Why Microsoft must allow legacy apps in Windows Store
The tangible value of any operating system, be it for mobile devices or traditional PCs, is given by the strength of its app ecosystem. Having many, great pieces of software available is hugely important, no matter the platform, as these are the things people are interested in and wish to use on a daily basis. When it comes to desktops and laptops, Windows is, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, the undisputed king in that regard. But, with the introduction of Windows Store, one important question arises: When will Microsoft finally concede legacy apps also need centralized distribution?
Apple understands users do not wish to risk visiting the shady corners of the InterWebs when looking for the software they need or want, and so the company introduced the App Store in OS X 10.6.6 Snow Leopard. Admittedly, it is not as vast as it could be, but it is definitely miles better than having nothing at all. Even Microsoft has launched some of its popular apps there, so the software giant is clearly aware of the benefits of this distribution method on traditional PCs. Allowing users to install legacy apps from Store will also do wonders for the Windows user experience. Honestly, Microsoft would be foolish not to do it soon.
Why Windows Store?
Offering legacy apps through Windows Store is the right approach as the groundwork has already been laid out, beginning with Windows 8. Such software could, naturally, be listed alongside its Modern UI counterpart. Users should be able to install legacy apps from the Desktop side as well as the Modern UI (and not be forced to switch between the two UIs).
Also, to add some context to the idea, the Windows Store should automatically install legacy apps when triggered from the Desktop, for users to avoid getting the (unwanted) Modern UI version by mistake (an option to change this behavior could be offered for advanced users to take advantage of).
Obviously, Microsoft must make it more difficult -- but not impossible -- for users to install legacy apps from other places than its Windows Store (like Apple does for OS X software). Here is what such an approach would entail.
No More Outdated Versions
Since legacy apps developers will, naturally, offer updates through Windows Store it will be much easier for users to install the latest available version. If automated updates are added into the mix, this will ensure that all fixes are applied and the latest features are rolled out to the entire user base which, in turn, will result in a more enjoyable and effortless experience.
The largest problem Windows users have to deal with whenever they download software from the Internet is malware. Those who are knowledgeable enough can avoid it (at least most of the time), but inexperienced users may frequently be in great danger.
Just look at the most recent stories detailing the latest infections, and how they spread. In case you may be thinking of saying it, asking inexperienced users to learn more about how Windows works and adopt safer computing habits is, probably, the least practical resolution.
The same does not hold true for a curated app store, like Windows Store. Microsoft can decide which legacy software should be validated and which one should be rejected, based on, among other reasons, security concerns. The user experience will (almost) be devoid of any security risks from downloading and installing legacy apps. It will also lead to safer practices among legacy apps developers, that will be forced to comply to have their software in Windows Store.
... And Convenience
And, for the average Windows users, being able to install legacy apps from Windows Store will be much more convenient than having to manually download and install files from the web. It will also make it easier for them to discover new software.
For developers it will also be much more convenient and effective to distribute legacy software through Windows Store, as the number of potential users is significantly larger than that of many online stores, combined. Given some time, users might not even look elsewhere to get their favorite legacy apps.
By allowing developers to offer their legacy apps in Windows Store, Microsoft will effectively get a significant cut from all sales and in-app purchases, adding to the revenue generated by Modern UI apps. If top firms that sell expensive legacy software will embrace Windows Store, then the revenues collected by Microsoft will be even higher.
Of course, this goes both ways. Developers will definitely stand a better chance at making decent money from their legacy apps, as users are more likely to discover and pay for software in Windows Store, compared to some online store they may not trust with their personal data.
Puts a Damper on Piracy
Software piracy remains one of the largest problems Windows developers have to deal with. Microsoft is definitely no stranger to having its most-popular apps pirated, as new versions of Windows and Office are available in the darker corners of the InterWebs for free.
Like the iOS App Store, the Windows Store is least-affected by piracy as there is no way for users to install cracked versions of the offered software (without resorting to jailbreaking, which very few people embrace anyway). Needless to say, the same benefit will apply to legacy apps.
It Just Makes Sense
The only reasons I can think of why anyone would say "No" to having legacy apps in Windows Store are the extra resources involved in tailoring the software for this kind of distribution (any efforts spent in this direction are not significant in the grand scheme of things), not being able to easily install pirated software (this is a terrible reason) and, possibly, lower revenues compared to the traditional distribution method (however, Microsoft takes care of Windows Store distribution costs, and users might buy more software, likely boosting revenues overall).
But, really, why would anyone not want legacy apps in Windows Store?