The Microsoft Store, which was once the only way to install UWP (Universal Windows Platform) apps, hasn’t been the success that Microsoft hoped it would be, and it’s now confirmed that soon you may not need to use the Store to get UWP apps for Windows 10.
According to Microsoft’s Kevin Gallo, Corporate Vice President of the Windows Developer Platform: “The Store is about commerce. It’s another channel for distribution… You can trust apps differently. They don’t need to be in the Store. People really just want to know if Microsoft considers an app good.”
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This comment, which appears in an interview on ZDNet (opens in new tab), is noteworthy, as it means that Microsoft appears to be backing away from forcing people to use the Microsoft Store.
When UWP apps were launched in 2015, Microsoft envisioned apps similar to the ones found on iOS and Android smartphones – so they could only be installed from the Windows Store (later renamed the Microsoft Store), which came with Windows 10.
The idea was that these apps would benefit users by being easy to install, more secure and less resource-intensive – which would prolong the battery life of laptops. Updates to the apps would also be automatically handled by the Store.
Of course, this also benefited Microsoft, as it had greater control over what was installed on Windows 10, and it would also get a cut of profits from paid-for apps and games.
However, the PC has always been an open platform that allows you to install software from a huge range of sources – so confining users to the Microsoft Store was never going to be popular.
Plus, it meant that app developers would need to create a UWP app for Windows 10 devices, then a separate Win32 app for other versions of Windows. That caused more work – so it’s no wonder that many app developers decided to not bother with creating a UWP app, even if it means that Win32 apps wouldn’t get UWP-exclusive features like touchscreen support and inking – which allows you to annotate and interact with apps using a stylus.
As Gallo admits, “we shouldn't have gone that way,” as it caused a “massive divide” between apps. Now, Microsoft is working on making Win32 apps able to have UWP features. “By the time we are done, everything will just be called 'Windows apps.”
With this move, Microsoft also seems prepared to certify apps for use in Windows 10, yet allow developers to choose how to distribute them, either via the Microsoft Store, or via other means, such as the developer’s website.
With speculation over the future of the Microsoft Store and UWP apps growing, Microsoft’s backtracking here will only make rumors of the Store’s death grow.
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