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Microsoft flips the app store on its head

Microsoft flips the app store on its head

Good morning! This Friday, the Microsoft Store takes aim at Apple, the Confluent co-founders are now billionaires, the FTC reset is already starting, and we bet your Roth IRA isn't as flush with cash as Peter Thiel's.

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The Big Story

What's in Windows 11

Microsoft launched the new version of Windows yesterday. It won't be out for a while (and you might need a new machine to run it), but there's plenty of new stuff in here:

  • The look and feel: Windows 11 is a lot cleaner and a lot simpler. It's clearly the result of Microsoft's work on Windows 10X, which never shipped but was meant as a competitor to Chromebooks. The Start button is in the center, which is going to blow some minds.
  • Teams: Teams is integrated all over the OS, similar to FaceTime on the Mac.
  • Gaming upgrades: A new Auto HDR feature supposedly makes everything look better, DirectStorage makes games load faster and Xbox Game Pass is built in.
  • Lots of little things: Windows 11 should do a better job with multiple screens, juggling lots of windows, transitioning from laptop mode to tablet mode and the like. A lot of this upgrade seems focused on hybrid work, and people who are going to be moving themselves — and their gadgets — a lot.

The new Microsoft Store was the biggest announcement by far. Strange as it sounds, Microsoft's new app store might be the most consequential, useful, productive new thing about Windows 11. I know, I know, you're saying, "I didn't even know Microsoft had an app store." But hear me out.

  • The Store is wide open now. Developers don't have to use Microsoft's payment tools; they can choose how their app is updated; they can build and host their app any way they want to.
  • Microsoft is adding some curation and editorial content, but relinquishing almost all control of the apps in the store. It's a total inversion of the app store model, swapping a carefully-curated, walled garden for a pure discovery engine.
  • Even Android apps are coming to the Windows Store. They're available through the Amazon App Store, which is in the Windows Store. Users will be able to use a Microsoft Store to download an Amazon Store to download Google apps onto their Microsoft devices. Figure that out.

This is about more than Windows. Microsoft has been using the Store as a way to poke at Apple's App Store policies, changing its commissions and rules to make Apple's look worse. Now, Microsoft is saying "This is a store, it's open to everyone, and we can still make it work," and you can bet a member of Congress is marking this one down for the next antitrust hearing.

The whole thing cleverly spins Microsoft as a friend to developers, unlike Big Bad Apple. And developers are into it: Epic's Tim Sweeney, a longtime Microsoft critic, tweeted after the announcement that "the 2021 version of Microsoft is the best version of Microsoft ever!"

Satya Nadella ended things on an even bigger note. Windows, he said, can be more than a desktop operating system; it can be a platform for platforms, like the open web. "We want to empower you to produce, and inspire you to create," he said. His whole speech was a dig at walled gardens like Apple's, but also a hint at where Windows is going.

  • Fast-forward a few years, to when Windows is a cloud-based platform that streams your apps, settings and information to any screen you own. (This is clearly the future Microsoft imagines.) In that world, "Windows" is to work what, I don't know, TikTok is to killing time in the bathroom or Roblox is to being 8 years old.
  • You could almost describe Windows's future as "the metaverse for work." At least, that's where Microsoft thinks it's headed.

— David Pierce (email | twitter)


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People Are Talking

Tech giants are staying silent on California's anti-NDA bill, and Ifeoma Ozoma thinks that isn't accidental:

  • "They're pretty vocal about legislation. They have a whole team of people tracking legislation, so it can't be that they don't know this is happening."

The future of work at Adobe is hybrid and digital-first, CHRO Gloria Chen said:

  • "Flexibility will be the default: Adobe employees will have the option to work from home approximately 50% of the time, and in the office the remainder of the time."

In the midst of some intense markup action, Nancy Pelosi said she supports the new slate of antitrust bills:

  • "There has been concern on both sides of the aisle about the consolidation of power of the tech companies, and this legislation is an attempt to address that. We are not going to ignore the consolidation that has happened and the concern that exists on both sides of the aisle."

Don't be fooled by the crackdown, Andreessen Horowitz's Katie Haun said. China is still betting on crypto:

  • "They are all-in on crypto. They are all in on their brand of crypto, which is a closed permission system kind of at odds with the open, decentralized protocols we see as the future of the crypto system."

Making Moves

Tomicah Tillemann is Andreessen Horowitz's new head of policy. He joins from New America, and will be working with the new $2.2 billion crypto fund the firm just announced.

Toshiba chair Osamu Nagayama was ousted by shareholders. The removal, which followed allegations that the company had colluded with the government to suppress activist shareholders, is a rare win for investors in Japan.

Justin Bieber's music is coming to Snapchat.Snap and Universal Music Group made a deal to bring Universal's music to the platform, where Snap will hope it can be as culture-setting as music has become on TikTok.

Confluent had a big first day on the market. Its shares rose 25%, closing at around $45 and giving the real-time data analytics company a market cap of $11.4 billion.

BuzzFeed is going public. It's getting SPAC'd at a value of about $1.5 billion, and safe to say a whole generation of digital media companies will be watching carefully.

Remember how we told you Monday an FTC reset was coming? It already is. According to The Information, FTC chair Lina Khan has appointed Holly Vedova as acting director of the Bureau of Competition, Sam Levine as the acting director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection and elevated Erie Meyer to chief technologist.

In Other News

  • How's your Roth IRA looking? Peter Thiel's has $5 billion in it. Roths are one tool some tech scions are using to store their stock gains, ProPublica found, allowing them to keep a tax-free fortune squirreled away for retirement.
  • On Protocol: Mobile is on the brink of taking over gaming. Mobile will account for more than half of the $175 billion game industry this year, Newzoo found, reaching that 50% threshold for the first time.
  • Google pushed back its cookie-killing plans. It's now saying it will allow third-party tracking tech until late 2023.
  • U.K. regulators areinvestigating Amazon and Google over fake reviewsand concerns that the companies breached consumer protection law by not protecting shoppers.
  • Prime Day, more like Didn't Spend a Dime Day? (Sorry.) More than 250 million items were sold during Amazon's two-day extravaganza, Bank of America said, but growth may be slowing down.
  • On Protocol | Workplace: When VMware reopened its huge Palo Alto HQ, only 99 employees showed up. Here's why the return to the office is slow.
  • Maybe the internet isn't such an energy drain after all. That's what a new study found, anyway. Its researchers argue that things are getting faster and more efficient, and that could help allay people's concerns over time.
  • Democrats are getting ready for the midterms. Higher Ground Labs, the left-leaning investment firm backed by loads of tech money, just raised $15 million to invest in a new cohort of political startups.
  • On Protocol | Policy: The Big Tech antitrust bills cleared their first hurdle in the House, after a marathon two-day session. But opposition is growing, and approval of all six bills seems more and more unlikely.

One More Thing

Sorry, in a meeting

You probably already know this tip, but just in case: Did you know you can integrate your calendar with Slack (here's how) and Teams (here's how), so that your status automatically changes when you go into a meeting? It's a handy thing, and useful for your co-workers, too.

It's also possible to use this to your benefit. Want to just disappear for an hour? Or the rest of the day? Throw a meeting on your calendar that says "Lunch," or "nap," or just "LOL NOPE," and suddenly everyone on your team will be alerted that you're busy and can't be disturbed. Look at you, working so hard, taking all those meetings. (Just make sure others can't see what's actually on your calendar, otherwise this all goes sideways.)

Look at that, our nine-hour meeting called "Friday" just started. Sorry, we're busy for the rest of the day. Have a good one!


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Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Tomicah Tillemann's name. This story was updated on June 25, 2021.

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