Just last week Microsoft was involved in scandal where it was revealed that they searched email on Hotmail to find a leaker. While Microsoft was in the full legal right to do what they did, the news shook the confidence in companies which may be competing with Microsoft in using their online services, which will likely result in a cascade of companies moving to competing services such as Google and Amazon.
Now the Free market app brouhaha shows that Microsoft is now above using their most powerful and fearsome tools to squash apps which are not violating any policy, and which are merely designed to secure Windows Phone users the best deal possible.
Free Market was an app which searched the Windows Phone Store for apps which are on promotion in certain regional markets, which then allowed users to change their region and purchase it more cheaply. Crucially the app did not change the region of the handset (this can only be done by the user manually), meaning the app was only an information and not circumvention service, and could as easily be a website.
After an uproar by developers claiming the app will kill their profit, Cliff Simpkins, Product Manager for Windows and Windows Phone Developer Experience became directly involved, and after the developer removed the app from the store, the app was also revoked by Microsoft, meaning even users who downloaded the app were unable to use it.
This measure is normally reserved only for malware, making the move a massive over-reaction to an app which was likely only downloaded by a few thousand Windows Phone users. This low bar effectively means Microsoft could unpublish, not just from the store, but from the handsets of users, any app which the developer community or Microsoft takes umbrage at.
The app certainly captured the interest of readers, and there are already other apps with similar features appearing, making Microsoft’s actions aggressive but rather futile.
To repeat a cliché, with great power comes great responsibility, and Microsoft it appears are quite happy to violate the trust of their users for the most trivial reasons, making them rather less than trustworthy.
Microsoft mistake in both cases was thinking the trust of their users are worth less than a small monetary loss. If users can not trust that the app they download will still be on their phone the next day, that is much more damaging than a small minority of users searching the store for the best deal.
Screenshot via lucahammer.