PWAs are Coming to Windows Store in Windows 10 Version 1803

Posted on September 22, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Dev, Windows 10 with 35 Comments

Microsoft will begin providing Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) via the Windows Store beginning in Windows 10 version 1803. Here’s how it will happen and what I think this will mean for Windows 10 users.

As you may know, I’ve become increasingly convinced that Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs as I’ll now call them, are a more viable apps platform that “pure” Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps, which tend to be lackluster and even unprofessional-looking. There are a lot of choices here on for the PWA-curious, but Premium subscribers may want to check out Windows 10, PCs, and the Future of Apps again. For the non-Premium subscribers in the audience, here’s an excerpt.

Future new app development will almost certainly occur through a hybrid app type called Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs. Yes, PWAs are truly universal in that they will run on any OS with a web browser, including iOS and Android. But don’t worry that this makes Windows less valuable or necessary: As I noted last year, Microsoft is going to embrace and extend PWAs in Windows 10. They will become Store apps on Windows 10. They will look and work like native apps. Like Desktop Bridge apps, they will adopt key Windows 10 technologies, making them unique on the PC.

Since I deal with push back all the time on this kind of thing, I’ll also note that this transition is already happening. As Microsoft’s Brandon Heenan noted recently, “Windows users [already] spend more than half their time on the web.” And that usage is going up. This fact explains boththe strategy behind Windows 10 Cloud and that product’s name [now Windows 10 S]. Microsoft knows that the PWA platform—the cloud—is, in fact, the future of Windows.

I wrote that back in April. At the time—before Build 2017, where I had hoped/expected to hear more about Microsoft’s plans for PWAs, and did—it wasn’t clear when PWAs would come to the Windows Store. In May, the firm said that it would, in fact, bring PWAs to the Store in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. But like so many Fall Creators Update promises, that isn’t happening.

Now we have a new schedule: Microsoft will bring PWAs to the Windows Store with the next Windows 10 feature update, currently code-named Redstone 4. In other words, in time for Windows 10 version 1803.

We know this because Microsoft outlined this schedule at least twice during last week’s web developer-focused Microsoft Edge Web Summit 2017. I downloaded and watched all of the relevant PWA-based sessions, and while there are three of interest—the keynote, PWA, HWA, Electron, oh my! Making sense of the evolving web app landscape, and Service Worker: Going beyond the page—only that middle one will be of interest to end users/enthusiasts. (With regards to PWAs, that is. The keynote might be interesting to anyone.)

Here’s what I found out.

PWAs in Windows 10 will be native apps as far as end users are concerned. They will be provided via the Windows Store, just like pure UWP apps and other hybrid app types, like Desktop Bridge apps. To users, of course, the underlying technologies used to make an app don’t matter in the slightest. PWAs, in Windows 10, will simply be apps.

PWAs in Windows 10 will likewise have all of the advantages of pure UWPs. I’ve discussed this in the past, but that means they will provide notifications, both via banners an in the Action Center, will work offline, will be adaptive and responsive to different display sizes and form factors, and will even run across all Windows 10 platforms, including PCs, of course, but also Xbox One, HoloLens, and so on.

PWAs will appear in the Store via two mechanisms. Developers can of course manually submit their PWAs to Microsoft for availability in the Store, as they do with other app types. But Microsoft will also automatically add PWAs to the Store by crawling and indexing the web with Bing, finding PWAs that meet its technical requirements, wrapping those PWAs in AppX containers, and making them searchable and browsable in the Store. They are, in fact, secretly testing this functionality right now. Well, not so secretly anymore since they just revealed it.

Microsoft is pioneering the use of PWAs internally by creating many new first-party apps as web apps and then using a variety of platform-specific developer frameworks to add native features across platforms like Android, iOS, Mac, and PC. With Windows 10 in particular, it will convert these web apps to PWA so that they can be deployed through the Store. The biggest and best example? Microsoft Teams, which was developed this way from the ground up. By the time Windows 10 version 1803 ships next April or so, the Windows 10 version of Teams will be a PWA.

Today, developers who are interested in testing PWAs on Windows 10 can enable a secret feature in Microsoft Edge that enables the service worker technology that’s required by PWAs. You do so by opening Edge and navigating to about:flags. Then, scroll down to the Standards Preview area and enable the option “Enable service workers.”

Doing this will not suddenly make websites that fire notifications in Chrome or Firefox start doing so in Edge. Nor will it suddenly enable a green field of PWAs that we’re not currently enjoying. Instead, this is what’s needed for developers to make sure that their PWAs work now in Microsoft Edge so they can be ready for the availability of Store submissions in the spring.

