RealTime IT News

Microsoft Opens its Digital Locker

Microsoft introduced the Windows Marketplace Labs Web site, featuring a beta version of its digital locker technology that enables digital downloads of software from Microsoft  and third-party vendors.

The digital locker is designed to offer more secure online buying and offer consumers a single source for storing personal information, including their purchase history and licenses. All too often, people will lose or misplace their license key when they make an electronic purchase, said Yasha Kaykas-Wolff, user experience manager for Windows Marketplace Labs.

The digital locker will give consumers direct access to the sources from where they purchased the product as contact information, purchase information and the license information will all be stored in the digital locker.

Windows Marketplace Labs also offers a more secure and reliable download mechanism, since downloads may be interrupted when downloading software from e-commerce or software sales sites. It will provide a means for customers to burn a backup copy of their software to CD, and manuals will be handled by the vendor, either sold as a hardcopy and shipped through the mail or as a downloadable PDF.

Microsoft is offering software download from the libraries of Digital River, eSellerate, Handango and Kagi. The company hopes to add larger shareware sites like Tucows but will not support independent ISVs directly. Microsoft said it's not going into competition with software vendors, it's simply offering an easier way to sell their wares.

"From a developer's point of view, we understand it's becoming increasingly difficult to get their products onto the shelves of big stores," said Kaykas-Wolff. "The Windows Marketplace has been intended to be a distribution channel for windows products. The digital locker is intended to help get those products to customers digitally."

The ultimate goal is for the Windows Marketplace Labs to be the merchant of record but resellers, from CompUSA on down in the retail food chain, would all sell through Windows Marketplace and ultimately compete with one another on price, he said.

Handango.com, which specializes in Pocket PC, smart phones and tablets, carries over 190,000 products and looks forward to having the Microsoft name behind its products. "With Microsoft, there's always huge brand recognition," said Ashley Walker, a spokesperson for Handango. "People trust the name, they know when they work with Microsoft they get good quality, and that is part of the value of working with them."

Customers can access the site via either a Passport or a Windows Live ID. The beta runs through August.