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Microsoft's UWP targets a very small percentage of Windows PCs

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October 14, 2015

Earlier this year, Microsoft introduced its Universal Windows Platform (UWP) applications that run across many device types, provided that they all run its Windows 10 operating system.

But unfortunately, this simply means that the UWP is far from universal, targeting just a few of Windows PCs out there, and leaving other operating systems non-portable (so to speak).

In a world where Macs, OS X and Apple's iOS are commonplace, UWP apps are more niche than universal.

As hard as it is, and even if Microsoft succeeds in migrating most users to Windows 10 over the next few years, that might improve matters, but only on the PC, nevertheless.

Now system integrators and developers are petitioning Microsoft for a true universal app model. Can you blame them?

“The goal is to just enable one single .NET Client Application Project to build deliverables for the following platforms,” states the request on the Visual Studio 2015 feedback site, and goes on to list Windows 10, Legacy Windows, Unix, Linux, Android, iOS, Mac and HTML5.

The issue Visual Studio developers face is that they want to continue coding in .NET languages like C#, and to use the powerful XAML language to build a user interface, but their customers still demand support for platforms other than Windows, especially iOS, Android and Mac OS X.

Microsoft is already making some effort to promote cross-platform development, as long as it is not Java.

Visual Studio 2015 comes with cross-platform technologies to the point of confusion, including third-party Xamarin tools for compiling C# for non-Windows platforms, Apache Cordova for wrapping HTML and JavaScript as native applications, and Visual C++ compilers for Android and iOS.

The Xamarin tools come closest to what developers are demanding. Xamarin targets iOS, Android and Mac, and Xamarin Forms is an implementation of XAML that enables a cross-platform user interface.

But there are several problems with that. This is a third-party implementation of .NET, based on the open source Mono framework, and therefore not perfectly aligned with Microsoft’s .NET Framework.

It is also very expensive, with businesses paying at least $999 per developer per platform for a one-year subscription.

Additionally, the XAML in Xamarin Forms is not compatible with any of Microsoft’s existing implementations, and does not target desktop Windows or Mac, only iOS, Android or Windows Store applications.

Another existing piece which has cross-platform promise is .NET Core, a fork of the .NET Framework which runs on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

Currently, .NET Core only targets server-side applications using ASP.NET, or the UWP, but in principle it could be extended to client applications.

That said, with Visual Studio 2015 pointing developers firmly in Xamarin’s direction for cross-platform clients, it's difficult to see Microsoft investing in its own alternative.

And of course, extending .NET to HTML5 clients may seem like a stretch, yet there is already a Userware project called CSHTML5 in preview which claims to implement about 99 percent of C#, 70 percent of XAML and about 39.6 percent of .NET Core by compiling to HTML and JavaScript.

In conjunction with Apache Cordova, something like this can also work as a mobile solution.

To be sure, the C# language has been a huge success for Microsoft, and is now one of its key assets in attracting or keeping developers coding for its platform.

But on its very own, C# cannot thrive forever as a Windows-only technology though, and these cross-platform options are now critical to its future. We'll keep you posted on these and other IT news as they happen.

Source: Microsoft.

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