The most interesting new bit here, for me at least, involves the form that these PWAs will take. For example, today with Google Chrome, you can already find PWAs, like Twitter Lite, and pin them to the Windows 10 taskbar. They don’t behave as true PWAs, in that they don’t integrate with native OS features; what you get is the web app.

But with native PWA support in Windows 10 next year, you won’t access these apps through a web browser. And that means you won’t need to deal with web browser UI (which you get today in Edge, but not in Chrome if you pin a site to the taskbar). Instead, you will access these apps from the Store, and you will install them, normally, like other apps. That means that the PWA app windows will be like any other app windows. They will be apps.

The PWA generation is coming, folks. This could be exactly the bump that the lackluster Windows Store needs.


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Comments (35)

35 responses to “PWAs are Coming to Windows Store in Windows 10 Version 1803”

  1. jbinaz

    Given the MS track record, what are the odds that it doesn't make it into 1803 biggest delayed until 1809? Or the 1803 implementation is somehow majorly crippled? (I hope not!)

    • TheJoeFin

      In reply to jbinaz:

      That is a real fear, but personally I expect this to happen. Mostly because Microsoft announced their Web App in the store strategy several years ago. but you never know, it wouldn't be surprising if this deadline slipped.

  2. Dan1986ist

    Let's all keep in mind here, the planned release of 1809 currently RS4 will either be March or April. That only gives Microsoft five or six months to get PWA support implemented and functional in the Microsoft Store, if they intend to meet this goal.

  3. Win74ever

    UWP apps: fail. Win32 programs wrapped in UWP: fail. Webpages wrapped in UWP: will fail. They can keep trying but UWP will not be a thing. You still have time to scrap this bullshit and release a true successor to Windows 7 with a Win32 Store.

  4. Chris Love

    To clarify some things....

    Microsoft formerly announced the intention to leverage the app store for PWAs last November at the Chrome Developer Summit.

    Since Windows 8 (I believe) if your web site was served via HTTPS and includes a valid web manifest file it can be submitted to the store. Spotify (I believe is an example of an HWA).

    When submitted to the store and your identity verified, ie you established a trusted relationship with Microsoft, your HWA/PWA can then access platform level APIs just like a UWP app.

    You can still pin PWAs to the start menu and task back without the store. You will not have access to platform specific APIs. So for example probably would not benefit much from the store since you do not need hardware APIs to function.

    You can go to Microsoft Edge's today and submit your site and it will craft the core items you need for a valid PWA, and compile your app via Cordova and submit it to all three major app stores. This has also been available for a few years. It was previously called Manifoldjs.

  5. Brian Mueller

    I think your right but... I think your missing part of the story. UWP will become PWA. With web assembly 2.0 they get garbage collection this makes it a compilation target for c#/xaml or other CLR languages. This means UWP could become PWAs very easily and become truly platform agnostic.

  6. Pedro Vieira

    Right now my Windows 10 machine is setup so that the OS is as unobtrusive as possible and doesn't get in the way of me using Chrome.

    I stopped caring about Windows apps since most of them are pretty mediocre, with the exceptions being Microsoft's own apps. The weather app is nice, but a simple Chrome extension with a custom shortcut assigned is a lot more convenient. The same goes for pretty much every other app.

    For the most part, it's like I'm already using ChromeOS, and running Win10 is just a detail.

    I wanted to use Microsoft's services, but everything they offer, from Maps to Onedrive, always felt like I was using a poor man's version of Google's ecosystem, slower and clunkier, with stupid limitations and senseless shortcomings.

    About these PWA apps, at this point it doesn't matter. MS lost the mobile wars. Without being a major force in that market, nothing they do will change its fate (becoming the next IBM).

    • Win74ever

      In reply to PeteMiles:

      Same here. Using Windows 10 Anniversary, not planning to upgrade, only install security patches. Setup to be as less annoying as possible. I just need an OS to run my programs and games.

  7. hrlngrv

    The future of Windows is competing against Chrome OS.

    'Nuff said.

  8. hrlngrv

    Like Desktop Bridge apps, they will adopt key Windows 10 technologies

    I've installed and use Inkscape from the Windows Store because I wanted an example of a bridge app. If it has adopted any new Windows 10 technologies, I haven't discovered any. This and Krita are the only substantial non-MSFT and cost-free bridge apps I'm aware of in the Windows Store.

    If desktop bridge apps are an indicator, don't hold your breath waiting for PWA developers to add Windows 10-specific features.

