Microsoft Store launches in the US with downloadable apps

Yesterday, amid the launch of the new Windows Live services, which included the update to Games for Windows Live, the Microsoft Store officially opened for US businesses.

Having previously launched in the UK, Germany, and Korea, the Microsoft Store sells both hardware and software, and offers the option to purchase software either as physical media or as a download.

Many flavors of Vista (both full versions and upgrades) and Office and its related components are immediately available for download on the store. As mentioned yesterday in the Games for Windows Live upgrade, games are not yet available for download, nor are Design and Developer tools such as Expression Studio and Visual Studio.

Users log on with a Windows Live ID, and when a purchase is completed, the receipt includes a product key and a "Download File" link. While files can be downloaded through the browser, Microsoft recommends using the associated download manager. The download manager is only compatible with Internet Explorer versions 6 through 8, and only on Windows operating systems.

Interestingly, Microsoft's list of system requirements lists Windows XP, Vista, and something called "Windows 2003." This may be referring to Windows Server 2003, albeit a tad incorrectly, though it's odd that Windows Server 2008 wasn't mentioned as well since Vista was mentioned also (they share the same kernel).

The Microsoft Store also sells office products for Mac, but currently only in DVD form.

Microsoft Senior Program Manager Trevin Chow discussed the store in his blog yesterday, and spoke of the merits of Electronic Software Distribution (ESD). The three main advantages Chow cites are: perpetual storage of product keys with the user's Windows Live ID; accessibility for platforms with no optical drive, such as netbooks; and environmental friendliness.

"I'm not going to get all granola on you and try to quote you an exact environmental impact," Chow said, "But think of the savings of gasoline in shipping products, driving back and forth in your car to a retail store, or even the plastic manufactured and used for the CD jewel cases. With everyone getting worried about their 'carbon footprint,' every little bit counts, so why not buy ESD if you can?"

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