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Microsoft: We plan to CLEAN UP this here Windows Store town

Paid-for apps that provide free downloads? Really

Windows 8.1 update 1 power search

Microsoft has promised to crack down on rogue apps in its Windows Store following criticisms that the marketplace is littered with "scam" software.

Windows Store – which debuted with Windows 8 – is littered with misleading apps. Typical problems include knock-off "unofficial" packages of free apps such as the VLC media player. These apps charge you for downloads while offering little or no added functionality, How to Geek reports.

Apps that rely on iTunes' brand recognition are particularly pernicious. For example, there's an app that costs $8.99 called iTunes Player App that “helps user to know how to use [sic] and download iTunes”.

The consumer technology site argues that Redmond has brought this unsightly mess on itself by offering to pay developers $100 for each app they submitted to the Windows Store or Windows Phone Store as part of a discontinued promotion that began in March.

The majority of the problems arise with third-party apps, Hot Hardware adds. Google Chrome, Opera, Adobe Flash, Spotify, Winamp and iTunes all feature listings that either bundle bloatware with their installers or attempt to charge money for software that was elsewhere offered for free on the store.

The prevalence of bloatware and rip-off apps - and the apparent focus on filling Windows Store's shelves at the expense of quality - raises big questions about Redmond's app certification process.

In a statement, Microsoft acknowledged that not everything is perfect in its Windows Store garden, while promising to weed out the dross.

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.

Jovi Umawing, a malware intelligence analyst at Malwarebytes, said that Microsoft is dealing with the same sort of problem as any platform developer faces.

"Whenever a big company creates an open platform for developers, it’s unfortunately always going to attract the wrong kind of attention," she explained. "Scammers see these as a target and are increasingly abusing the trust that big brands have spent millions of dollars and years building. They create everything from browser extensions loaded with ads, to mobile apps packed with spyware.

"It often becomes a game of cat and mouse, the effectiveness of which is only determined by how much resources the company involved invests in kicking bad apps out," she added. ®

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