back to article Microsoft opens kimono on Windows 10 Universal App Platform

Microsoft's Windows 10 Universal App Platform has been explained in detail for the first time, at a developer event in Barcelona as part of Mobile World Congress. The project is "the culmination of our platform convergence journey with Windows", according to Microsoft's Kevin Gallo, who gave the keynote at the event. The term …

  1. SecretSonOfHG

    Does not look like a good proposition for desktop app developers

    ActiveX is back, this time restricted to the MS App store In the hopes of avoiding the security problems that orignally plagued the idea, I suppose.

    However, this is not the reason of this becoming yet another dead end for Microsoft. The basic premise seems to be that only the display and input capabilities matter from one hardware platform to another, but this ignores the overhelming differences in CPU power, storage capacity and RAM size of the different devices. MS likely hopes that using cloud services can hide some of these differences.

    The idea of having the UI miraculously adapt from one environment to another, which is no small technical feat, is going to work for apps going from phone to tablet to desktop, but it won't work at all the other way around because cloud services can't provide additional local CPU power, or fast local storage, or the ability to work with huge data sets off line.

    Still, the idea could bring a number of phone & tablet apps to the desktop, which could at least make the current app store portfolio look a bit better.

    1. dogged

      Re: Does not look like a good proposition for desktop app developers

      > ActiveX is back, this time restricted to the MS App store In the hopes of avoiding the security problems that orignally plagued the idea, I suppose.

      Getting your FUD in quick, are you?

      I see no ActiveX. You can already write Metro apps in HTML+JS so there's very little difference. I suspect this "packaging" would merely enable the damn thing to print or launch your default email client, for example.

      I don't see much point to the packaged Web Apps when the platform has a full browser. The saving grace of Windows Tablets was regardless of "app gaps", real or perceived, one could use the browser and render anything your PC could. Maybe it's for corporates to deliver web-based code to the desktop with nice icons and stuff.

      We'll see.

      1. SecretSonOfHG

        Re: Does not look like a good proposition for desktop app developers

        "Getting your FUD in quick, are you?"

        Perhaps you're not old enough to know that: ActiveX was Microsoft's idea of how to embed executable content in a web page. The idea was to give web pages the same capabilities as native code running a stand alone application by allowing native code to be downloaded and installed as seamlessly as possible. It was a move aimed at the, by then, emerging web apps and various client side technologies (Java, Javascript) that promised platform independence and threatened the dominance of the Windows.

        This was at a time when running Windows with local admin rights was the norm for end users. Everyone knows how it ended up: ActiveX became synonymous with security risk and was left only enabled for legacy apps in the midst of the arcane and convoluted mess that IE settings are for compatibility reasons, plus the code signing and kill bits to prevent ActiveX exploits. It took a few years to reach that point.

        Now they seem to come back with the idea, with added built in sandboxing and origin restrictions. Which are good because they tend to be useful exploit prevention measures. But as any security bod will tell you, adding code increases the attack surface is usually never a good idea, so expect to see a few vulnerabilities in the mechanism.

        Anyway, my point was that it won't fail because of security issues, but because full desktop functionality is not attainable on smaller devices. So I don't see the FUD here.

        1. dogged

          Re: Does not look like a good proposition for desktop app developers

          I remember ActiveX depressingly well, thank you. I even remember in-browser vbscript although to do so makes my neck spasm.

          Microsoft were wrong about ActiveX (due to security issues) but I can see where they grew the idea from. It's exactly the sort of thing that somebody who doesn't think about security would see as an evolution of cgi-bin, moving the grunt-work to the client and thus getting the whole idea of http completely arse-backwards.

          Still, it did give us XmlHttpRequest without which it would be a very different world.

          1. GrumpyMiddleAgedGuy

            Re: Does not look like a good proposition for desktop app developers

            I remember ActiveX in the browser well, and wrote some excellent in-house controls, which were replaced by sub-standard javascript/HTML controls because of security concerns - despite the fact the controls were only available in-house. I always felt the idea had promise but was a non-starter because of the anti-MS brigade spreading FUD. I'm not a believer that everything has to be on the client either, even if that has become the way of the world. Not everything needs to run on phones AND desktops. Quite ridiculous really but sure I'll be shouted down.