  9. Tony Barrett

    The more you think about it, the more maybe Google got it right with ChromeOS. Making the browser the OS, knowing full well eventually everything will be web or PWA based on a lightweight, secure, low cost platform was way ahead of its time. Being able to run Android apps on ChromeOS is just the icing on the cake. Windows is morbidly obese compared to ChromeOS, and with all the features MS keep throwing at it making it worse - just who really needs all that bloat?

    • skane2600

      In reply to ghostrider:

      Windows remains a more powerful OS than ChromeOS. Chromebooks have been modestly successful because the trade-off between power and capability isn't a problem for many processing tasks. There are still many things people need to do on PCs that are either non-optimal on Chromebooks or simply impossible.

      Obviously if Windows was being designed today it would be less cluttered, but the relationship between power and complexity can't be entirely avoided. If ChromeOS becomes more capable, it will become more complex, it's unavoidable.

      It's not clear if the ability to run Android apps will significantly increase the adoption of Chromebooks. The vast majority of apps weren't designed for that environment. The primary purpose of mobile apps, IMO, is to overcome the significant disadvantages of web browsing on a phone. Once one is browsing on a laptop with a reasonably-sized screen, the need for an app somewhat disappears (assuming that most app functionality is available on the web).

  10. jrickel96

    PWAs are a double edged sword. If they are hosted in a Store there may be some quality control before they can be loaded on a device. If people can get them directly from the web, it's going to be a mess.

    Apps are already a mess depending on your ecosystem. Android apps are pretty horrible and Google will let just about anything in the store. The App Store, OTOH, is highly cultivated and Apple is a very good gatekeeper. They test your app submissions and respond with needed tweaks, etc to get them in the Store while also ensuring quality for the end user. Microsoft is in between. While they don't have the volume of Android, the apps are generally of a much higher quality than those in Google Play are. The logo for the Play Store (and Android in general) should just be a dumpster on fire. PWAs would be a huge improvement on Android (probably why Google is a big proponent - they know how bad Android apps are), though you still need a gatekeeper.

    Microsoft needs to step in here and offer certification across devices and MAYBE even launch a certified PWA store that is cross platform and ensures quality. Google won't do it because they don't really care about quality, they just care about getting information to push ads. Apple won't do it to ensure the app DOES work across all devices. The new Microsoft is the perfect trusted gatekeeper for PWAs going forward and the one company that has an interest in ensuring they work on Windows in all form factors, iOS, and Android.

    Apple is going to offer a lot of resistance to the changing model. Microsoft really needs to pioneer here and make the PWA stuff cross platform. That means they also need to put EDGE on all platforms to support their own PWA initiative. They need Edge to run PWAs better than any other browser on any platform.

  11. cseafous

    For the PWAs that are grabbed from the net: how will updates be handled? Will MS look for newer versions and push them to devices that have the apps loaded? How will they address apps that crash after OS updates/upgrades?

  12. Jules Wombat

    Lowest common denominator, poor user experience.

    Been here, done it, dumped it all before.

  13. rameshthanikodi

    "For example, today with Google Chrome, you can already find PWAs, like Twitter Lite, and pin them to the Windows 10 taskbar."

    This is a drinking game at this point.

  14. Atoqir

    So it is basically like almost real UWP apps but without the horrendous looking platform specific UI of UWP

    Sounds like a great idea actually

  15. skane2600

    Ah, the siren call of WORA/Universal apps. Despite decades of attempts to make it happen, it has never really worked and it never will. They may get PWA's to "run" in most platforms and browsers, but that minimum achievement doesn't make them "universal". As I've said before, techniques like scaling aren't adequate to provide an optimized experience on each platform. Sometimes a different screen "object" altogether is called for when the screen size is different rather than just scaling a common object. What we often see are apps that are bound by the limitations of a small device and then waste tons of space on a PC in order to use the same codebase. That's not to say that one can't write special code to handle different devices but this is a technique that one has always been able to use and after awhile the advantages of a single codebase are offset by the complexity required to make it happen.

    As far as PWA's vs pure UWP's are concerned, I think people who design lackluster UWP apps will create lackluster PWA's as well. It's the skill and care of the developers, not the technology that determines the quality.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to skane2600:
      . . . Sometimes a different screen "object" altogether is called for when the screen size is different rather than just scaling a common object. . . .

      What?! You mean developers may have to actually code different UIs for 4" phones and 60" presentation systems just because one has 225 times more screen area than the other? Or are you questioning the value of phone apps at 15-fold scaling?

