Microsoft Confirms PWA Plans for Windows 10 RS4

Posted on February 6, 2018 by Mehedi Hassan in Windows, Windows 10 with 79 Comments

Microsoft is today confirming its plans for Progress Web Apps (PWAs) in Windows 10. The company has been talking a lot about PWAs in Windows 10 recently, and the release of Windows 10 Redstone 4 in March/April will mark the beginning of PWAs in Windows.

PWAs, for those unfamiliar, are modern web apps built on web technologies that offer a native-like experience, while being able to utilize some of the core OS features such as push notifications. Microsoft is adding support for PWAs with the addition of Service Workers in EdgeHTML 17, which is coming out with the release of Windows 10 Redstone 4. With support for PWAs, Microsoft Edge users will be able to run and use PWAs in their desktop browser and get a native experience, including the ability to run offline apps, enable push notifications, etc.

But PWAs in Windows 10 are more than just about the browser. Microsoft is actually bringing PWAs to the Microsoft Store. Just like regular Universal Windows Platform apps, developers will be able to package their PWAs as a UWP app and release it on the Microsoft Store. But Microsoft is also using the Bing crawler to look for quality PWAs on the web, and automatically add them to the Microsoft Store.

With the Bing crawler, Microsoft will be actively looking for PWAs on the web and bring them to the Microsoft Store as long as they meet the quality standards. Microsoft says PWAs will have a higher chance of being added to the Microsoft Store if they make use of Service Workers, use a secure connection, have a rich app manifest, have gone through automatic testing, and meet the usual Microsoft Store standards. Microsoft has already started searching for PWAs on the web, and Windows Insiders will likely be the first ones to start seeing some of the early PWAs on the Microsoft Store over the coming weeks.

The addition of PWAs in the Microsoft Store will mean that Windows 10 users will have access to a wider array of applications on the store. There’s a huge lack of native UWP apps on the Microsoft Store right now, and PWAs could help fill that gap going forward. Microsoft is, however, clear about the fact that PWAs are not here to replace UWP applications. The company says apps that require to be completely native should continue to rely on the Universal Windows Platform, even though PWAs in the Microsoft Store will get access to all the native WinRT APIs.

Believe it or not, PWAs are a big deal, and Microsoft isn’t playing around — the implementation is already here, and getting the execution right will be critical for Redmond.

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Comments (79)

79 responses to “Microsoft Confirms PWA Plans for Windows 10 RS4”

  1. ponsaelius

    PWA's could help the Windowsphone "app gap".... oh too late.

  2. Jules Wombat

    Excuse my ignorance, but can I code PWAs in strongly typed C# language, or will I be expected to code up PWAs in JavaScript :(

    I had hoped that Build 2011, encouraging developers to dump on .NET and come to love JavaScript was just a nasty nightmare, oh well, I guess were warned this day was coming.

    • Brian Mueller

      In reply to Jules_Wombat: not right now, but when WASM (WebAssembly) hits version 2.0, you can code in C# and XAML and compile to WASM as a PWA.  So yes you will be able to sometime this year.

      • JaviAl

        In reply to Evilsushi and Jules_Wombat:

        Yes. You can now use C# that runs directly in the browser via WebAssembly. Code compiled to WebAssembly can run in any browser at native speeds. No plugins or transpilation needed. You run normal .NET assemblies in the browser using a WebAssembly based .NET runtime:

        Microsoft Blog Blazor Experimental Project

      • rmac

        In reply to Evilsushi: I do think one major obstacle is XAML. An app's UI could, I am sure, be created from the toolbox as drag and drop C# components (rather than XAML ones), onto VS's designer i.e. as pure C# (.NET core). Going back to Windows apps for .NET 1.0, it was pretty standard to write the UI in C#. I just see XAML as an inefficient and overly complex notation/markup holding us back. Write once in C# and run via WebAssembly or the .NET framework.

        • skane2600

          In reply to rmac:

          I think XAML makes it easy (or at least possible) to create some very sophisticated UIs, but it's overly complicated for more typical scenarios. These days we are in a pro-declarative era but like everything else imperative vs. declarative is a trade-off.

          • rmac

            In reply to skane2600: I hear you re: pro-dec era. Markup is such an inefficient thing to type up but I suppose we've got razor if that can be taken beyond SPA's.
            Markup aside, MS might have designed .NET core around HTML and extended it as .NET framework + XAML.

  3. Skolvikings

    Can someone give me an example of a PWA? I get the concept in theory, but are there any out there now I could look at?

  4. hrlngrv

    Re quality standards, MSFT is finally going to try curating the MSFT Store for PWAs?

  5. prjman

    So, since I'm not running the latest insider build right now. If a PWA isn't in the store, are we able to finally pin a website to the taskbar or Start menu in Edge, and then have it open in a 'Chromeless' view, as you can do in Chrome?

