Microsoft developers can now publish sneak preview apps to live private audience

Users will also be able to provide private feedback to developers that only they can see.

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Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Microsoft developers can now choose a select group of users to test apps and give feedback.
  • Users will be able to leave private reviews that can only be seen by the developers

Microsoft app developers now have the ability to offer sneak previews of what they're working on to a private audience after the company created the "private audience capability" in their Dev Center.

On their Windows Blog, the team behind the Dev Center said members of the developer community told them they needed a way to test apps or games with a live audience in order to make changes, get feedback, and improve the product before it is released publicly.

"One of the consistent themes that the Dev Center Team hears from the Windows developer community is that first impressions are important. Before launching a new app or game, it's important to validate that the experience is working perfectly in production," they wrote in the blog post.

According to the post, the feature is available to all developers, who will now be able publish an app or game and make it viewable only by a select group. Additionally, developers will be allowed to keep the app private until they're ready to publish it to a wider audience.

SEE: Mobile app development policy (Tech Pro Research)

Developers will be able to make the app public whenever they choose and can even set a timer that would transition it to public automatically at a certain point, the post said. Until it is released publicly, no one will be able to view the app, even if they have the link to the Microsoft store listing.

Only people within the designated groups a developer selects will be able to find and use the app, and even then, the developer will have free rein to add and remove people from any group. Any reviews in the Store itself will only be seen by the developers, but reviews left in the Feedback Hub can be seen by the public.

Unfortunately, this feature is not available to apps that have already been released publicly. Microsoft also mentioned that developers should worry about privacy because there is little they can do to stop users you select from screenshoting the app or sharing information about it.

"If confidentiality is a concern, keep in mind that although private audience will restrict the app's visibility to only the people you specify, you'll want to clearly communicate to those people that you are trusting them not to disclose information about the app via sharing screenshots or mentioning it on social media," they wrote in the blog post.

Developers can find more information on this new feature at the Visibility section of the Pricing and availability page when submitting an app.

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Image: iStockphoto/shironosov