With the release of Windows 10 getting ever closer (July 29th for the desktop version), Microsoft is putting a lot of weight around the new Universal Applications platform for Windows 10. This means you will now be able to write one application with one binary that works across the entire range of Windows 10 devices. This includes the desktop, mobile, IOT, Xbox, tablets and Hololens.
This is really big news and helps solidify the convergence of their platforms and builds on the windows application platform introduced as part of Windows 8.1. They were partly there with Universal Applications under Windows 8.1, but you still needed a desktop and Windows Phone version of your application even though you could share a large part of the code. Unfortunately the adoption of the Windows Application platform and store apps under Windows 8.1 was never really adopted by the mass market consumer and people who create apps for them, but I really hope that changes with Windows 10.
To me it finally seems as though Microsoft has created an almost perfect platform, and I really do hope it catches on as the programming model looks great, and a perfect evolution from Windows 8.1. Due to the fact that an app runs across all the device groups, Microsoft is claiming that not long after launch they will be on around a billion devices. This is great, but what Microsoft really has to focus on, it getting consumers to recognize that there is a store where they can buy apps.
Even though under Windows 8.1 they put the store icon right under your nose on both the start screen and the task bar on the desktop, you would be surprised how many people still do not realize Windows has a store, and the only way Microsoft will get this awareness out is by good old fashioned marketing and lots of it. Microsoft has a good opportunity to reinvent itself. They are a changed company since Satya Nadella took the reins of the company and everything they have been doing lately is right in my mind. They are transforming the company into a services company instead of a product company, and this all hinges around good adoption of Windows 10 going forward. I am confident Microsoft will do this right.
For me, I am very keen on the Universal Apps Platform, to the point where over the next month I am going to get rid of all my Android devices and completely move over to Microsoft devices. So this will mean I will be using a Dell XPS 13 laptop, a Surface Pro 4 and a Windows Phone, most likely the Lumia 930. Then I intend to learn the platform.
Microsoft also has a few more cool tricks up their sleeves. Universal Apps are not the only applications to live in the Windows Store. They are making it very easy to add your older desktop .NET and Win32 application to the store. This is a great move, especially as the operating system will run those applications in a protected sandbox. I intend to try this out by putting a version of my SafePad application on the store, most likely for free.
Microsoft also has some other interesting tricks up their sleeves to try to get more widespread application adoption and this is bringing Android and IOS applications to the Windows 10 platform. For Android, Microsoft is allowing native Android applications (APK files) to be packages up for the Windows 10 store. Where the apps have hooks into the google platform, (Maps, Google Play Store etc), Microsoft have a bridging layer that allows the apps to work in the Microsoft universe. This is certainly an interesting idea, it will be interesting to see if this “just works”, or if the developer will need to do much messing with the application. Time will tell.
The other interested thing they are doing is giving IOS developers the ability to open up Objective C projects in Visual Studio and compile them. This should make porting the apps the Windows platform much easier as the IOS developer can still work in the language and platform that is familiar to them.
The future is definitely bright for Microsoft and it is good to see them innovating again, especially seeing as Apple has stagnated with it’s innovation apart from the iWatch, which does look pretty good. As you can tell from this post I am intending on jumping into application development on this platform, and I have every faith in Microsoft going forward.