Microsoft’s decision to build a Universal Windows Platform has been on the mind of developers for some time, and we first heard murmurs of the companies plans last year. But now, at the Build 2015 conference, Microsoft have finally provided a few hints on how this will work, and will reveal even more information on Friday.
Microsoft plan to bring the API’s for Windows for Desktop, Xbox and Phone and consolidate those API’s to make it easy for developers to quickly and easily create applications or games across multiple devices.
Currently, Microsoft have a set of API’s, for Windows 8.1, Xbox and phone, but wanted to bring the best of those API’s together and expand on it. Listening to customer feedback on features that were missing on that platforms specific API, for example,Windows 8.1 threading was handled by Win RT thread pool, but didn’t allow developers to use traditional Win32 API’s like create thread, something Microsoft will address in the Universal Windows Platform.
Microsoft’s new policies is that any new API’s are part of the universal platform, and are trying not to fragment API’s. So, they don’t want to have specific phone or Xbox One functionality. The API will be everywhere, there are subtle issues – for example, a scanner API on an Xbox. The API is technically there, but because there are no scanners or interface to run the scanner, the program on the Xbox would just say “there’s none here” if the application was asked to provide a list of available scanning devices on the system.
They’ll no longer have to write new code for each device, developers are no longer required to write if-defs, but instead things are figured out during the applications run time.
Microsoft want to take control of their platforms, and want to continue the ideas they’ve had DirectX (including DX12). Creating powerful tools for developers to put together applications, and in theory it will make for easier porting and better cross platform functionality for us as customers.
This move makes a great deal of sense from a business standpoint – let’s be honest, Microsoft have a lot of competition at the moment. Apple are pushing their own cross platform technologies, and while there’s a lot of excitement around DX12, one has to remember that Vulkan has a great deal of industry support too. Developers from Apple, Samsung, Intel, AMD, Nvidia and various game engine creators have all jumped on Vulkan (check our analysis here).
What Microsoft are planning (should everything go smoothly) will allow anyone to code for any platform in the Microsoft suite, once you’ve learned to code for one. Effectively, it cuts down development costs for studios, and provides a seamless environment for customers to use a companies applications over a myriad of different devices and enjoy a very similar experience.
Microsoft no longer have the same stranglehold on the market that it once enjoyed in the late 90’s, and so their evolution and keeping people within the Microsoft / Windows ecosystem makes sense. When you also consider SteamOS (and other gaming alternatives) popping up, and Apple threatening them on both the desktop and Mobile front, it also goes a long way to explain the pricing strategies behind Windows 10. This isn’t Microsoft desperate by stretch of the imagination, instead it shows Microsoft evolving and demonstrating awareness of what’s happening in the market, and appealing to both developers and end users.
We’ll know a lot more about what Microsoft are planning and how this ties in with the larger Microsoft ecosystem as this Build 2015 closes up. Brent Rector and Peter Torr (who presented this shorter Q&A session) have a lot of extra information up their sleeves which they’re planning to divulge.
Also, rather excitingly, we’ll finally start getting a better understanding of some of DirectX 12’s advanced functionality – and of course, we’ll cover that too as and when it pops up!