  6. Omen_20

    I'm super excited about this truly universal app platform that both Microsoft and Google will be working on together. ChromeOS and Android will use it and so will Windows 10! I really hope to see developers make responsive PWAs. I'm thinking about Google's own apps like Google Music, or the PocketCasts, Workflowys, TickTicks of the web. Right now I use a lot of web apps as web panels in the Vivaldi browser, and it works great. But having full OS features will be great, like media keys, notifications, lock screen info, etc.

  7. raptor

    Dear Lord, this company has resorted to crawling the web looking for web apps to populate its app store. These are desperate times for them. Unfortunately, PWA apps will never be a thing and native apps will always reign supreme. Thurrot's fixation with PWA apps comes from his admission and acknowledgement that UWP apps were a failure so now he's latched onto PWA apps as the next big thing. He's delusional if he thinks this. PWA's are apps for low end devices and nothing more.

  8. rmac

    One further thing Mehedi, you'll see MS are pretty excited about WebAssembly so devs can write in C# (or whatever language)...

  9. lukenlow

    It sounds like an interesting story, nothing more. I do not think that this has a future. But thanks for the article

  10. mariusmuntensky

    LOL, what devs would ever bother with MS's pathetic store?

  11. john.boufford

    Where does PowerApps fit in a PWA world?

  12. maxpayi

    useless attempt. it won't save this pathetic platform and won't bring back user. Ever! Anyway devs won't bother optimizing PWAs for windows after being pi$$ed on by Microshit over and over again.

  13. atulmarathe

    If i remember correctly, in the WP7/8 days Microsoft did something similar to provide web site access through some simple apps in their store - converted/developed by Microsoft, and had to pull them later when the website owners complained. Could the same thing happen again with PWAs if Microsoft provides them in Microsoft Store without the PWA owner's consent? I also wonder if it's possible for the competition to sweeten the deal for PWA owners to not allow it on Microsoft Store.

    I'm afraid it might be a repeat of the Windows Phone days with respect to app availability - various apps missing from Windows/Microsoft Store while Apple and Google advertise them everywhere.

  14. jlv632

    so um... This means if Snapchat is a PWA.. Then ill get it on my Lumia 950?

  15. dontbe evil

    I'm sick of these js heavy and slow web apps, hopefully will help to populate the store, and later will can have native, fast and light uwp apps

    • Waethorn

      In reply to dontbe_evil:

      JavaScript can be fast - if you use Chrome. G Suite isn't slow. I have the lowest-end ARM-based Chromebook money can buy and Office Online on Edge (let alone full Office) runs like a pig on a system costing twice as much while G Suite is fully responsive like you expect any computer to run.

  16. Maktaba

    The success of PWA hinges on whether Apple decides to adopt PWA or not.

    • Brian Mueller

      In reply to Maktaba: Apple has already adopted PWA and so has Android and Chrome OS.  So basically it is universally supported now.

      • shameermulji

        In reply to Evilsushi:

        Are you sure Apple has adopted PWA? As far as I understand they're pushing Swift as the future of their platforms.

        • truerock

          In reply to shameermulji:

          My understanding is that Apple decided about a year ago to support PWA on iOS and Safari. I don't think Apple will develop its own apps in PWA - because (I'm guessing) this issue was exhausted in the 1990s and the PWA concept just doesn't have a place between well designed web apps in Java (or other web tech) and native apps written in C. This is a complex issue discussed exhaustively on the internet. I consider my self an application development expert and I just don't think PWA type technologies are effective.

  17. dcdevito

    I like it, but I think MSFT is about to open a huge can of worms with PWAs

  18. SherlockHolmes

    I didnt know MSFT had a quality standard in the Store. The Apps in the Store are crap.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to SherlockHolmes:

      There are some good apps in the store. Have you looked recently? Sure it's not like the iOS or Google Play Store, but there are some good apps in there. Labeling them all as crap isn't true.

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to lvthunder:

        And there are poor and questionable apps in the Store.

        Credit where due: Code Writer ain't bad, and Excel Mobile is a lot better than the Excel web app (at least for those who want to use array formulas or arcane custom number formats).

        Then there's the VLC UWP app, which is stripped down compared to the desktop app. Why did the VLC team bother?

        • Waethorn

          In reply to hrlngrv:

          Excel Mobile is fine for a tablet or limited-eMMC Wallymart laptop special, but full Office is in the store now.

          I'm a fan of G Suite now though. Simple web app that does what I need it to do but no software installation to bog down the computer. More functionality than Office Online. I don't like that Microsoft won't Office Online fully functional for the sake of their prized desktop suite. There are several competitors in this space. You have G Suite which does extremely well on its own without having a desktop software base, the LibreOffice-based Collabora, and even Corel is testing a new web version of WordPerfect Suite. Office Online looks like kid's stuff in comparison.

