A Way Forward for the Microsoft Store and Windows Apps (Premium)

While the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) has failed, there is a single spark of hope for the Microsoft Store in Windows 10. And I think this success points to a way forward for the Microsoft Store and for Windows apps.

I am referring, of course, to the Desktop Bridge.

If you think about Microsoft's long-term strategy for Windows at a high-level, there are a couple of key takeaways. Microsoft wishes to move past the legacy Win32 core of Windows because of security and reliability issues. And, it wishes to modernize Windows so that it behaves more like mobile platforms and can be serviced like an online service.

Initiatives like S mode (originally called Windows 10 S) and Windows 10 on ARM speak to these ambitions, but they impose too many limitations. In S mode, no Windows desktop applications or drivers are available, essentially cutting off users from the things that make Windows, well, Windows. And Windows 10 on ARM is even worse, with its performance problems and inability to run 64-bit desktop or Store applications.

Anyone rational would look at Microsoft's goals for Windows and see them as logical and well-intentioned. But this same audience should likewise shun S mode and Windows 10 on ARM because they impose the wrong compromises.

Worse, the new Windows platform, UWP, is terrible. This mobile platform was originally designed for a type of hybrid PC that never took off and for integration with a smartphone family that failed in the market. UWP is a mobile apps platform and the Microsoft Store is a mobile app store. This is not what Windows users need.

Which brings me to the way forward.

Microsoft's long-term strategy is contradicted by the reality of today: UWP, S mode, and Windows 10 on ARM are all failures. There are few compelling apps in the Microsoft Store in Windows 10, but if there were one group of apps that we might describe as being of routinely high quality, it is those applications (and games) that are really desktop applications, not mobile apps.

They are Desktop Bridge apps. And, on the gaming side, Xbox Live-compatible Xbox Play Anywhere titles that have absolutely nothing to do with UWP either.

Since the gaming piece is pretty obvious, let's focus on apps.

Microsoft wants to deprecate and, as much as is possible, eliminate desktop application support in Windows. It wants to do this, again, because these applications are insecure and unreliable, and because they can impact the performance of your PC in a variety of ways. (Including the arbitrary ability to add running tasks at PC startup.)

But desktop applications are hugely popular. And while Microsoft is, perhaps understandably, not sharing any data about the applications---or types of applications---that people are really using with Windows 10, I think it's fair to say that usage patterns haven't changed. They're using desktop applications. Almost universally.

Microsoft should run with that.

A mobile apps platform makes no s...

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