A look at the Windows Store’s desktop app experience

When Microsoft opened the Windows Store back in February in conjunction with the release of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, it was limited exclusively to Metro-style apps. This trend continued with the public availability of the Windows 8 Release Preview last week, although the Redmond-based software giant teased that desktop applications would soon arrive as well. Today, the first desktop app entered the Windows Store. Appropriately, it was none other than Microsoft’s own productivity suite Office 2010.

The experience of downloading a desktop app from the Windows Store is very different from the simplistic, integrated method used with Windows 8’s Metro-style apps. These listings are, in essence, simply a shortcut to the developer’s website, where the actual transaction is expected to occur. There’s no way to filter out desktop apps – or look for just desktop apps, for that matter – but distinguishing these traditional programs from the rest isn’t too difficult. App reviews aren’t supported, so the rating and price tag are replaced with the words “desktop app.”

Drilling down into the product listing, the regular install button has been replaced with links to the product on the developer’s website, one for x86 and one for x64. Most of the details you’d expect from an app in the Windows Store can still be found here, except for ratings, reviews, the app’s size, age rating, required permissions, and features. Some of these missing items make sense, but others are downright puzzling. The current Office 2010 listing doesn’t mention the app’s price anywhere, but developers will be required to list it, and the version number, in actual product listings in the final version of the Windows Store.

It’s obvious that Microsoft wants developers to move to Metro-style apps. However, some experiences might still be better on a traditional desktop. Rather than force customers to search the internet for these apps, Microsoft is letting developers organize everything into a single place. The end result is a Windows Store that will allow users to find the apps they want to use, regardless of what UI it takes advantage of. And by requiring developers to host and sell their own desktop apps, Microsoft is giving them the ability to sell their wares free of many of the restrictions imposed on Metro-style apps.

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William Devereux

William Devereux is the former Microsoft editor at Pocketables, as well as a Microsoft MVP and SkyDrive/Outlook.com Insider. As his title implies, he wrote about all things from Redmond, including Windows 8 and Windows Phone. He is currently carrying a Windows Phone 8X by HTC and a Microsoft Surface with Windows RT tablet.