Microsoft's Windows Store for Metro-style applications in Windows 8 will be open for business from late February, the company has confirmed.
The Windows Store, which was officially announced at Microsoft's Build developer conference in September, is being touted as a safe source for new applications while making it easier for developers to bring Windows 8 apps to market.
Microsoft has now disclosed that the Windows Store will be open to consumers and developers from late February.
Developers will be able to submit "free apps for Windows 8 Beta" from this date, the strongest hint yet that a beta of Windows 8 will ship soon, and possibly as early as the CES trade show in Las Vegas in early January.
However, Microsoft conceded that many users will search for and find applications via the web, and is looking to support this route.
"We know people use the web to find apps, so the Store app catalogue will be indexed by search engines. We also support direct linking to app webpages," said Ted Dworkin, partner programme manager for Windows Store, writing in the new Windows Store blog.
Microsoft claims that developers will earn more from successful apps on the Windows Store, by keeping 80 per cent of the revenue earned from downloads.
This only applies once sales pass $25,000 (£15,942), though, with developers keeping "the industry standard 70 per cent revenue share" below this figure.
Likewise, developers will get 70 per cent of the revenue from in-app purchases and transactions up to $25,000, with an 80 per cent share only once they pass this level.
Developers must also sign up for an annual subscription of $49 (£31) for individuals or $99 (£63) for companies before they are permitted to submit applications.
But Microsoft will allow "flexible and innovative business models" with regards to other revenue streams, which means that developers are free to use Microsoft's ad platform or another third-party vendor for in-app advertising.
Microsoft is making available the Windows App Certification Kit for developers to troubleshoot technical issues before submitting to the Windows Store, after which they can use the Windows Store Dashboard to monitor progress through the approvals process.
Windows 8 is still expected to ship sometime during 2012, although some experts have voiced concerns that this could slip to 2013.
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