Microsoft today made good on its promise to open the doors to its Windows Store alongside the launch of the public Windows 8 preview.
Windows Store -- Microsoft's name for the app store-style distribution channel it's assigned as the sole source of Metro-style apps for Windows 8 -- requires the Consumer Preview that debuted earlier Wednesday.
Through the stretch between now and the release of Windows 8's final code -- most expect that milestone this fall in time for the holiday season -- all Windows Store apps will be free for the downloading and installing, Microsoft has said.
Among the apps offered today on the Windows Store were eight winners of a contest Microsoft kicked off in early December, 2011 that promised placement in the market as well as prizes that included a developer PC.
The winners ranged from several games and a weather forecasting app to an e-cookbook and a financial portfolio tracker.
Other apps that debuted today included the ubiquitous Cut the Rope game, a Metro edition of Evernote and apps created by newspapers such as USA Today and the Los Angeles Times.
Microsoft has said that the Windows Store will be the only authorized distributor of Metro apps -- the touch-first programs that rely on an simplistic interface borrowed from Windows Phone -- but that the store will eventually include links to titles written for the traditional x86/64 Windows desktop.
The company will take a 30% cut of app revenue up to $25,000 -- the same percentage Apple earns for software sold through its Mac App Store -- but will slash its slice to 20% after that bar is reached.
Enterprises will also be able to circumvent the Windows Store by "sideloading" internally-created apps directly to workers' devices and computers. Today, Microsoft provided more information on sideloading and Metro app management on its website.
Earlier versions of Windows, including the now-current Windows 7, cannot access the Windows Store.
Microsoft has not yet disclosed the release date for Windows 8, but Windows chief Steven Sinofsky said today that the development cycle would emulate that of Windows 7, with a near-final "Release Candidate" next in line, followed by a build that will be marked "Release to Manufacturing" to signal it's ready to pass along to computer makers.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is email@example.com.