Microsoft Confirms UWP is Not the Future of Windows Apps

Posted on May 8, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Dev, Windows 10 with 147 Comments

As I predicted, Microsoft is effectively killing UWP by ensuring that all its capabilities are available to once-legacy app development platforms.

“You’ve told us that you would like us to continue to decouple many parts of the Universal Windows Platform so that you can adopt them incrementally,” Microsoft corporate vice president Kevin Gallo writes in a blog post aimed at developers. “Allowing you to use our platform and tools to meet you where your customers are going – empowering you to deliver rich, intelligent experiences that put people at the center.”

To be clear, this is a positive change: Instead of blindly pushing forward with its failed strategy to make Universal Windows Apps (UWPs) the only truly-modern platform for building Windows apps, Microsoft has, over time, opened up more and more UWP functionality to non-UWP platforms. This includes legacy platforms that Microsoft once deprecated, like Win32, WPF, and WinForms. So what’s old is new again.

Naturally, the firm needs to continue the marketing narrative, however, and Gallo told Mary Jo Foley that neither UWP nor the Microsoft Store was dead. (I have stated point blank that UWP is dead and I recently questioned whether the Microsoft Store had a future given that most users install apps from elsewhere.)

“By the time we are done, everything will just be called ‘Windows apps,’” Gallo told Foley. The ultimate idea is to make “every platform feature available to every developer … [But] we’re not quite there yet.”

As the most senior public face of Microsoft’s Windows 10 developer efforts, Mr. Gallo has to say it like that. But I do appreciate that he was honest about the mistake the firm made when it tried to jam UWP down developers’ throats—“we shouldn’t have gone that way”—and that doing so created a “massive divide” between legacy Win32/.NET developers and UWP developers.

As Foley notes, Microsoft’s new strategy is to make all developers features available to all of the Windows frameworks. Left unsaid, however, is that this is a refutation of the original strategy and that Microsoft only made this change, over time, because most developers rejected UWP.

Put another way, UWP is dead. Not literally—it’s still the only way to create WinCore apps that run across Windows 10, HoloLens, Surface Hub, and IoT—but effectively. And the way we know that’s true is that Win32, WPF, and WinForms have all been “elevated to full status”—Gallo’s words—in Windows 10 all these years later.

Microsoft is doing what developers want. And what developers want is not UWP. Or the Microsoft Store, as it turns out.

“Apps … don’t need to be in the Store,” Gallo admitted.

Or, as Mary Jo put it, “the days of trying to push Windows developers to build and/or repackage their apps to be UWP/Store apps seemingly are over. It’s now Windows apps or bust.”