What is Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and What is a UWP App?

Universal Windows Platform, Universal Apps, UWP App

As part of Microsoft’s push towards the Continuum effort, the company wants all of its apps to be compatible across multiple types of devices with different screen sizes, input types and so on.

It actually began with Windows 8, during the early version of which Microsoft wanted to target devices rather than operating systems.

Typically, applications are developed to run on a particular OS, and that’s why we have separate app versions for iOS vs macOS, Android vs ChromeOS, etc. So even within a particular company’s operating systems, there’s often a disconnect between the apps available for one device over another. That’s why some iPhone apps won’t be available for iPads, for example.

With Continuum, Microsoft wants to create apps that can run seamlessly on any device irrespective of the operating system it runs on. To that end, Microsoft has been developing the tools needed to create apps for multiple operating systems. For example, Windows Bridge for iOS, which is still under development, will allow developers to import Xcode projects directly into Visual Studio.

When starting from a clean slate, developers can use tools like Xamarin that will allow them to write their apps in C# to run on Windows 10, but also generate a native iOS version. Another useful tool is PhoneGap, now called Apache Cordova, which allows developers to create apps that will run on Windows, Android and iOS. Similarly, there are tools for game developers as well.

The assumption is that Microsoft wants to give developers the tools they need to be more efficient, and thereby start building a huge choice of Windows app for the Microsoft Store in the process. It’s a great strategy, and Microsoft has been making the right moves towards that goal. Like buying the Xamarin platform, which currently has over 1.5 million developers.

By accepting the dominance of Android and iOS and bridging the gap between those and the Windows 10 operating system, Microsoft should be able to create an ecosystem of apps that can run on any device and can be adapted to any operating system.

We don’t yet know how successful Microsoft will be, but they’re already making inroads into the devices market with their Surface line of products.

What is a UWP App?

From what we’ve seen above, it follows that the applications that have been purpose-built for cross-device compatibility are called UWP apps because they’ve been created on the Universal Window Platform.

And these apps are coming out at a rapid pace every day. This is what Microsoft’s site shows:

“There are 669,000 apps for phones, desktops, and tablets in the Windows Store. Hundreds more are added every day.”

But the problem is, only a small portion of those are UWP apps that work across multiple device environments. The number above shows the total number of apps in the Windows Store.

Six months ago, a Reddit post showed this:

“*UWP Apps : *American Express, TD AmeriTrade, BoA, Cleartrip, TravelAdviser, Ouga, Dailymotion, Salesforce1, Foxit MobilePDF, GYM Radio, Playcast, Football Hub, Economist, Trackter, Wire, Airbnb, Wifi Analyzer, Wifi Monitor, Fused, Twittone, Aeries, Tweetium, Tweet it, Fenice, Duolingo, Cast, Perfect Tude, myTube, Tubecast, All Tube, Audible, Freda, Wunderlist, Flat Notes, Saavn, CBS All Access, NBC Breaking News, Deezer, Wall Street Journal, Remote Desktop, InstaBlurr, AccuWeather, PicsArt, App Raisin, Wallhaven Alpha, Modern Translator, Translator 10, Family Stories, Kobo Ebook, Freda Ebook, Adidas miCoach, AIDA64, Line, Baconit, Plex, TeamViewer, Pandora, Sky Go, Perfect Movies, Group me, Twitch TV, Netflix, MixRadio, BBC Store, Devian Art, BRadio, The Guardian, Audiotica, True Caller, VBA10, Uber, Viber, GiraDischi, Box, NASCAR, fitBit, Zomato, VLC, Tunein Radio, 6tin, 6tag, Perfect Dictionary, Unstream, Timber, Poki for Pocket, Readit, Video 360, Cozy, BizView, iHeartRadio, Flipagram, Meme Generator, NPR, all MS apps, etc.

UWP games: Lara Croft Go, Crimson Land, Skulls of Shogun, Halo Spartan Assault, Halo Spartan Sstrike, Hitman Go, Hivemind, Disney Dream Treats, Trivial Pursuit & Friends, World of Tank Blitz, iBasket, Farming Simulator 16,Pluralssight, Stay Frosty, Cooking Memory, Slingshot Puzzle, Two Dots, Candy Crush Jolly Saga, Minesweeper, One More Line, etc.”

Obviously, even if they’ve been adding 200 apps a day (they claim “hundreds”), this was the figure at the end of March 2016, so even if you count the six months or so that have passed since then, they should only slightly over 700,000 apps at this point. Even if you round that off and say they have a million apps, that figure is overwhelmed by the 2.2 million apps for Android on Google Play and over 2 million on Apple’s App Store.

The challenge now for Microsoft is twofold – to grow their overall app numbers, as well keep adding to the list of UWP apps. That’s essentially the key driver for Windows 10 adoption on a consumer level as well. Commercial customers won’t need such a huge variety of apps for Windows 10 because they typically use productivity, media and communications-related ones that Microsoft already provides. But individual consumers are a different breed; they need variety and choice. And that app ecosystem for consumers can only be enlarged by ‘motivated and appropriately incentivized’ developers from around the world.

Microsoft says there are currently 400 million devices running on Windows 10. That sounds impressive, but according to research firm Gartner, in 2015 alone the estimated number of devices shipped – desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones – was 2.5 billion. And that’s just in one year. As you can see, 400 million is just 16% of all devices sold in 2015 alone.

One thing is for certain: Microsoft needs to see more Windows 10 adoption happening around the world. Their entire device-software ecosystem relies on it. Though they’re celebrating their successes along the way, true success can only come when Windows 10 becomes as widespread as the more popular Windows 7, which currently runs on 48.27% of all desktops as of September 2016.

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