          Also, one of the biggest problems I have with the Store is that you need a Microsoft Account. Compare that to the Chrome Web Store, where you don't.

          • hrlngrv

            In reply to Waethorn:

            I was trying to limit myself to UWP apps rather than all Store apps. There are other packaged desktop programs in the Store besides Windows desktop Office.

            As for online productivity suites, Google Docs/Sheets/Slides/Forms are OK, but I prefer Zoho Office. Both are more capable than the Office web apps.

            For even more for those willing to pay, there's also rollApp.

            Picky re your last paragraph's wording: of course you don't need a MSFT account to use the Chrome Web Store.

          • skane2600

            In reply to Waethorn:

            "but full Office is in the store now."

            You mean you can get the full Win32 Office from the store now? Because the full capabilities of Office can't be implemented in the UWP environment even if bridged.

            • hrlngrv

              In reply to skane2600:

              . . . full Win32 Office from the store now? . . .

              Surprisingly, yes, and it handles nearly everything I've tried so far. The one exception is an Excel add-in which uses network license verification. OTOH, Excel can load and use .XLL add-ins, make Windows API calls in VBA projects, be automated by outside processes.

              I haven't tried DCOM add-ins or AutoIt yet, but so far Excel has handled everything I've thrown at it except for that one add-in.

              • skane2600

                In reply to hrlngrv:

                So have you actually tried to automate Excel from the outside but from within the UWP environment? If so, what entity within the UWP environment is hosting the scripts?

                • hrlngrv

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  I figure a command line window launched from the Start menu is outside the UWP environment. I put the following VBScript into test.vbs.

                  Dim xlapp

                  Set xlapp = GetObject( , "Excel.Application")

                  xlapp.ActiveCell.Formula = "=""this is a test"""

                  Set xlapp = Nothing

                  Then ran the command wscript //nologo test.vbs, and with Store desktop Excel running, this entered the formula into the active cell. Not an overly comprehensive test.

                  OTOH, whither the security benefits of packaged desktop software? Is it just that C:\Program Files\WindowsApps preventing all user accounts, even the built-in Administrator account and the Administrators group, from accessing this directory is the sum total of the added security? If so, it'd be easily defeated running takeown and icacls from an Administrators account.

                  The most fundamental differences I can detect between standard Office 365 and Store Office 365 is that the former uses a web installer and the latter AppX packages, and files are installed into different locations.

                • skane2600

                  In reply to hrlngrv:

                  I guess I wasn't clear. I'm talking about automating from outside the Excel app but inside the UWP environment. It you have to rely on the Win32 environment then not much has been accomplished. A true UWP-based Full Microsoft Office should be able to do everything the Win32 version can when running in Windows 10 S mode.

                • hrlngrv

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  You weren't unclear. I didn't read carefully.

                  Put the code above inside a procedure in a general module in a VBA project in Store desktop Word, and with Store desktop Excel also running with a workbook open, that procedure in Word put the formula in the cell in Excel.

                  I don't have anything other than Store Office from the Store which provides a scripting facility. This could be just among the various Office programs.

                • skane2600

                  In reply to hrlngrv:

                  Thanks for checking it out. Yes, it would be interesting to see if a special exception was made among Office applications. Having to run a second Office app to control the app one is interested in is a rather heavy approach as opposed to running a light-weight script.

                  IMO, a lot of the power of automation is the ability to interact both with Office and the file system. For a project I wrote a few years ago, the user could right-click on a folder, which launches a script that looks for Word files within that folder with a certain name pattern and then updates their filenames based on the user-supplied date, launches Word and then makes some specific modifications to each document. The requirements were a bit unusual but it was what the client wanted and reduced his editing time by about 90%. I wanted to avoid adding macros to the documents or changing the configuration of his Word installation since he'd be adding new documents and I didn't want things to break if he installed a new version of Word. I wasn't going to be paid for maintenance but felt an obligation to make sure he could use it for a long time.

                  Perhaps most of that could be done through another Office app, I don't know.

                • hrlngrv

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  My 2 examples show that Store desktop Office programs could be automated by either outside of UWP environment scripts (my VBScript example) or within the Store desktop Office environment (Store desktop Word automating Store desktop Excel). There may be no strictly UWP software which could automate anything else; I dunno, and I have no urge to comb through the MSFT Store trying to find such a UWP scripting system.

                  Another thing I have no idea about is whether it's possible to use VSTO with Store desktop Office. OTOH, VBA macros don't need to be in the same file as the files with which they're interacting.

                • skane2600

                  In reply to hrlngrv:

                  "OTOH, VBA macros don't need to be in the same file as the files with which they're interacting."

