Microsoft has officially opened an online store that combines its Windows Store and Windows Phone Store into one big virtual shopping mall.
The new so-called universal app store is part of the company's attempt to unify the Windows 10 experience across all devices -- PCs, tablets and mobile phones. In the past, Windows PC and tablet owners looking for apps would have to browse the Windows Store, while Windows Phone users would have to check out the Windows Phone store. But now the new one-stop shop is geared for everyone.
Offering a common experience to Windows 10 developers and users alike is a key part of Microsoft's strategy for its new OS. With universal apps, Windows developers can create an app once using the same core programming code and then simply tweak the app to run on PCs, tablets and phones. That process will cut down on development time and expenses, which Microsoft hopes will encourage developers to create apps for both Windows PCs and mobile devices. In turn, users could benefit by having a greater variety of apps available no matter what device they use.
And what's the advantage to Microsoft? With the PC market in a slump and Microsoft's smartphone sales in dire need of a jumpstart, the company needs universal apps and Windows 10 in general to succeed. A user who likes the Windows 10 features and apps on a PC or tablet might be more persuaded to purchase a Windows 10 mobile phone to get a similar experience. It may be a long shot, but it's the best hope Microsoft has at this point to generate greater demand among PC and mobile phone buyers.
Beyond PCs and mobile devices, Microsoft's Xbox console is also part of the universal app movement, so Xbox game developers can use that common code to create games.
From the universal app store homepage, you can scroll down to view the top Windows apps and Windows Phone apps. You can click on the Store menu at the top, drill down to Apps and then view all apps or view those for the Xbox. You can also look for a particular app by typing its name in the search field at the top of the page.
Clicking the name of a specific app brings up its description page where you'll see details about it along with ratings and reviews. For now, the new universal app store seems like a work in progress. You can browse or search for apps through the store but you can't actually install apps from the website, either directly or remotely to your device, the way you can with the Google Play store. To install apps for now, you still need to open the Windows Store on a Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 device or the Windows Phone Store on a Windows Phone handset.
Over time, Microsoft will need to spruce up the store and make it easier to navigate and use if it expects to draw in people in search of Windows 10 apps.