Doubts cloud Microsoft's universal Windows apps plan

Analyst doubts viability of the plan unless Microsoft makes a big push on Windows phones

Doubts cloud Microsoft's universal Windows apps plan
Credit: Mark Hachman

With the release of Windows 10, Microsoft is emphasizing development of universal Windows apps. But an industry analyst questions Microsoft's moving-target universal apps strategy.

The OS provides platform convergence with Windows running on a single, unified core, meaning an app targeting the universal Windows platform can run on every Windows device. However, the universal Windows plan keeps changing, stressed analyst Rob Sanfilippo, of Directions on Microsoft, who questioned the plan's usefulness at this point with Microsoft de-emphasizing Windows phones.

Universal applications provide the most utility when transitioning between Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile devices; Windows desktop PCs, laptops, and tablets all provide the same experience already, Sanfilippo said. "The biggest challenge is getting the same app to run on these devices and phones. But Microsoft's recent de-emphasis on Windows phones has gutted the promise of Windows 10 Mobile, leaving the primary usefulness of Universal Applications -- same app on desktop-laptop-tablet and phone -- in question." Microsoft, in fact, may not see as many upgrades to Windows 10 Mobile as planned, with many phones lacking the prerequisite software updates.

Sanfilippo cited the evolution of the universal Windows apps plan. "The concept of universal applications has been referenced under many names -- e.g., Windows universal Applications, universal Windows applications, Windows apps -- and has changed in meaning and scope since it was first discussed [at the Build 2014 conference] over a year ago," he said.

Initially, the plan featured a developer strategy for organizing code and minimizing work to target the same application for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1. "Today it refers to the capability to build a single application binary -- usually with the Modern, aka Metro design style -- that runs on Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile, and other systems that are or will be Windows 10-compatible, such as Xbox One, Surface Hub, IoT devices and HoloLens," said Sanfilippo.

But Microsoft continues to forge ahead. The Visual Studio 2015 software development platform, released July 20 features project templates for building Universal Windows apps via languages including C#, Visual Basic, C++, or JavaScript.

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