In the beginning there was Zune.
Released five years after the Apple iPod in 2006, the Microsoft Zune portable music player was certainly not the beginning of the MP3 player revolution. However, it was the beginning of a new definition for user interfaces on Microsoft devices.
The introduction of Windows 8 seven years later brought with it the Metro user interface (UI), which eventually became the Modern UI we know now. Tiles that could be pressed, moved, resized, and could contain basic information while displayed on the screen ostensibly made it easier for users to navigate around their devices. It was featured on the Windows Phone 8 and original Microsoft Surface, which was a tabletop interface.
Today, the Modern UI is the way users control all Microsoft devices, from the personal computer to today’s Surface tablet, Windows Phone, XBox, HoloLens, the big-screen Surface Hub and even devices based on the Internet of Things (IoT). In making this singular interface universal, Microsoft has leapfrogged competitors that still deliver and support different operating systems and user interfaces on various devices.
More Than Just a UI
With the introduction of Windows 10, the “last monolithic release” of Windows, Microsoft has brought together everything from the unified kernel code base to the Adaptive User Interface (AUI), Software Development Kit (SDK), a unified Application Programming Interface (API) and Microsoft Store.
The ultimate expression of this can be found in the Universal Windows App Platform (UWP), an evolution of the Windows Runtime model (WinRT), which was first introduced along with Windows 8. WinRT enabled developers to create apps that could run on both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, using a shared code base. The UWP expands this beyond the desktop device family and mobile device family to include the Xbox device family, and the IoT and IoT headless device families that Microsoft has established.
For a more complete explanation of the device families and how UWP targets them, take a look at the Guide to Universal Windows Platform apps.
For purposes of this discussion, the UWP enables developers to write one app that can run on devices across all of these device families. The platform itself identifies the different ways various-sized screens must be addressed when the app is used, adaptively scaling the screen appearance automatically, so the developer doesn’t have to code multiple versions. The platform also makes it easy for developers to put their apps into the Windows Store so users can install them onto whichever device they are using.
For your customers who develop their own applications in-house, this will radically reduce the time needed to create apps that run on desktops, tablets and smartphones, thereby shortening their time-to-value on their investment in development.
Universal Apps hold the promise of dramatically reducing your cost to support various applications, as you will no longer need to manage multiple versions based on which device they run on. Similarly, your customers’ training and support costs will be substantially reduced, as will the time consumed by mistakes made because “it doesn’t work like that on my phone.” Now, it will.
The Universal Windows App Platform is another step toward disconnecting the data from the apps from the client access device from the server from the network. In other words, we move closer to a time when customers can choose to run whatever app they prefer on the device they prefer with the data they prefer on whatever network and in whatever environment they prefer.
Senior Resultant Howard M. Cohen has more than 30 years of experience in the information technology industry. He’s an authorized CompTIA instructor, and a regular contributor to IT industry publications, including Insight’s Learn, the information portal within the newly reimagined insight.com. As a Fortune 500-ranked global provider of hardware, software, cloud and service solutions, Insight’s 5,400 teammates provide clients the guidance and expertise needed to select, implement and manage complex technology solutions to drive business outcomes. Through world-class people, partnerships, services and delivery solutions, Insight helps businesses run smarter. Guest blogs such as this one are published monthly and are part of MSPmentor's annual platinum sponsorship.