I’ve been talking to a great number of partners the past years on the topic of the Windows Store functionalities. The store isn’t just about publishing apps, but also about maintaining apps. Beta-testing is also an important part of delivering software these days, especially with the agile approach to development. Apps published in multiple languages can be cumbersome to publish – you have to enter descriptions and pictures for all those languages … by hand. Then there are partners working on multiple apps for customers. And some even produce lots of apps for others where the process up ’till now required to publish them all by hand.
During the recent //build a number of developments in the Windows Store were presented that solve a lot of these problems. Let’s have a look at a few of them.
It’s now possible to grant multiple developer accounts access to your Windows Store dashboard, or even for a specific app. This is currently done by using the Azure Active Directory. You can use your own Azure AD if you have it, or use a free one if you don’t. You can then manage the permissions for those user-accounts.
Today you can only use Azure AD accounts, not “custom” accounts. So, you cannot add “firstname.lastname@example.org” for instance. When you use the free version of the Azure AD to add accounts, you get a message after a month or so with the inquiry if you want to buy an Azure subscription. You don’t have to do that. You Azure AD still will exist after that and you can still manage developer accounts on your dashboard in the Windows Store. But you don’t have the possibility anymore to open up the Azure portal for the account you used to request the free AD.
For more information, see this post as well.
The Windows 10 store already had something called ‘promo codes’. You can request up to 250 promo codes per submission, which are valid for 6 months. By distributing these to specific people, you can determine who is able to install your app. This is a way to do beta-testing, but it still can be very cumbersome. And you have to request new promo codes over and over again with new versions.
Package flights is a new mechanism in the Windows Store to provide new versions of an existing app to groups of people. You can for instance have a group “Early Adopters” who receive a daily build, “Fast Adopters” who receive a weekly build and “Slow Adopters” who receive a monthly build. The timing is all determine by the submission you do, so you can also have a new version every 2 days, etcetera. The people in a group receive a different version than the people normally would get from the store. It’s comparable to the way the Insider Preview program works on Windows 10 for instance.
The dashboard then also provide tools to measure what’s happening with a flight (crashes, number of installs, feedback) to determine what to do with that build. You can even retract a submission, so people fall back to the previous package.
For more information, see this post. But there are also two very good //build sessions that you can watch: Windows Store: Publishing Apps and Games to Desktop, Mobile, and Xbox and App Flighting and Beta Testing in the Windows Store.
The Windows Store didn’t have an API before to automate publishing an app. When publishing frequently, e.g. with daily package flights, it would be better to automate that. For that purpose a Submission API is in development. It’s currently in private preview, but it is a promising feature to include in you devops practice.
More information can also be found in the //build session Windows Store: Publishing Apps and Games to Desktop, Mobile, and Xbox.
There are many more improvements being made and coming to the Windows Store. Check out this blogpost on all the enhancements coming. And make sure you check out the //build sessions mentioned in this article.