          2. LDS Silver badge

            Re: Does not look like a good proposition for desktop app developers

            Actually, the HTML+JS+CSS model is a truly nightmare created by marketing/graphics people without a clue about program design. HTML was designed to code "pages" to be read, not applications to be run, JavaScript was glued over it because HTML was too static, and CSS was added (but of course using a third syntax) to fill HTML lack of proper formatting options outside what a browser thought a tag should have been displayed. Browser too were (and mostly still are) designed to "display" pages and "navigate" them. Sure, they can also host something resembling an applications, but they are not still designed like applications containers.

            ActiveX and Java Applets (you can also add Flash, if you like...) were an attempt to have *real* application running into a browser and communicating via HTTP with a server, but with all the features of an *application* and not those of a *page* that also responds some way to some commands due to some live elements - where you can also press "back" and get back to some unknown state...

            All of them ended up in issues that made them a bad choice - but just wait JavaScript becomes more and more integrate with the browser and through it to the underlying OS, and the same security issues will arise as well. As long as you have foreign code running on your machine, or it is completely sandboxed (and thereby can do almost nothing useful), or if it can access your machine, it will lead to some vulnerability.

        2. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Does not look like a good proposition for desktop app developers

          Probably you're not old enough too :)

          Actually, ActiveX predates the Internet/browser frenzy. They were designed as UI elements embeddable in any application able to host them, and driven via COM. The whole Visual Basic was designed around ActiveX - ActiveX was the natural evolution of VBX - with standard COM interfaces and not designed to be used by a single tool.

          When web pages attempted to go beyond simply static contents and some CGI script, and Sun attempted to put Java applets inside your browser, MS answered supporting ActiveX controls inside Internet Explorer (which rendering engines, is in turn, it's an ActiveX itself and can be hosted by other applications...) - but actually you can host them in any ActiveX container.

          Back then JavaScript was still in its infancy, and there were no ways to deliver complex GUIs in a web page. Sure, it was a portable solution, and like Java, the implementation was too much unsecure to be really useful.

          Universal Applications are a totally different thing.

          1. SecretSonOfHG

            @LDS: Re: Does not look like a good proposition for desktop app developers

            "Actually, ActiveX predates the Internet/browser frenzy."

            You're right in that the concepts used by ActiveX were not new by the time ActiveX was introduced. However, the first time you were able to embed executable controls in a browser was with IE3 back in 1996 at the same time the ActiveX specification was released. Microsoft took a few existing COM interfaces and expanded them, added some new COM interfaces and started to call the resulting specification "ActiveX" at that time.

            "Universal Applications are a totally different thing"

            How exactly? Remember, ActiveX controls had the ability to fully interact with the host OS, so you could (and some people in fact did) wrote your entire app as an ActiveX control and deliver it over a browser. I did not spend a lot of time reading about Universal Apps, but the difference seems to be that apps need a manifest stating what kind of capabilities they want from the OS, whereas ActiveX required none.

            The only other difference seems to be that they are downloaded and installed from a Microsoft sanctioned store instead of a web server. Sure, that's a big difference from a security perspective, but I find using "totally different" to describe it a bit extreme.

            I don't know (or care) if the OS will allow sideloading, but if it does, please, please Microsoft remember to DISABLE it by default like it is on Android.

    2. Aoyagi Aichou
      Flame

      Re: Does not look like a good proposition for desktop app developers

      "ability to work with huge data sets off line"

      Microsoft doesn't believe in that any more. Your Windows One as well as Office One data will be in OneDrive and that's that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Does not look like a good proposition for desktop app developers

        "Microsoft doesn't believe in that any more. Your Windows One as well as Office One data will be in OneDrive and that's that."

        You can still work offline with the data. One Drive has great auto sync capabilities...

        1. Stu 18

          Re: Does not look like a good proposition for desktop app developers

          You forgot the joke icon (re OneDrive and syncing - since the conversation has moved on.)

      2. SecretSonOfHG

        Re: Does not look like a good proposition for desktop app developers

        "Microsoft doesn't believe in that any more."

        That's very true, but much like Windows 8, Microsoft's views are not aligned with their consumer needs.

  2. Aoyagi Aichou
    Windows

    MS Java?

    Yes, that's what WP needs. Even more overuse of the word "app". And more web wrapper-like things. So basically, they're just trying to make another DirectX and lock developers into their ecosystem. Again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: MS Java?

      "So basically, they're just trying to make another DirectX and lock developers into their ecosystem."

