Microsoft & # 39; s universal Windows Platform app dream is dead and buried

Microsoft had a dream with Windows 8 with universal Windows apps that extended over phones, tablets, PCs and even Xbox consoles. The plan was that app developers could write a single app for all of these devices, and it could magically cover all devices. This dream really started to fall apart after Windows Phone failed, but it is well over now.

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For many years, Microsoft has been trying to force developers to create special apps for the company's Universal Windows Platform (UWP), and today it is putting the final nail in the UWP box. Microsoft finally offers developers the opportunity to bring fully native Win32 games to the Microsoft Store, meaning that the many games that developers publish at popular stores like Steam do not have to be rebuilt for UWP.

"We recognize that Win32 is the app format that game developers enjoy using and gamers enjoy playing, so we are happy to share that we will enable full support for native Win32 games in the Microsoft Store on Windows," explains Microsoft & # 39; s gaming chief from Phil Spencer. "This will unlock more options for developers and gamers, allowing the customization and control they are used to from the open Windows gaming ecosystem."


Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

This is a big shift for the Microsoft Windows app store, especially since games are one of the most popular forms of apps that are downloaded from app stores. Previously, developers were forced to publish games for Windows 10 through the Universal Windows Platform, which simply does not have the same level of customization that game developers are used to from Windows over the years.

Writing has been around for months for UWP. Microsoft recently revealed its efforts to transfer the company's Edge browser to Chromium and away from UWP to make it available on Windows 7, Windows 8 and macOS. Microsoft & # 39; s Joe Belfiore admitted in an interview with The edge earlier this month, UWP was a & # 39; headwind & # 39; for Edge. "It is not that UWP is bad, but UWP is not a 35-year-old adult platform on which a ridiculously large number of apps is written," Belfiore said at the time.

I have heard many stories from Microsoft engineers and developers who complain about UWP imposing restrictions on their own apps, and third-party app developers have often had to choose between creating an UWP app for Windows 10 or a traditional desktop app running on Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10. Microsoft has steadily expanded the definition of UWP to allow developers to repackage desktop apps in the Microsoft Store, but the original vision was for new style- apps (think back to Windows 8) that would run on PCs, phones, tablets, the Xbox and HoloLens. With the death of Windows Phone, that original plan for UWP probably didn't work.


Windows 10 REVIEW embargo

Microsoft has even recently put its touch-friendly UWP versions of Office on hold, preferring internet, iOS, Android and desktop apps instead. Office was always the most important part of UWP and a good example of how you can build a more demanding app on the new Microsoft platform.

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Microsoft is finally listening to developers of apps and games and is no longer trying to force UWP on them. "You told us that you want us to continue to unlink many parts of the Universal Windows Platform so that you can adopt them step by step," explains Kevin Gallo, Microsoft & # 39; s Windows Developer Platform chief, earlier this month. This means that over time developers can use some of the good components of UWP. In a separate interview with ZDNet, Gallo revealed: "By the time we are done, everything will be simply called" Windows apps. " Microsoft is not there yet, but it aims to make every UWP feature available to all developers.


Xbox app Windows 10

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Ultimately, this is good news for both developers and Windows users. We can now start seeing more games in the Microsoft Store that work how PC gamers expect them and hopefully more apps. The Windows Store has been full of rubbish over the years and Microsoft has struggled to attract developers. Microsoft & # 39; s new approach even impressed Epic CEO Tim Sweeney earlier this year.

Microsoft & # 39; s previous walled garden approach to the store generated fierce criticism from Sweeney. He was not happy that Microsoft was building a closed platform within Windows 10, and he protested against the company's attempts to force developers to distribute these apps through the Microsoft Store. Microsoft has even made S-mode versions of Windows and a Windows RT operating system that were locked by default to store apps.

The support of Sweeney and Microsoft & # 39; s new move to bring more of his own games to Steam are good indications that Spencer is changing more than just the Xbox console in Microsoft. Now we will have to wait to see what app and game developers are doing this time with a Microsoft Store and Windows app platform that is much less limited.

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