The other day I posted an article rhapsodizing about how the Windows Store is burgeoning. I boasted about all the apps being added daily and how Microsoft is becoming a contender as it vies for hegemony over Apple and Google.
But today I’ve got something to share with you. I’ve got some bad news, news that will most likely engender new animosity toward Microsoft or at the very least cause you to distrust its motives.
You might want to sit down for this one…
The Microsoft Windows Store seriously sucks because its replete with bogus apps designed to trick you into wasting your money.
Microsoft doesn’t care about delivering high-quality apps for you. Microsoft only cares about statistics and buttressing their digital store with the largest number of apps regardless of how bad they suck.
Microsoft’s cardinal concern is the quantitative state of the Windows Store; quality is subordinate to quantity.
And when I say subordinate… I really really mean subordinate – as in Microsoft doesn’t seem to care about giving you the safe, clean apps that you deserve. In addition, Microsoft doesn’t seem to care about protecting you from fraudulent apps masquerading as the real thing.
Let me tell you a story.
There’s an auto repair shop not too far from I live that I often visit for oil changes.
One the main reasons I go there is because they throw in a free full service car wash with every oil change. It’s a nice perk and it keeps me coming back.
On the one hand, I know the cost of the car wash is rolled into the oil change price, but that’s besides the point: from a psychological perspective, when I perceive I’m getting something for free it increases my odds of returning.
And I’m sure you’re the same way. Now imagine what would happen if I drove up to the car wash, showed the cashier my oil change receipt (for proof that I’m owed a free car wash) and then the cashier gave me a dubious look and barked:
That’ll be $14.99 sir.
I would feel duped, slighted, lied to. Wouldn’t you?
Well that’s what Microsoft is doing to you with the Windows Store. This is why the Windows Store sucks because it’s teeming with copy-cat apps of the most nefarious kind: they’re paid apps attempting to hide their free, legitimate cousins.
But enough of my abstract complaints – I want to show you hands on what I’m talking about.
You really need to see this.
If you’re running Windows 8 or 8.1, press the Windows Key + q, type store and press Enter.
A cursory glance at the store home page looks pretty innocent. Everything is happy and lovely. You can see there are a bunch of popular free apps, five star ratings are prevalent and it’s pretty easy to find the stuff you want.
Check this out:
Think of the most ubiquitous, 100% free app you can think of.
Do you have it mind?
Alright, I don’t know about you but the first app that comes to my mind is Adobe Flash Player. Everyone has encountered this annoying app at some point in their lives. In fact, you’ve probably got pending updates for this officious program waiting for you in the system tray.
Go ahead and type “adobe flash player” in the Windows Store search box and watch what happens.
Not only is there a preponderance of flash apps but none of them are legitimate.
Why would anyone pay $7.99 for some sketchy imitation called “Adobe Flash Player App” donning the Flash logo?
But that’s the thing: no one would pay for flash if they knew it was free to begin with but new computer users, perhaps seniors citizens, might not realize that Flash is free and therefore they would be duped into wasting their hard earned money.
This really pisses me off because Microsoft is condoning a sloppy app store full of shitty apps designed to suck out your hard earned cash. And they’re playing you for a fool.
The stark reality is that Microsoft only cares about goosing its App store numbers – they don’t care about you.
There is no official Adobe Flash Player app. Nope. There’s only one official Adobe Flash Player program and it comes directly from adobe.com not the Windows Store.
But many people might not know this and that’s why the Windows Store is full of duplicity.
The sad part is that Adobe Flash Player isn’t the only example. I could adduce a dozen others.
Go ahead and type in “VLC Player”.
VLC Player is probably the number one open-source video player on the interwebs. The authors of VLC Player, VideoLAN, is a non-profit organization who generates its income from donations. Thus, VLC Player is 100% free. You should never pay a dime for it.
So then can someone explain to me what’s going on here?
First of all, there are almost a dozen apps called VLC Player. A few are free but most cost anywhere between $1.29 and $4.50.
Where’s the real VLC Player app? Is there a real VLC Player app?
Yes, there’s a free VLC Player app in the Windows Store, but you have to walk through the junk app jungle to find it.
If you look carefully, you’ll find an app simply titled “VLC for Windows 8” that has over 3,000 reviews and it’s free.
Let’s click this guy to see where it leads.
As you can see from the above screenshot this is the real deal. But how did I know for sure?
There’s a miniature Published by link placed by the bottom of the screen that shows the app was published by VideoLAN. (I highlighted it in a blue box in the graphic above)
Cmon’ Microsoft, couldn’t you place the authorship link in a more conspicuous place?
So if this is the real app, what can we make off all those fake VLC Player apps?
