Microsoft’s Build developer conference is taking place online as a virtual event this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But it looks like the company is still planning to spell out its vision for the future of Windows development in a series of sessions on May 19 and 20.
Among other things, we may learn how the company plans to address the messy differences between “Universal Windows Platform” apps available from the Microsoft Store and good old fashioned Win32 apps that you can run or install using an .exe or .msi file.
The MS Build 2020 session catalog is live now, and the names and descriptions of some sessions suggest that the company will be “unifying” development of Win32 and UWP apps.
In fact, one session is titled “unifying and evolving the Windows app platform” and according tot the description, developers can “Learn how the Windows app platform is evolving and unifying Win32 and UWP so your present and future apps can easily target 1 billion+ Windows devices.”
Meanwhile Paul Thurrott spotted a handful of other sessions that seem to be focused on related topics, including one titled “Everything you need to know about WinUI,” which is Microsoft’s user interface framework for both UWP and Win32 apps, and another session that mentions something called “Project Reunion.”
The Universal Windows Platform was originally intended to give developers a single platform they could use to create apps that would run on a wide range of devices including Windows desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, HoloLens, or Xbox One game consoles. But Windows 10 Mobile for phones is dead. And the platform has always been hampered by limitations which don’t affect Win32 apps.
Earlier this year Microsoft announced it was killing off its tools that allowed developers to monetize UWP apps with advertising. And while that may not have been the final nail in the coffin of UWP, it was just the latest in a series of signs that Microsoft was shifting its focus away from the platform.
Now it looks like Microsoft may be preparing for a future where developers who have already jumped on the UWP train don’t have to get off. But cross-platform development tools may make it easier to either transition away or keep existing apps up to date while developing Win32 software in the future.
Or I suppose we could just take things at face value and assume Microsoft really just wants to provide a unified toolkit that lets developers choose to create either Win32 or UWP apps more easily.