Is there a future for true UWP apps on Windows 10?

By ivan.diskin | August 5, 2018 |

greater than 8 minutes

As far as we know, the UWP (an acronym for Universal Windows Platform) allows developers to explore and use a good number of the most intuitive features and functionalities Microsoft released on Windows 10. To be fair, this has not always been the case. Microsoft had to compromise on some things down the years since the launch of its latest operating system.

  • The Universal Web Platform now offers equal advantages regardless of the type or form of the app involved. By this, we mean universal applications, legacy Win32 programs, progressive apps, and so on all share the same advantages or downsides.
  • Nevertheless, Microsoft’s original plan for the UWP was in that they wanted developers to create only genuinely modern universal applications that would scale across multiple devices and platforms irrespective of the types or versions of Windows 10.
  • The universal applications were to be based on a standard API (Application Programming Interface) so that they remain capable of running on Windows 10 mobile or Xbox, for example, which are modern versions of Windows 10.
  • Unfortunately, the goal proved itself unattainable in the short run because developers quickly realized from statistics that the usage of mobile Windows, for example, does not match up to that of Android or IOS. Therefore, with phones out of the equation, the support for a UWP app was not worth the effort it demanded.
  • Then again, most firms were too slow to adopt Microsoft’s new universal platform, so some restrictions had to go away. Win32 apps found their way into the Microsoft Store for obvious reasons. In hindsight, this restriction should not have been because the most popular version of Windows 10 today is the iteration capable of providing support for legacy programs that got allowed back into the store.

The giveaways come with their own downsides though. For example, Microsoft long struggled to get software firms to create universal applications, and with the introduction of Win32 programs in the Microsoft Store, they now have even less incentive to go with Microsoft’s idea since they can just continue pumping out the legacy apps they are comfortable with on Windows 10.

Is there a future for true universal apps?

You might infer that the universal app movement is dead from what the little we have said, but this is not precisely true. In the short run, you could be right, but things should appear considerably different in the long run, which is a more critical timeframe here.

Universal Windows Platform apps will not go away even though most developers are not building such programs currently. The opportunity will always remain there for developers to take advantage of it because UWP apps will play a crucial role in future versions of Windows. Things can only work out this way.

Microsoft built its operating system with legacy code for a long time —in fact, even Windows 10 is no exception—but it cannot afford to continue doing so because it has become incredibly difficult to compete with more modern platforms like Google’s Chrome OS or Apple’s IOS.

Therefore, through the Windows Core OS (WCOS), Microsoft has tried to build a new version of its operating system that runs smoothly across all types of devices with the help of native Universal Windows Platforms apps instead of it employing legacy components and features. After all, UWP applications are for the modern version of Windows.

Nevertheless, the new platform will still allow users to run some Win32 programs in specific forms, but the primary or native apps on the Windows Core OS will be UWP applications only. By this, we do not mean that Windows 10 is already living on borrowed time, but it is easy to see that Microsoft wants developers to build genuine UWP apps and only such programs as their primary software.

In the future, we can come to expect developers to buy into the idea wholeheartedly, and Win32 apps will no longer hold sway on the development of programs. Sure, we might remain useful for certain things, but we believe that developers will only employ them in cases where their code needs APIs or functionalities that are not yet available on the UWP platform.

Therefore, users will remain able to run Centennial Win32 apps, but this capability will only stay because it is still needed at times, but eventually, it will go away. You need to understand these events will not occur anytime soon because Microsoft has planned things for the long term. UWP apps are going nowhere—they are here to stay.

Microsoft will continue building new capabilities or functionalities for the Universal Windows Platform to let the developers take advantage of them. The operating system maker has to ensure that the UWP apps become viable replacements for their Win32 legacy counterparts, and this is no easy job, mind you, due to the scale of the tasks involved.

For example, developers will have to create the equivalent UWP app for a program such as Photoshop, which employs so many Win32 capabilities.

What are the prospects of UWP apps on Windows 10?

If you want to build UWP apps, you will have a wide selection of programming languages or interfaces to choose from now. Here are some examples of what of the languages we are referring to here: C#, JavaScript, XAML, HTML, and so on.

We can define a true universal app as a program that possesses only the core Universal Windows Platform APIs. This setup enables such an app to run and function properly on versions of Windows 10 which lack legacy APIs. Note that the popular Windows 10 version we use today is not an example of the iteration of Windows we meant.

