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WinRT is the elephant in the room at the Build conference

Wood Leonhard | March 29, 2016
Will WinRT thrive in the guise of UWP, or are we looking at a repeat of the demises of Silverlight and ActiveX?

Companies have been pulling their WinRT Microsoft Store apps left and right -- and few new ones are showing up to stem the tide. The new Instagram app (still in beta and quite unstable) is an iOS port, but it was ported using Facebook's tools, not Microsoft's Project Islandwood. The Facebook app is still unstable. The Twitter app doesn't come close to its analogs on iOS and Android. There are exceptions: The Dropbox app, at least in my experience, works pretty well.

You might attribute the lackluster showing of Windows Store apps to teething problems, but the developers behind them have been working with WinRT for years.

UWP is supposed to be the magic glue that holds it all together. As Gartner said of WinRT, it's a "common interface and programming API set from phones to servers" now extended to include HoloLens, Raspberry Pi, Surface Hub, and every IoT device galloping out of the stable. Yes, UWP has its App Model, device families, core APIs, and effective pixels. What it doesn't have right now is an example of a robust, scalable app. Edge is the only example that comes close, and it's a long way from being usable.

You have to wonder what's so infernally difficult about WinRT. Moreover, if Microsoft can't come up with decent WinRT apps quickly, how on earth can business developers succeed? Or to the point, why would corporate developers choose WinRT when there are so many good alternatives?

Which brings me back to the elephant in the room: Microsoft, as my colleague Paul Krill asserts, isn't giving up on UWP. Instead, UWP is being redefined in ways that aren't at all clear. The recent acquisition of Xamarin shows that UWP can be redefined to include Android and iOS apps, if they're built with Microsoft's .Net. Who knows what else awaits absorption into the UWP cabal?

I think you're going to see WinRT marginalized in the next few years. It wouldn't surprise me one bit to watch it wither away, like Silverlight -- ignored for a time, then kind of exiled, with no decent burial. Developers will complain as they're pushed aside, but Microsoft will latch onto the next shiny object and let devs read the tea leaves -- or simply sway in the wind. ActiveX went that way, too.

If you want to build an app that runs on PCs, Windows Phones, Xbox consoles, and HoloLens simultaneously, then WinRT is your only choice. For anything else, you have to ask if there's a better tool for the job at hand.

And before you commit to WinRT, consider its history.

Source: Infoworld 


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