Microsoft Stores for Business and Education Ending in 2023
Microsoft on Wednesday announced plans to end the online Microsoft Store for Business and Microsoft Store for Education in the "first quarter of 2023," per a Microsoft document on the topic.
These stores are different from the commercial Microsoft Store online application repository, which is currently undergoing a revamp. Microsoft Store for Business and the Microsoft Store for Education are used by businesses and schools to distribute applications to end users. Those applications might include private line-of-business apps or public apps that were customized by an independent software vendor.
The Shift to Windows Package Manager
Instead of using the Microsoft Store for Business and Microsoft Store for Education application repositories, Microsoft wants organizations to shift to using the Windows Package Manager and Microsoft Intune, or another "unified endpoint management (UEM) solution," to get their apps.
Windows Package Manager is a command-line tool, released as version 1.0 in May. It's used to install apps by sending text commands, either via the PowerShell console or a Windows Package Manager Client terminal. Windows Package Manager fetches apps that are housed in the Microsoft community repository.
Back in May, Microsoft had explained that Windows Package Manager, which is Microsoft's first "native" application installer, wasn't replacing the "Windows Store" (the old name for the Microsoft Store). It's not a store replacement because Windows Package Manager just has a text interface and doesn't have the ability to show marketing information.
Microsoft's Wednesday announcement indicated that it'll be possible for organizations to use the Microsoft Store for Business and the Microsoft Store for Education to get "free apps" until the 2023 end date. Microsoft had already killed off the use of those stores to get apps that need to be purchased, which happened back in April.
"Starting April 14, 2021, all apps that charge a base price above free will no longer be available to buy in the Microsoft Store for Business and Education," Microsoft's document had explained. The document added that apps already purchased will continue to run, but additionally licensing can't be bought.
Microsoft's plans to scrap these stores aren't wholly a surprise as they were described about a year and a half ago by veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley.
Windows Package Manager Integration Milestones
Microsoft wants users of the Microsoft Store for Business and the Microsoft Store for Education to shift to using the Windows Package Manager tool, which will be integrated with Microsoft Intune or another UEM.
Currently, the integration work is still a work in progress for Microsoft. The announcement described the following "milestones" to that end:
- Windows Package Manager v1.0: generally available
- Intune integration with Windows Package Manager service, your private app repository, and the new Microsoft Store: Public Preview (Expected H1 2022)
- Intune integration with Windows Package Manager service, your private app repository, and the new Microsoft Store: General availability (Expected H2 2022)
- Retirement of Microsoft Store for Business and Education for Windows 10: expected Q1 2023
Microsoft's announcement included an FAQ section to clarify this rather confusing announcement. Essentially, the shift toward Windows Package Manager is just happening for users of free applications.
If organizations have installed Windows Store for Business or Windows Store for Education apps (free or paid), then those apps will continue to run "as long as the app is not removed from the device."
New Microsoft Store
Microsoft had described building a new Microsoft Store in this June 24 post. It will be arriving at some point for Windows 10 and Windows 11 devices. The new store isn't available for buying apps right now, but it's already described at this landing page.
The new Microsoft Store will have improvements to help users find applications. It'll be friendly to developers that offer their apps through install links on their Web sites. In such cases for Microsoft Store apps, a pop-up installer will appear when people click on the Web site link.
The new Microsoft Store will be capable of housing all types of applications, including the older Win32 (Windows 7-era) apps. Here's what it can hold, per the June 24 post:
Starting today, Windows developers can publish any kind of app, regardless of app framework and packaging technology -- such as Win32, .NET, UWP, Xamarin, Electron, React Native, Java and even Progressive Web Apps.
Microsoft also is giving developers a break if they use their own commerce platform to monetize their apps. In such cases, apps can be housed in the new Microsoft Store without any fee.
The new Microsoft Store is apparently at the preview stage right now. Its commercial-release timing wasn't described.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.