By this definition, we can easily deduce that Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are universal native applications. Along the same lines, it is easy to see that Win32 apps are not universal applications because they employ Application Programming Interfaces that do not fall into the core UWP API framework. Therefore, a user cannot run such programs on modern versions of Windows (WCOS, for example).

In the midst all this squabble, we must not lose sight of the fact that Microsoft has always wanted UWP to support more than just mobile and lightweight apps. It expects developers to use the platform to create superb desktop applications as well. To be fair, you might not know about this because you have not seen much of such programs.

After all, the platform is far from being a matured one, and developers have little incentive to write fresh code for UWP apps or even rewrite already existing Win32 programs as native Universal Windows Platform applications. UWP needs time to become mature, but we hope that it will get there.

Why will things work out the way we think?

You can take solace in recent reports stating that Adobe is considering bringing a full Photoshop app on iPad. The coming event is not much news in itself except for the fact that the device in view has been around for about 8 years now, but Adobe only recently came around the idea of building a powerful desktop application for it.

The story might not be too different for developers and apps on Windows UWP. It is also impossible to picture a future where we are still using Win32 as the primary platform for Windows applications in say 10 years from now. If history has taught us anything, then it is that we know Microsoft will eventually cut off all support for Windows 7 sometime in the future (probably in 2020).

When this event occurs, developers will find it considerably more beneficial to build a UWP native app instead of a Win32 program. In fact, we can safely claim that by then, if there are any Win32 apps still in use, they will be the ones that are already existing today. Then again, there is always a good chance that their developers would have rewritten them as native UWP apps at that point.

We understand, however, that Win32 or the legacy Windows platform might remain indispensable for some people. Microsoft will probably continue providing a full version of Windows 10 for such individuals. The vast majority of users would have gotten used to the experience associated with the real Universal Windows Apps provided that the essential programs are made available.

Summary of main ideas

We can sum up the advantages that Windows UWP provides using these short points:

  • UWP is a modern and well-supported platform (though the most critical support it has now is from its creator, and this is hardly a bad thing in this case)
  • It is quite fast (especially when it employs hardware acceleration functionalities)
  • Its interface is friendly and easy on the eyes (For example, acrylic and parallax effects appear incredibly beautiful)
  • The platform’s portability or flexibility is an essential attribute (users can delete apps without having to bother themselves with their remnants because they probably would not be any)
  • UWP provides better security for users because its apps are more appropriately isolated from the host system, and so on

Some downsides exist too, and we feel you might want to see some of them here:

  • UWP is currently limited in comparison to the platform that it is supposed to replace (WPF). UWP is relatively young though, and we believe that things will change soon enough
  • The existence of far-reaching or extensive restrictions on the new platform in terms of APIs, and so on

If you carefully examine both sets of lists above, then you can see that Microsoft is trying to create a superb programming environment and at the same time it wants to ensure that the newly created environment remains safe and resistant to attack from viruses and other forms of malware. The debate here should revolve around how much possible it is for such a platform to exist.

Some people believe it is impossible in straightforward terms, and we cannot ignore their postulates altogether. To understand their thoughts, consider the analogy of a razor that only be used for good things—if you attempt making the blade safer for people to use, then it will become blunt or invariably end up in a worse state.

Individuals that think in such a way would prefer that Microsoft make the razor better by creating it to be sharper and more dangerous—the operating system maker has to find a way to improve Windows without having to resort to the UWP. For example, Windows OS should get more powers or capabilities to deal with malware and other forms of threats.

Tips and final words:

Since we are not any closer to getting to the stage where Windows becomes better at dealing with threats or reaching the environment where enough UWP apps hold sway to ensure security, we recommend that you take your current security setup several levels up. You can do this by downloading and running Auslogics Anti-Malware.

The recommended app will provide that extra layer of protection which might help to keep out threats, especially in cases when something gets past your main security app (your antivirus, for example).

To conclude, our definitive stance has not been a straightforward one—yes, there is a future for genuine UWP apps on Windows 10, but this answer comes with its own questions. What matters most is that Microsoft is indeed striving to make the Universal Windows Platform the primary one for software on Windows.

Understandably, the company does not care if the Windows Core OS or a regular version of Windows 10 provides the support for native legacy programs. In fact, other people might claim that Microsoft’s creation of the Windows Core OS is actually proof of their commitment to UWP apps alone, and you will find it difficult to debate against their statements. So here we are.

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