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Windows 8 App Store details revealed

Microsoft has unveiled the Windows App Store, a similar idea to Apple's Mac App Store.

Microsoft has unveiled the Windows App Store. The next generation of Microsoft's venerable operating system goes public early next year and will eventually boast a rival to Apple's Mac App Store.

The public beta release in February won't be the finished version, so there may still be kinks in the operating system. It'll have to do until the Windows 8 App Store launches later in the year, which will offer free trials of applications and games before you commit to buying.

Free trials of apps is one of the only advantages the currently underpopulated Windows Phone App Marketplace has against its rival mobile app emporia (although Android has a clunky money-back feature), so it's a smart move for Microsoft to add the feature to its grown-up app store.

The good news for developers is apps can be built using assorted platforms, including HTML5 and JavaScript. That makes developing moe versatile and flexible, and should place less restrictions on developers than, say, Apple's App Stores.

Like Apple, Microsoft will split app money 70-30 with developers -- but that rate will improves to an 80-20 split once the app makes more than $25,000. Microsoft will approve apps -- again, like Apple -- but promises to be more transparent than Apple's occasionally controversial approval process. Here's the video from Microsoft:

The Windows 8 Developer Beta has been downloaded over 3 million times already -- here's how to try  it out -- and the new operating system represents a radical departure, borrowing its look and feel from Windows Phone to make it suitable for touchscreen devices. That's great for Windows 8 tablets and touchscreen all-in-one computers, but it won't be much use to owners of normal computers with normal monitors.

The look and feel of Windows Phone and Windows 8 is called Metro styling by Microsoft. Features borrowed from Windows Phone include a start screen with coloured tiles to access applications such as the new Windows Store, instead of the traditional start menu. You'll also be able to sign in by drawing a shape on the screen wth your finger rather than a password, a feature first made popular by Android.

Rumour suggests that Windows 8 apps could run on Windows Phones, which would be a major fillip to Microsoft's mobile platform. Currently, Windows Phone's low market share isn't enticing developers to make apps, which would in turn entice more customers -- but hitch Windows Phone to the coattails of Windows, the most commonly used operating system in the world, and the sky's the limit.

Although the public beta arrives in February, the app store won't launch until Windows 8's launch proper. That's expected some time before the end of the year, probably in autumn.

We've compared the mobile app stores to see which is the best purveyor of apps: Android, Apple, BlackBerry or Windows Phone. Have a look at that and let us know what you think of Microsoft's plans in the comments below or on our Facebook page.