      Just like Apple and Google you mean? Except that Microsoft generally have better toolsets and products in this space.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: MS Java?

        For the matter, even the GPL tries to lock developers into its own ecosystem. After all, it's just a matter of what ecosystem you prefer...

  3. Rob Gr

    My issue with the "Universal App" model is that so far it is intimately tied to the Windows Store model, making MS the curator, censor, and adjudicator of what we can distribute as apps.

    Its an old style "freedom" issue. They really need to open this up to sideloading apps. Maybe with humongous warnings about the security implications, but I'm not happy with a world where the company running the app store gets to decide what we can do.

    (Note, much the same comments apply to Apple and Google - I'm not an MS hater here)

    1. Zippy's Sausage Factory

      You can sideload Androids already

      There's an option in the settings to allow it if I recall correctly (not had a droid since Android 4.0 but I presume it's still there)

      Despite having an iOS device for ages I still can't remember if it's possible

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: You can sideload Androids already

        Yes, it's still there in Lollipop 5.0.3, along with the warning pop-up of the risks involved if you enable it.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      It worked so well for Apple - and only a few complained - that now MS wants its share as well. Luckily old Win apps are not yet to go away....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It worked so well for Apple - and only a few complained

        The difference being, people use Apple because they chose to, where as Microsoft's tech is forced upon us.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Does anyone send you to Guantanamo if you don't use MS products? In some sectors Apple is as much "enforced" as MS is in others.

    3. Wade Burchette

      My problem with "universal app" is that a tablet is not a desktop or laptop. Microsoft is still trying to use a screwdriver to put in a nail; different tools have different purposes. "Cloud first, mobile first" really means "customer last".

    4. GranitaOysters

      Sideloading

      MS already allows "sideloading" (though it's not called that) - for the Enterprise.

      No proper corporate security management would allow their app control to handled externally by MS - so there's a way to move the "app store" to an internal server (think "store" in the sense of storage, not shopping). This will enable corps to manage which apps each device/user has access to. Actually sounds like a good model long-term for client management - get your internal devs to convert existing apps ot Universals (including intranet pages/docs/tools), then depoly via app store.

      I bet in the next few years you see a LOT of change to SCCM/App Deploy, including lots of conversion to Universal App.

      (My history: been doing software distribution since about 1998, Pre-SMS/Windows Installer)

  4. Zippy's Sausage Factory
    Unhappy

    XAML?

    I was hoping they'd killed that with WPF. It's just pure nightmare fuel.

    1. Rob Gr

      Re: XAML?

      WPF is alive still, maybe you meant Silverlight.

      Personally, I quite like it.

  5. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

    I like the direction

    Legacy Win32 GUI APIs are pain to use, even when "nicely" packed in MFC. Furthermore they lock the application to Win32 desktop only, which does not work in Microsoft favour. It is good to see Microsoft working hard to free itself of this legacy. I hope they will also improve API capabilities of WinRT to make a better alternative to Win32, than it was in Windows 8.

    Of course there will be lots of bitching from developers. Let them complain, Win32 and WPF are not going away and "Windows 8" development platform based on XAML and WinRT was in serious need of improvement.

  6. Anonymous Bullard

    Here we go again...

    I used to dread times like this - Microsoft announcing their next "next thing", where whatever we're working on is about to become "legacy" in two years, forget what we've almost become expert at and start the re-training process again.

    Wow, it's such a relief finally being off that treadmill.

    1. dogged

      Re: Here we go again...

      > where whatever we're working on is about to become "legacy" in two years,

      I think that applies to everything, except possibly the Forth Bridge.

  7. PAT MCCLUNG

    I would rather die than have a "universal app".

    1. h4rm0ny

      You have very odd priorities.

  8. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Meh

    HMMmm

    Universal App Platform (UAP) is the next big thing from M$ to try and convince people to buy their crummy products

    (cue usual Boris anti-m$ rant)

    But as when windows 11 comes out it will be known as Joint App Platform, followed by another change to Joint App Version Authoring... or Java for short

    And the way they sell the different layouts thing smells distinctly of Java swing too

    Hope they've got good lawyers :)

  9. 745

    Its Brand New Look

    This app also have differ more from Windows 8 Store apps to windows 10, with New look and the controls that were changed. http://www.casperon.com/mobile-application-development/

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