Windows 8 app store: What we know so far

It appears that Microsoft's store will have a Metro look and, unlike Apple, free listings for established programs.

Wondering what buying apps in Windows 8 will be like using Microsoft's new app store, dubbed the Windows Store? Microsoft shared some details about its plans during the company's keynote at the BUILD developer conference.L

Similar to Apple's Mac App Store in OS X, the Windows Store will be integrated into Windows 8. With just a few taps, you will be able to buy touch-friendly, Metro-style applications built for the new OS, including apps for productivity, photos, entertainment, social networking, and of course, games.

The company didn't detail how the payment system would work or whether the Windows Store would launch at the same time as Windows 8. But the company did provide a sneak peek at a few other details about how Microsoft hopes you will buy apps using Windows 8.

Keep in mind that all of Microsoft's decisions are subject to change and that some of what you see below may be overhauled or subtly different when the Windows Store finally launches.

Metro Style

Just like the rest of the Windows 8 interface, the Windows Store will have the Metro style look and feel. Similar to other app stores, the Windows Store divides apps into categories such as entertainment, finance, spotlight (featured apps), and games. Each section includes featured apps for that category along with typical app store lists such as top rated, top paid, and top free.

The lists and featured apps are each represented by a touch-friendly tile that takes you to the purchase page for each app. You can also tap the section title for each part of the Windows Store to see an entire listing of apps available for that category.

Drilling down into the Windows Store's sections, you will see that every app for sale is represented by a tile showing the app's name and price. You can sort apps by free, free and trial, and paid.

Trial Periods

Developers will have the option to offer free trial periods for their apps. During Microsoft's demo, trial-period options that developers could choose from were as short as 24 hours or as long as 30 days. It's not clear if Microsoft will change the trial period time frames before the Windows Store goes live. Because this feature is based on what a developer wants to do, as opposed to a Windows Store policy, you may not see a trial period for every app.

Certified Apps

The company didn't go into great detail about this, but Microsoft will have a certification process for Windows Store apps just as it does for Windows Phone 7 mobile apps. This will help reduce malicious apps getting into the store and ensure Windows 8 apps meet a basic set of benchmarks for quality and usability.

Not Just Windows 8 Apps

The Windows Store is supposed to be an easy way for you to purchase touch-centric apps built with the new Windows 8 Metro-style interface in mind. But Microsoft said you will also see traditional desktop apps listed in the Windows Store.

During the demo, the company showed the Windows Store listing for popular finance program Quicken, including a link to the Quicken website to purchase the product. Microsoft said it doesn't want to require established programs to rewrite their licensing models and payment systems just to fit into Microsoft's new Windows store--a comment clearly aimed at Apple's Mac App Store. Instead, it will provide what is basically a free listings service for non-Metro apps.

"We love the ecosystem that's around Windows applications," said Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft's president of Windows and Windows Live. "And we want to make sure that it [the old Windows ecosystem] blossoms in this world as well."

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul ) and Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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