For years, people installed software onto their computers by buying disks: floppies, CDs, and, later, DVDs. But Microsoft is hoping to pull an Apple here: It wants its online software store to be your one-stop software shopping mall.
It’s an online catalog, completely overhauled in Windows 8.1, of software from huge software companies, tiny one-person software companies, and everything in between. You can read about the apps, check out customer reviews, and, finally, download them directly to your computer.
There are some huge advantages to this system. Since there’s no box, DVD, registration card, shipping, or stocking, the software can cost a lot less. Plenty of programs in the Windows Store are actually free, and many paid ones offer a free 7-day trial.
Furthermore, Microsoft controls the transaction on both ends—it knows who you are—so there are no serial numbers to type in. The installation doesn’t have to interrupt you with warnings like “Please enter your password to install this software.” Once you click Buy, Try, or Install, the software downloads and installs itself automatically, without any interaction from you at all.
There are no disks to store and hunt down later, either. If you ever need to reinstall a program from the Windows Store, or if you ever get a new PC, you just re-download it; the store remembers that you’re a legitimate owner. Better yet, you’ll be downloading the latest version of that program; you won’t have to install all the “.01” patches ...