Knock-offs are par for the course on smartphone app stores. When the creator of Flappy Bird removed his game from the App Store, countless knockoffs flooded in to fill the gap. Google Play has the same problem. Apple and Google manage it, somewhat, because like it or not, makers of cheap software ripoffs have a right to sell their product within copyright limits, and we have no obligation to buy it.
Then there's Microsoft's Windows Store, which reaches a new level of fail when it comes to keeping things organized and weeding out the garbage. The news and tutorial site How-To Geek took a long look at what's cluttering the store, and it's not pretty.
How-To Geek focused on one app -- the free media player VLC. The staff found a bunch of clones that steal the VLC logo and are sold for as much as $4.99, when VLC is free. The description of the $4.99 player, called "VLC Player Download," says "this app helps the users to know how to download install and why it is." For $1.99, you can have "Download Vlc Player," and for $1.29 you can have "download vlc media player."
How-To Geek's story lit a fire under Microsoft, prompting the company to clean up all the fraudulent VLC apps and a few others quickly. However, you can still find a lot of me-too type apps for Adobe Flash Player, Pandora, and Spotify, which are not officially released as Windows 8 apps.
This is not the first time someone has noted that the Windows Store looks like a Wal-Mart in a low-income neighborhood. Digital Trends called out the store for being a mess 18 months ago. It's odd that Microsoft has been so slapdash about maintaining the store. We know Windows 8 was a flop and there was turmoil in the Windows leadership, but is that the reason to leave the store in chaos for almost two years?
The How-To Geek editors had an interesting theory about why it's such a mess. Microsoft had a promotion called Keep the Cash in the early days of Windows 8 designed to goose developer interest, offering developers $100 for each app they uploaded to the Windows Store and allowing each developer do upload as many as 20 apps. Like the old saying in Washington, D.C., goes: if you want more of something, subsidize it (and if you want less of it, tax it). Microsoft subsidized a lot of copycat garbage.