      Enough negativism! I'm sure PWAs will do as much for the, er, MSFT Store as WinRT, Metro, Modern, UWP and bridged desktop software have done so far. Nothing can stop the MSFT Store and Windows 10.

  16. Bats

    The PWA generation has already been here. Microsoft is just starting to arrive to it and so has Paul. 

    LOL...I've been here for years now. Ever since I've been installing and using Google Chrome Apps and finding out that I can install a shortcut to my desktop and then to my taskbar. To tell you the truth, Google was already recognizing and planning PWAs (I think), 6-8 years ago. I know this because they discussed this then on the other TWiT podcast This Week in Google AND All About Android.

    It's just so funny how Microsoft (and Paul) are so late to the party. I remember, when Paul would mock Google Docs and mockingly say (and I paraphrase), "Who wants to do work on your browser?"

    The question is, will web developers go through all that work to put their stuff on the store? LOL...I am not so sure about that.

    Lastly...this is why Windows 10 S is all about. It's supposed to be like Chromebooks, in terms that everything is sandboxed. I have said this for years, the web browser isn't just an app, it's a gateway to a platform. The fact that the Chrome browser is in Windows 10 (or any operating system) is like having another Operating System inside an OS. That OS is the web.

    The reason for Windows 10 S and Edge is crystal clear. Microsoft wants to distribute (or make it appear) user's internet usage away from the browser and back to the operating system, or make it appear that way. They want the web apps to make it appear like desktop apps. It's like that whole Google-Youtube-Windows8 fiasco. I remember Paul was so mad at Google then. LOL...remember that? How can I ever forget the Windows Weekly episode where Paul said that Google literally gave the finger to all Windows 8 users. Microsoft wants to control "it."

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Bats:
      . . . The question is, will web developers go through all that work to put their stuff on the store? LOL...I am not so sure about that. . . .

      From a legal perspective, the far more interesting question is whether MSFT could legally waive any warranties of merchantability or fitness for 3rd party PWAs which MSFT packages and distributes without any approval from PWA developers. Maybe if MSFT were to claim that the MSFT Store were no different than tucows or snapfiles, but that'd require a USE AT YOUR OWN RISK disclaimer, which might dampen users' ardor for MSFT Store offerings.

  17. MacLiam

    OK, I'm interested and even hopeful. I don't doubt that something will be available for 1803 implementation that will allow Microsoft to crow that they kept their promise this time. But I am also worried about security issues if MS is planning to find apps in a crawl, wrap them up in a functional container and offer them through the Store.

    PWAs may be a starred addition to the Store, but if you still can't find the apps you want from the Store's own search bar, or if you did find one and installed it but cannot later update it because the update process is suddenly broken, the Store has longstanding fundamental problems that increased cloudiness and aggressive new bluster will not cure. (Yes, I have the Xbox app in mind. It is still as unupdatable in the 16294 release as it was in 16291. I'm pretty sure I got an update under 16288.)

    I think of Microsoft as the company that eventually gets it right after exhausting all other options. In a funny way I am pleased that their concept abandonment process seems to be moving faster in the last couple of years. Maybe there is something to this "hustle as a service" concept. It's certainly more promising for the user than the reverse version of that slogan.

  18. hack-o-holic

    Why do I get the feeling that MS is going to only offer PWA support via Store curated apps when these should be available via the web? Like I see the typical MS scenario where they will force PWA's to go through the store so instead of having the savior for lackluster UWP apps and bring Windows back into relevancy... what will happen is NO ONE will take the time to package their PWA for the Microsoft Store and will just ignore it as they have UWP apps. Thus Windows will continue to suffer from lack of even these new apps and keep spiraling down the drain.

    My feeling is quit trying to wrap their grubby fingers around everything. Embrace open stuff coming from outside and let users easily access without depending on these developers to embrace proprietary MS store stuff. Now if the plan is for MS to do all the work wrapping these outside PWA's into a store app for them... well that is a different story but don't see that as being possible.

  19. Polycrastinator

    I'm glad this is happening, but why oh why can't Microsoft make it happen faster?

  20. Finley

    Is there any legal or ethical issues with scrapping the web for PWAs and putting it in the MS store?

  21. anchovylover

    MS's vision of an universal platform featuring modern apps died along with Windows Mobile. I think we all know that. This is obviously plan b for MS. Assuming Paul is correct then his other statement that the Windows Store or Microsoft Store or whatever they're calling it now may improve and be viable is correct.

    As it all stands right now MS have to do something...anything to reignite energy into the store.