Copycat apps and obvious scams in the iTunes App Store and Google Play are obnoxious, but they may have nothing on Microsoft's Windows Store. A tech website has accused the Windows Store of being full of unmitigated garbage that could cost you money and possibly even system security, and blames the problem on Microsoft's own desire to quickly populate its app store.
The cluttered state of the Windows Store is obvious to visitors, but tech news and tutorial site How-To Geek decided to really poke around. Searching for the free high-quality media player VLC, How-To Geek staffers encountered legions of shady me-too apps stealing the VLC logo and trying to charge users for the phony products.
The problem was not limited to VLC. Tom's Guide verified that Adobe Flash Player, Pandora, Firefox, Minecraft and Spotify, none of which seem to have an official Windows app, each had several fake apps listed on the first page of search results. Many of the fake apps stole logos wholesale and charged money for what would otherwise be free apps. Even Microsoft had several imitators that tried to duplicate the look of official apps.
How-To Geek theorizes that this proliferation of junk apps is due to Microsoft's Keep the Cash promotion, which ran in the earlier days of Windows 8 and the Windows Phone. The promotion offered developers $100 for each app they added to the Windows Store, up to a total of $2,000. In practice, it seems to have resulted in a deluge of shoddy apps rather than one or two really good ones.
The Windows Store theoretically has people overseeing it to ensure that apps meet with Microsoft's standards. Yet similar problems arose in the Windows Phone app store this past March, when nearly a dozen phony Google apps appeared, many of which are still there. (Google Search is the only official Google app in either Microsoft app store.)
Microsoft provided a statement to Tom's Guide:
We strive to make the Windows Store a high-quality experience for customers and also accessible to the broadest audience of developers. Based on customer and developer feedback, we recently took actions to help users discover the specific app titles they’re searching for and improve the overall Store experience. Those updates provide clear guidance to developers and also improve our ability to identify, audit and remove problematic apps. We recognize that there is more work to do and will continue to re-evaluate our policies to strike a balance between the opportunity for developers and the app quality that our customers expect.