For all the great vibes around Windows 10—yes, it really does offer the best of both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1—Microsoft’s latest OS isn’t perfect. And while many claim that Windows 10 will only get better thanks to the software giant’s rapid release strategy, there are two related issues that I think of, collectively, as Windows 10’s Achilles Heel. And I just don’t see a fix coming anytime soon.
I am referring of course to Windows Store and the still-terrible universal apps that are delivered through it.
Windows Store is available in app form on Windows 10 through the Store app, providing a double-whammy of unreliability. Worse, Store is a wasteland of uninteresting and poorly-conceived apps (and other content no one seems to want, like music and videos from Microsoft’s online services, Groove and Movies & TV. Apparently it was too convenient accessing that content from the relevant apps).
The apps that Store delivers are worse. They don’t just crash, they literally disappear, and often while you’re using them. I was testing the newly updated Twitter universal app for Windows 10 yesterday until about the 6th crash, when I finally gave up. This behavior isn’t unique to Twitter, either: I see this with many universal apps, including the ones that ship with Windows 10. It’s especially hilarious when these apps die in the background and you go to switch back and are momentarily confused when you can’t find them. Ah, right. Windows 10.
Store has always been terrible, since its first release on Windows 8 and the subsequent updates that accompanied Windows 8.1 and 10. In Windows 10, Store is given the appearance of content volume by bundling in music, TV shows, and movies, but in reality the app and game selection needle has barely moved since the Windows 8.x days. This Store is the lowliest app store on any platform, with the least choice and, worse, the worst app functionality. It’s a wasteland.
That is, assuming you can get it to work. Store, like many universal apps, is unreliable. You run the app and—poof!—it just disappears. You download an app—or try to—and—poof!—it disappears. Or the app doesn’t download. You update apps and—well. You get the idea. If you use Store, oh, you get the idea. It doesn’t work.
Universal apps have indeed improved since Windows 8.x, when they were called Metro apps, modern apps, Windows Store apps and all kinds of other terrible names. I still call them names, in fact, but that’s mostly because they just don’t work. They disappear, crashing silently, and unlike smarter Win32 apps, don’t have the brains to just re-rerun when they fail. Indeed, we would never accept this level of unreliability in Win32 apps. If Photoshop, Chrome or iTunes crashed this much, no one would ever use them. Or Windows, for that matter. See the problem?
In an admittedly non-scientific poll on Twitter this morning, I got three types of reactions to these issues: people who actually used these apps and saw this behavior all the time, people who claimed to use these apps and further claimed to only rarely experience this behavior, and people who just don’t use these apps. Not necessarily because of this behavior, but because they believe that universal apps are “toy” apps suitable for mobile use only.
Put another way, the issues I raise here are real, and quite common.
With Windows 10, Microsoft is seeking to establish the universal app platform as the successor for Win32 (and other app platforms) on PCs, tablets, phones and other devices, and while I do think it’s well on its way, it’s also not there yet. The Store is kind of a chicken and egg issue: there are no apps there, so developers and users stay away. And vice versa. But with the apps, this is all Microsoft’s faults: a core part of the universal app promise is that these apps are trustworthy, part of which is being reliable. And today, they are not reliable. Thus, they are not trustworthy. Or usable.
We’re closing in on 100 million Windows 10 users. It’s (past) time to ensure they have a good apps experience.