Microsoft has had very little luck growing its own app store, at least outside of the Xbox games store. The first iteration for Windows 8 was a complete mess and while things have improved over the years, it still pales in comparison to other app stores, even with its compatibility layer to support win32 software. Its latest attempt seems to focus around the latest breed of web apps known as Progressive Web Apps, and it is trying to woo PWA developers to put their apps on the Microsoft Store instead of elsewhere.
Unlike regular web apps, PWAs are designed to integrate better into the underlying operating system and behave almost like a native application. Of course, there are limits considering Web API standards still don’t have full access to features native apps do but what PWAs lack in features they make up for in universality across all platforms and stores.
Microsoft already supported PWAs back in the original edgeHTML days but now that it has moved over to Chromium Edge, it is making an even stronger push to get PWAs on the store. It lays out the general advantages of PWAs, including being available on almost any platform, including Android and Chrome OS. Platforms that don’t have a Microsoft Store.
Microsoft’s attempts to sell the idea of PWAs may ironically backfire. PWAs are so cross-platform that they don’t actually need any app store to be distributed, making the Microsoft Store pretty much irrelevant. Developers targeting the Microsoft Store will still have to go through some extra steps to get in instead of simply staying put with their own independent systems, like a browser.
Microsoft does dangle its PWABuilder as one advantage, giving app developers a single tool for developing Progressive Web Apps and packaging them for the Microsoft Store in one go. Then again, it isn’t the only tool available and is in fact based on Google’s own Devtools, again making a poor case for doing extra work just to hop on the Microsoft Store.