Microsoft confirms app store in Windows 8

Repeats 2008-09 strategy of dribbling out details, lists 'App Store' as one of 35 teams working on new OS

Microsoft has begun talking about Windows 8 in general terms, reprising a blog-based strategy that it used in the year-long run-up to Windows 7.

Microsoft kicked off the "Building Windows 8" blog on Monday, almost exactly three years after the debut of a similar blog, "Engineering Windows 7," that the company used to beat the drum.

Both blogs were launched by Steven Sinofsky, the president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live division.

Yesterday, Sinofsky essentially confirmed that Windows 8 will support an app store when he listed it as the title of one of 35 teams working on the operating system.

Although Microsoft has publicly discussed a few bits of Windows 8, it has said nothing about integrating a download store with the new OS until now. Several Windows bloggers, however, reported finding signs of one in leaked previews of the OS several months ago.

Sinofsky's disclosure of an app store in Windows 8 would not be a surprise Stephen Baker, an analyst with the NPD Group who two months ago said, "It's clear that Microsoft will on some level go to an app store in Windows 8."

The question Baker had then was whether Microsoft's app store would be a curated market -- the approach Apple has taken with its iOS App Store, and to a lesser extent, the Mac App Store for systems running Mac OS X.

Baker thought not. "I think there will always be ways for retailers and OEMs to participate in software sales. Microsoft is fundamentally a good channel partner," he said.

The term "App Store" is a bone of contention between Microsoft, Amazon and Apple, with the first two arguing that the description isn't worthy of trademark protection. Apple has disputed that.

In January, Microsoft asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to deny Apple's trademark application, arguing that because the term is generic , competitors should be able to use it.

According to documents published by the USPTO's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, both Apple and Microsoft have hired linguistic experts to argue that "App Store" is not a generic term (Apple's position) and that it is (Microsoft's).

The last document posted by the Appeal Board was an early-April request by Apple for oral arguments.

Amazon and Apple have been battling in federal court over the term since March, when the latter accused Amazon of trademark infringement. Amazon uses the term "Appstore" to describe its Android-only download market.

Sinofsky listed a total of 35 teams that are working on Windows 8, and some of his labels hinted at other core changes, ranging from a hypervisor -- or virtual machine manager -- within the client edition to improvements in Windows Update, Microsoft's consumer update service.

A majority of the Windows 8 teams had no corresponding group during Windows 7's development, while some of the latter's -- including Media Center and Applets and Gadgets -- don't appear in the Windows 8 list.

Microsoft has been mum about a release schedule for Windows 8, but the timing of Sinofsky's return to blogging -- three years and one day after the start of the similar effort for Windows 7 -- may hint at a parallel timetable. If that's the case, Windows 8 would launch in October 2012.

The company will reveal more about Windows 8, and perhaps release a preview version of the OS, at its Build conference, which will begin Sept. 13 in Anaheim, Calif.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com .

See more articles by Gregg Keizer .

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