                  It's unclear to me how that would work. Where would the VBA macros be hosted? My goal was to avoid altering either the documents or the Office installation.

                • hrlngrv

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  . . . Where would the VBA macros be hosted? . . .

                  I have to admit I've used VBA almost exclusively with Excel. I have no idea whether Word or Outlook has a similar object model, needing VBA for Access defeats the purpose of using Access rather than server-based DBMSes.

                  Excel can use .XLA and .XLAM files, add-ins which are based on Excel files. There are a few very arcane uses for the one worksheet which even those files must contain, but such files are mainly intended used to host VBA projects, and those VBA projects can include user-defined functions, procedures and macros (procedures without parameters). The one point to note is that macros in .XLA[M] files won't appear in the list of macros in the Macros dialog displayed by pressing [Alt]+[F8]. The usual way is for the .XLA[M] file's Workbook_Open event handler to create its own toolbars and add its macros in those toolbars. LOTS of examples available for Excel.

                  Macros (and parametrized procedures) in .XLA[M] files could also operate on the other Office programs and their documents or anything else which could be automated.

                • skane2600

                  In reply to hrlngrv:

                  Thanks for the additional information. So, if I understand what you are saying, you still have to host the VBA in some kind of Office program regardless if the VBA is physically located in an external file. My whole point was to not alter the Office configuration in any way (as well as not putting macros in the target Word files).

                • hrlngrv

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  You need the macros somewhere. More of a PITA to have VBA projects in every document. But even if Word doesn't have/use add-ins based on Word documents, you could still use a VBA project in one Word document to automate other Word documents. The key is to distinguish between ThisDocument and its child objects (that'd be the file containing the VBA project) from ActiveDocument (the document in the active Word window) or, better still, declare a Word Document object, set it as a reference to the open Word document you want to process, then use that object reference to qualify all method and property calls.

                  Does having such do-nothing-other-than-hold-VBA-projects Office documents alter the Office configuration? I would say not, but it seems you would say so. What are you afraid would happen, especially since such documents wouldn't be stored with the Office install nor would need to be opened automatically?

                • skane2600

                  In reply to hrlngrv:

                  If you're automating through a script, you don't need macros at all (which I guess you already know since you wrote one above).

                  What you describe might be OK if it could be designed in such a way that it could access and modify multiple Word documents without having the filenames and locations embedded within in it or asking the user to explicitly list them. I guess if the user would be required to identify the folder the files were in that would be about equivalent to what I implemented although a little less convenient.

                  This has become quite the theoretical discussion given that I'm unlikely to ever write anything like this again. Still it's useful information. Thanks.

            • Jeremy Petzold

              In reply to skane2600:

              There is a reason it is only O365 Home and O365 personal released in the store.

          • Jeremy Petzold

            In reply to Waethorn:

            MS needs to switch Office to PWA. Fully functional. Then they can provide an elevation program where you pay for what you subscribe for. Free gets basic function, Home gets you standard function....

        • thurrotcommentator

          In reply to hrlngrv:

          One good reason vlc team released on uwp was so it could run on xbox - I use it everyday on it, works great. UWP is more than just the desktop, that's kind of the point. :)

          • hrlngrv

            In reply to thurrotcommentator:

            . . . UWP is more than just the desktop, that's kind of the point. :)

            That's the theoretical appeal.

            Maybe 100 million non-PC devices able to run the same apps that over 600 million Windows 10 PCs can as well. Thing is, for those 600+ million Windows 10 PCs (and the other hundreds of millions of PC running older Windows versions) there are much better alternatives which Xbox, IoT, phones, and such can't use.

            I suppose the aptest way to put this is how many PC users use the VLC UWP app in preference to the Win32 VLC program?

        • Jeremy Petzold

          In reply to hrlngrv:

          The VLC team bothered because it was crowd funded.

      • John Noonan

        In reply to lvthunder:

        There are some good apps, but not what one would expect after the amount of time Windows 10 has existed. There still really is not evidence that many are developing modern Windows apps.

        • skane2600

          In reply to John_Noonan:

          IMO, Microsoft should have been developing major UWP apps in parallel with implementing the UWP environment. Then they could have released both at the same time. What they actually did was akin to launching a new gaming console with only simple games like Pong available.

    • fbman

      In reply to SherlockHolmes:
      But that is the story with all app stores, even the app store and the play store.. 95% of the apps are useless crap.

      I actually do use the MS store, yes 99% of the stuff is crap, but that Xbox anywhere feature is great. I really enjoy playing Forza.. I dont have an Xbox.. so that the only way I can play Forza.

  19. maethorechannen

    Microsoft Store as long as they meet the quality standards

    That's a pretty high bar.

  20. JimP

    Mehedi, there's a typo in the first sentence. It's "progressive", not "progress".