Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 10 is an operating system designed to run on a range of devices including smartphones, tablets, notebooks, desktops, game consoles, and even the company’s upcoming HoloLens virtual reality system.

While Windows will look a little different on phones than notebooks or Xbox consoles (and it’ll include different components), each version will share a common core including libraries and runtimes — and Microsoft says “Windows apps” will be able to run on any device running any version of Windows.

Does that mean you’ll be able to play StarCraft or run Office 2013 on your phone? Not exactly. Those would be “Windows desktop apps.”

windows apps

Microsoft is using the term “Windows apps” to describe all software that’s designed to run across the full range of Windows 10 devices including phone, tablet, PC, Xbox, Internet-of-Things, and HoloLens devices. These are the apps that used to just be called “Universal Windows Apps,” and which use the common APIs available across the extended family of Windows 10 products.

So if you’ve been calling Photoshop, Quickbooks, LibreOffice, VLC, Handbrake, Foobar2000, and thousands of other applications Windows apps, you might need to get used to a new name: Windows desktop apps.

That’s the phrase Microsoft is using to describe software designed to run on traditional PCs that you use with a keyboard and mouse (including notebooks and desktops).

On the one hand, it’ll be nice to have a new naming scheme in place so we can stop referring to “Windows Store apps” with a Modern, or Metro-style user interface.

On the other hand, the new convention could get confusing. If you’ve been referring to the software you’ve run on Windows computers for the past 20 years as “Windows apps,” it might take a while before you start to think of them as “Windows desktop apps.”

via The Verge and Channel 9

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13 replies on “Microsoft: Universal apps are Windows apps, classic apps are Desktop apps”

  1. Article says nothing about the high performance/power saving/system default options

  2. To sum up, if I hear you correctly, Universal apps are only Windows apps and Classic Apps are any apps you choose to have on your desktop? Clearly Universal apps are the narrower choice then?

  3. It would be nice if the new so called “Windows applications” actually ran on Windows 7, the OS with the largest market share.

    1. “After several months of focus groups and shelling out billions to marketing consultants, we’ve decided to call these apps that run on Windows: ‘Windows apps’.”

      “But what about all those other apps that run on Windows but aren’t ‘Windows apps’?”

      “Well, it’s like, umm, you see…
      Actually, just shut up; we’ve spent entirely way too much money on this name so that’s what we’re going with.”

  4. Again, MS is just changing names to make it sound like it is innovating.

    What MS is doing is making windows phone and windows RT apps cross compatible (much like how android phone apps will run on an android tablet.) But they are trying to make consumers think that the traditional apps they are used to will be similarly cross compatible. Which is never going to happen unless windows abandons x86.

    Unfortunately, this marketing gimmick is just going to further confuse many of their core customers… just like having a desktop and metro system running in parallel has confused people and made many mainstream customers chose Win 7 over Win 8.

    It is a shame really. And equally a shame that the MS Phone and Metro stores are fairly pathetic when compared to the Android and IOS ecosystems. I know, as I use a Windows tablet and Phone- and it is a far cry from what I was accustomed to from the Google Store.

    1. I can’t imagine who at MS thought the whole bait-and-switch cross-platform incompatibility trick was a good idea. It’s not like consumers are going to take the tablet home that they just got at Best Buy (which they were promised was ‘better than an iPad’ because it could run their Windows software) and just forget about trying to get their own copy of Turbo Tax 2004 to run on it. You’re lucky if they even try to download Turbo Tax from or something rather than trying to figure out why their CD-ROM won’t fit into the USB port.

  5. The obvious problem is how do you refer to all Windows applications – saying “Windows app[lication]s” is the obvious choice, no one’s going to say “Windows apps and Windows desktop apps”. Plus people will continue to say “Windows apps” for “desktop” either out of habit, or not knowing, or not caring. So anyone wanting to talk about Windows Store apps will continue to have to specify that in some way.

    On the other hand, it probably doesn’t matter so much – with Windows RT apparently disappearing, and ARM being kept for smaller devices, as long as people can run all Windows apps (I mean, Windows apps and Windows desktop apps – see what I mean?), I’m not sure it matters for most cases. The distinction about whether an app uses Win32 or WinRT need not be more important to the end user than whether it was built with Visual Studio, Qt or is a Java app. There will be some things that only work on PCs, and some things that also work on phones/smaller tablets and consoles.

    1. The new monikers point to MS’ hope that “legacy” nee Win32 apps will cease to be relevant in a few years, at least for mainstream users and not techies. That’s likely assuming Win10 catches on.

      “Official” decrees don’t equate to public acceptance, however, to wit the don’t-call-me-Metro fiasco. I suspect that Win32 will continue to denote desktop apps, and the new “Windows apps” will simply be called mobile apps, especially when Win10 for Mobile (or WinMo 10 if you prefer) pops out of the oven.

      The desktop may not be front and center in MS’ plans, but it won’t go away any time soon. There’ll continue to be a need to differentiate between desktop and mobile apps, and “Windows apps” don’t cut it. This is reminiscent of the Windows-vs-Windows RT fiasco of 3 years ago, and we knew how that story ends.

    2. Oh boy what a mess, I got a headache with this Windows “Apps” stuff.

      Let’s see: Universal-Windows-Apps-built-on-Universal-Windows-App-Plattform-Not-Windows-Desktop-Apps-PC-Apps… WTF MS WTF!!!??

      This MS “Apps” thing sounds kind of weird to say the least.

      1. Oh, consumers like apps, you say? Well, we’ve got apps here at MS! All four letters of them, everywhere! We’ve got the appiest damn apps north of Silicon Valley!

  6. Agree Bruce. I think this blog as written sound a little negative about the apps system.

  7. universal apps made more sense, seems like this would confuse the average consumer.

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