On the consumer side of the market, one of Microsoft's most important strategies revolves around the Microsoft Store. This online outlet for apps, games, music, and video is prominently featured in every installation of Windows 10 and is an integrated part of the Xbox experience. However, if my recent experience with the service is any indication, Microsoft has some serious work and catching up to do with its store if it wants to compete with Netflix, Google, Steam, and Amazon.
In December 2016, I bought a new gaming PC. It is a top of the line computer with all the bells and whistles from the ibuypower.com online boutique. As an incentive, I was given a coupon for a $100 credit on the Microsoft Store. I had never used the Microsoft Store, so this gave me an excuse to give it a try.
I was sorely disappointed.
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First of all, the game choices were absolutely atrocious. The store did have some big franchises like Call of Duty, but there were also some notable missing titles. For example, no Civilization Series at all. There was no Elder Scrolls series, no Dishonored Series, and no Witcher Series. Those are four of the biggest franchises in the history of PC gaming. It is no wonder that PC gamers stick with Steam to buy their games.
The apps section was generally adequate, with the usual suspects all represented: Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, iHeart Radio, Dropbox, etc. Of course, there was Office 365 and all its parts available. I am not much of an "app guy," but I didn't see many apps missing from the store—at least in the major player category.
The selection in the movies and television section was noticeably light. Even with $100 worth of credits, I found it difficult to find a movie to rent that wasn't recently released. I rented the HD versions of The Accountant and Suicide Squad for $4.99 each. To play your selections you have to use the Movies & TV app that comes with Windows 10. That is where the real problems start.
I have a 4K television and the player does not like displaying in 2160p. Periodically, the picture would just fade to black with only the audio remaining. The movie was still streaming and playing, but the video was nonexistent. The only way to get it back was by restarting the television. A very frustrating experience.
I solved the problem by reverting to the 1080p resolution—the Windows 10 player could handle that resolution apparently. Needless to say, that experience, regardless of whether it was the fault of the Windows 10 software, the video driver of the PC, or the television hardware itself, is totally unacceptable. I can stream a movie or television show to my 4K TV with my Roku without any problems at all and that is why I use it almost exclusively.
The only bright spot in the Microsoft Store was the music section. I am assuming that Microsoft has a deal with some company in the music industry because the selection of available music matches iTunes and other services. The exception is podcasts—there are no podcasts available on the Microsoft Store.
Compared to the competition from the likes of Netflix, Steam, Amazon, and Google, the Microsoft Store is completely inadequate. Judging by the lack of execution, I am not certain Microsoft really wants to compete in this market. The entire effort seems half-hearted and unsure.
It may be a better strategy at this point for Microsoft to partner with an existing service like Steam. Valve wants Steam to be a one-stop shop for games, apps, music, and video, but it is having problems getting titles beyond games on its service. Microsoft can supply the music, video, and apps that Steam is lacking, while Steam can provide the games the Microsoft Store is missing so badly. Seems like a match made in business strategy heaven to me.
If something drastic is not done to improve the overall Microsoft Store experience, I see the service languishing in obscurity for years to come.
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My experience with the Microsoft Store was awful. Have you had a better experience? What did I miss? Share your thoughts and opinions with your peers at TechRepublic in the discussion thread below.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.