license on your PC, so Windows will know that you have the rights to use the app on that PC get updates for the app, and write reviews for it.

App developers can set up free trials for any app they want to sell in the Windows Store. The time periods for the free trial can run for one, seven, 15 or 30 days. App developers can also set up an app to have the free trial period last forever but with just some of the app's features enabled. Once the person decides to pay for the full version, the free one unlocks and gives its user access to its full features.

App developers can also enable in-app purchases for extra content beyond just buying the app itself. The blog site uses the example of a piano app where a person can purchase extra songs to use in the app. Customers are asked to provide their Windows Store password before purchasing any in-app content to avoid any accidental charges.

In-app content can also apply to timed purchases as well, such as offering an online service like real time stock reports. Time limits of one, three, five, seven, 14, 30, 60, 90, 180 and 365 days can be set up for this kind of extra app content; users can choose to pay again when the time limit expires. However, app developers are not allowed to automatically charge again for these kinds of services.

Windows Store users can quickly check out how many apps they have purchased, along with their billing information, the number of PCs they have enabled for running Windows Store apps and more via the Store's setting page. As we have reported before, there is an upper limit of five PCs that can be used to run apps on one Windows Store account.

All apps from the Windows Store will offer software upgrades for free. If a developer wants to charge money for a major software update to his or her app, they can choose to release a separate app for that update.

Images via Microsoft

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Currently there is a limitation with Microsoft Accounts (aka Windows Live ID) which affects the freedom of movement of EU citizens. After reading this post, by the looks of it it will only get worse. Unless Microsoft fixes this issue I don't see myself using Windows 8 and I will strongly recommend EU citizens to not use it as well.

Say that you're an EU citizen and you've been living in Italy when you created your first Microsoft account years ago. With this account you have joined several other products and services (such as XBOX Live, Microsoft Certifications, etc). Now you got Windows 8, and are a heavy user of its marketplace. You are also developing an application that you are planning to release in the Windows Marketplace.

Then you move with your family to Sweden, and you realise that:

1) All of your content from Microsoft marketplaces (e.g.: Xbox Live marketplace, Windows phone marketplace, Windows marketplace) are for the Italian market. All values are in Euros rather than Swedish Krona.

2) You can't register a Swedish credit/debit card with your Microsoft Account. You can only register an Italian one, and you no longer have a card or bank account from Italy.

Microsoft then tells you that the only way around this is to create a new Microsoft Account for Sweden. You would have to manage both your old Italian account and your new Swedish account. You will have to juggle these accounts to access content you purchased on XBOX Live. You will have a hard time shifting between accounts in your Windows Phone (as it wasn't designed to handle more than one account for the management of content rights).

These aren't hypothetical scenarios. It all happened to me and hundreds of other EU citizens. As a technology pundit I will be strongly advising EU citizens against Windows 8 (http://www.itisourdata.com).

Sounds good to me. This mirrors roughly the Apple license model for at least iTunes store purchases. You can authorize up to 5 computers or devices on an iTunes account for your purchases, and it's tied to your iTunes account. I've always enjoyed that it tracks your purchases on your account for easy re-downloading again if necessary without the need or worry about re-purchasing. At least Microsoft isn't trying to stray far (or at all) from a model that many people are already familiar with.

The licensing seems pretty reasonable. It also means that if a small group of friends wants to pool money to purchase apps on a shared account, they certainly could. This might undercut profits for some of the bigger titles, but with more money to go around, it also encourages sales for the less popular ones. IMO, that's good for the ecosystem.

You left out one of the biggest part of that article. If one user downloads an app, other users of the same PC can use it for free.