Last week we announced that we’ve begun accepting desktop apps for listing in the Store, and you'll see these apps in the Store very soon. Currently, we've limited who can submit desktop apps to a small number of partners. As we approach the final version of Windows 8, we'll increase developer access to the Store, so we want to take a few minutes to talk about how we list desktop apps, and what the submission process is like. Carla Di Franco, a Program Manager on the Application and Device Compatibility team, authored this post.
When we described the design principles for the Windows Store, we explained how easy it is to discover both Metro style and desktop apps. In this blog post, I’ll explain how desktop apps will appear in the Windows Store to customers, how the submission process works for developers, and how submitting a desktop app differs from submitting a Metro style app.
In a nutshell, desktop apps are apps that run on the Windows desktop and don’t follow the Metro style. Now that the Windows Store shows listings for desktop apps, customers can search for them, browse through descriptive information about them, and acquire them from the developer’s website using a link provided in the product description page in the Windows Store.
Jonathan Garrigues already provided a great blog post about submitting Metro style apps to the Windows Store. He explained the basics of the submission process, and the design decisions that went into creating it. I’ll use his information as a starting point and focus on the differences that you’ll see when submitting desktop apps to the Windows Store.
What do desktop apps look like in the Windows Store?
If you’ve seen Metro style app tiles in the Windows Store, you have an idea of how they look and how you can click one to access an app's product description page for more information. Desktop apps listed in the Windows Store are also accessible through tiles, but the tiles look a bit different. For one thing, you’ll notice that the app price isn't listed. We don't include the price because the Windows Store doesn’t handle the acquisition process for desktop apps. (In fact, desktop apps aren’t available for download from the Windows Store—they’re simply listings.) The tile also makes it clear that the app is a desktop app.
When customers click the tile for a desktop app, they see a product description page with information about the desktop app, very similar to the Metro style app description page. The main difference is that in order to acquire the desktop app, the customer clicks a link that takes them outside of the Windows Store—the developer is in charge of the (paid or free) acquisition experience.
The desktop app submission process
When you submit a desktop app to the Windows Store, you don't upload the app itself. Instead, the first thing you need to do is run the Windows App Certification Kit. Next you send the results generated by the kit to us. After we've approved this results file, you can submit the app listing to the Store. This listing contains:
- Descriptive information about your app (what we call your app listing data)
- A URL to a site where customers can acquire the app
In general, here's what you do to get a desktop app listed in the Store:
- Sign up for a Hardware/Desktop Dashboard Company Account.
- Using this account, submit the results of the Windows App Certification Kit.
- After we approve the results, submit the app to the Windows Store.
- Sign up as a company for a Windows Store developer account, using the same account as in step 1.
- Approved apps that have passed the Windows App Certification Kit will show up in the desktop dashboard and are ready to submit to the Windows Store.
- Create listing information for the Windows Store, and submit it for Windows Store Certification.
- Once the app has passed Windows Store Certification, it will be listed in the Windows Store.
Let's go into a couple of these steps in more detail.
Sign up for a company account
When you register for a developer account with the Windows Store, you can choose to create either an individual account or a company account. While Metro style app developers can select either option, desktop app developers must create a company account to be eligible to list desktop apps in the Windows Store.
Submit the results of the Windows App Certification Kit
When submitting a desktop app, you must first submit the results of the Windows App Certification Kit. After we've confirmed these results, your app will show up on the dashboard page. From there, you can submit the app listing to the Windows Store.
We use some of the data that was included with these results in the Windows Store portal dashboard page. However, because you don't upload desktop apps to the Windows Store, you need to supply us with additional information about them. (For developers of Metro style apps, we get this information directly from the package manifest.) The Windows Store dashboard helps explain what information we need, but I’ll go over some of this information here, and explain some of the more complex areas.
One of the most important things about an app is the price. As I mentioned before, the Windows Store won’t handle the commerce for desktop apps. Still, we do require that desktop app developers select a price (free or paid) during submission. This way, we can ensure that the app shows up correctly when users sort and filter via price in the Windows Store UI.
Setting the right price can be tricky if you already sell your app at different prices in different markets. The Windows Store automatically performs a direct currency conversion for Metro style and desktop apps, but this doesn’t account for different actual prices for the app. In situations like this, we recommend that you choose the price tier that most accurately reflects the median price for your app, across all markets where that app is sold. This ensures it shows up as a paid app in the Windows Store, and that it shows up in search results with other apps that are in the same or similar price tiers.
Markets and languages
Windows is a global product with a tremendous market opportunity for developers. In the Store, we give you the choice to offer to list your desktop app in a number of different markets and languages. (In the Windows Store, markets refer to the geographic areas in the world where you can sell an app to a Windows 8 user, and languages are those used to describe the app to customers.) There are separate check boxes provided to select markets and languages during the submission process. The boxes you select here affect who can see your app listing in the Windows Store. A good rule to follow is that for any market you select, the customers in that market can see the app listing. As a result, you need to choose markets carefully and with an eye to how you are selling your app on your company website for that specific local market.
At any time after you publish an app in the Windows Store, you can choose to add or remove a market for your app listing, or to delist it entirely. To remove your app listing from the Store, simply de-select all the markets for it. After this is complete and submitted, you will still be able to see your app listing in the Windows Store dashboard, but it won't be visible to customers. To list the app again, reselect the appropriate markets and resubmit. After certification, your app listing will show up again in the Windows Store.
You can also choose the languages your app supports, separate from the market availability. For each language you pick, you’ll need to fill out a language-specific description page for your app listing. On this language-specific description page, you’ll also provide the links to the acquisition page, so customers can directly acquire your app. For example, if you chose English and German from the language list, you have to complete two description pages, one for each language. With description pages in different languages, not only is there is a higher likelihood that customers will be able to read about an app in their own language, but they can also get the app from a site designed for their language or market.
After you select the languages for your app listing, you must complete these description pages before you can complete the submission process. We recommend that you fill out at least one language-specific description page for each market that you choose. Another way to do this is to fill out a language-specific description page for each language that the app is localized into, so users can acquire the right language version of that app.
App purchase page
As part of the submission process, you must supply a purchase page URL for your app. This URL is a link that sends the user directly to the page where a customer can acquire your app with the fewest clicks possible. This is a great feature for customers; if you provide them with a clean and easy way to acquire your app, you’re already making a great impression by giving them a simple and clear acquisition experience.
During the app submission process, we request that you supply a URL for users who need the x86 version of an app and one for those who need the x64 version. For Release Preview, both URL fields are required, and should correspond to the version of Windows that a user is running. If the acquisition page is the same for both, we recommend that you use the same URL in both fields. The Windows Store detects whether a user is running the x86 or x64 version of Windows, and users can only see apps that correspond to this version.
We understand that, in most cases, you might already have an acquisition experience available for your apps outside the Windows Store, which includes specific product and marketing information. It improves the user experience if this content is balanced and consistent between your acquisition page and your app listing page in the Store. Obviously, we recommend that you design your app listing to entice users to get your app, and there are many ways to do this in the Windows Store, while maintaining the details on your acquisition page. We also have a lot of great guidelines provided in the Metro style app developer center for describing apps in the Windows Store. We encourage you to use these resources as you get ready to list your app.
We’re excited to provide this promotional tool to desktop developers. We look forward to your feedback and great results as you submit desktop apps for listing in the Windows Store.