2016-03-04

With UWP Microsoft is building vendor lock-in ecosystem — again


With its new Universal Windows Platform (UWP) initiative, Microsoft has built a closed platform-within-a-platform into Windows 10, as the first apparent step towards locking down the consumer PC ecosystem and monopolising app distribution and commerce.

In my view, this is the most aggressive move Microsoft has ever made. While the company has been convicted of violating antitrust law in the past, its wrongful actions were limited to fights with specific competitors and contracts with certain PC manufacturers.

This isn’t like that. Here, Microsoft is moving against the entire PC industry – including consumers (and gamers in particular), software developers such as Epic Games, publishers like EA and Activision, and distributors like Valve and Good Old Games.

Microsoft has launched new PC Windows features exclusively in UWP, and is effectively telling developers you can use these Windows features only if you submit to the control of our locked-down UWP ecosystem. They’re curtailing users’ freedom to install full-featured PC software, and subverting the rights of developers and publishers to maintain a direct relationship with their customers.

Windows Store and UWP

I’m not questioning the idea of a Windows Store. I believe Microsoft has every right to operate a PC app store, and to curate it how they choose. This contrasts with the position the government took in its anti-trust prosecution, that Microsoft’s free bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows was anti-competitive.

My view is that bundling is a valuable practice that benefits users, and my criticism is limited to Microsoft structuring its operating system to advantage its own store while unfairly disadvantaging competing app stores, as well as developers and publishers who distribute games directly to their customers.