Let’s click one of those to see what we can figure out.
I clicked the most expensive VLC clone I could find. The $4.49 rip-off by some mendacious company called SoftTechh.
The app is a complete hoax.
Do you know what you get for almost five bucks? Three measly screenshots with a few VLC shortcuts. How is it that a collection of screen grabs is an app?
What’s worse is that the authors of this unscrupulous app were actually brazen enough to post the link to download the free version of VLC Player in the first screenshot!
Pay $5.00 to view a link to download a free program that you could have found for free via Google. Impeccable logic right?
Who know if the app has a virus in it (or what permissions you’ll permit if you buy it). I would definitely avoid it.
But it gets worse.
I wanted to view all the apps published by Softtech – it turns out they have at least three other fictitious apps designed to waste your money.
Do you want Mozilla Firefox for Windows 8.1? You can buy it from Softtechh for $3.99.
What about iTunes? You can grab that for the low price of $3.99.
This is absolutely absurd.
The fake apps are even encroaching on your normal programs.
The most discomfiting part about this is that the apps bear a verisimilitude to the real thing. I mean, the iTunes app uses the official Apple logo. The VLC Player app uses the official VLC Player construction cone. It’s so sneaky to me how Microsoft could let developers get away with this.
Hello Microsoft, are you guys awake? Do you see the folly of allowing anyone to post apps to the Windows Store?
When I typed “firefox” into the search box (Windows Key + q) something called FireFox Training Lite showed up in the list. I already have the real Firefox browser installed on my computer (that’s why the real Firefox showed up as the first hit) but if you were seeking Firefox you might get FireFox Training Lite thinking it was the web browser.
Admittedly, FireFox Training Lite doesn’t look as bad as some of the others I’ve seen but at the very least the search results should be sorted by relevance with the authorized, most popular version of the search term floating to the top of the results.
How bad apps get in the store
Bad apps sneak into the store because Microsoft has a lax certification process.
Although Microsoft claims apps must pass a rigorous eight step process before being considered for inclusion in the store, an explicit quality check isn’t explicit on the list.
Conversely, Google has app submission criteria comprising 18 points. Don’t even think about sending your stuff to Google Play without passing each checkpoint. I did a quick search for the term quality and I received 16 hits. Try looking for quality in the Microsoft checklist (see above screenshot). You won’t find it.
There’s even a lengthy whitepaper for developers delineating exactly how to publish high-quality apps for Google Play. Google seriously cares about:
- and Test Procedures.
I couldn’t find anything similar on the Microsoft app developer network.
By comparison, if you do a search for “VLC Player” in the Google Play store you’ll see many VLC apps but notice the differences from the Windows Store:
- Most are free
- Very few are masquerading as clones of the real VLC Player app
- Most are slightly different from each other
- The publisher is conspicuously at the bottom of each thumbnail
The Bottom Line
The Windows Store reminds me of a little kid who can’t keep up with the smart kids in class so he buys glasses, expands his vocabulary and dresses like an academic. But instead of actually getting smarter by studying assiduously and adding value to the classroom he evinces a specious intelligence which is poised to crumble.
In the same way, the Windows Store is only ostensibly large. A large portion of the apps are either crap, a waste of time or a sheer waste of money. If you must use the Windows Store please be circumspect and read the fine print. Make sure the app you’re downloading is from a reputable source and by all means don’t get duped into paying for something that’s free!
This also reminds me of what happened to my sister. One last story:
She’s a neophyte when it comes to websites and hosting but she had a desire to start a blog. So just started a WordPress.com blog and signed up for a bunch of superfluous packages. One of them was a $30 “bonus” package which enabled her to modify her website theme. When I found out she dropped thirty bucks to modify her theme I was livid! Had she consulted me first I would have showed her how easy it is to modify your theme for free. You don’t need to purchase a special package to modify a website but she was new. She was eager. And she got punked (as they was say on MTV).
Once I showed her how easy it is to install themes and how you don’t need to touch HTML, PHP or CSS to use them she was elated!
This is similar to what’s going on with Microsoft and its squalid store: it simply dropped the ball with this one. I know the phrase “dropped the ball” is cliche but when I say ball I’m using it as a pun for Microsoft’s titular former leader: Steve Ballmer.
There’s no doubt after Ballmer left the culture changed. I’m not saying Ballmer’s exit was a catalyst for the poor apps we see in the Windows Store but I am saying that poor leadership in an organization often begets a poor product.
The Windows Store is a sloppy example of a bunch of poor products all mashed up into one place.
So what do you think of the Windows Store? Were you ever tricked into buying a free app? Have you ever received a virus from a Windows Store app? I’m curious too see if I’m the only one who thinks this way. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.