What you need to know
- Google's Flutter for Windows Alpha is now available.
- The cross-platform UI framework lets devs write apps for iOS, Android, and now Windows 10.
- Support for Win32 API and UWP is in the works for 'next-gen' Windows devices.
- The news follows the open-source Swift language coming to Windows 10.
Microsoft is not the only company working on cross-platform UI solutions. Google has been working on Flutter — its open-source, cross-platform UI framework for native mobile apps, web apps, and desktop apps — for a few years now. And today, it is taking a significant step with Windows.
Google had previously talked about Flutter coming to Windows, and it has been in preview since the summer. Today the company is announcing the official Windows Alpha, which his now available to developers.
Flutter is similar in theory to React Native and lets developers share a single code base for writing high-performance apps for Android and iOS. The concept is similar to Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform (UWP) to streamline app development by letting devs reuse as much code as possible between projects.
Flutter (and its underlying language Dart) is also one of the fastest-growing systems on GitHub. There are currently more than "100,000 apps in the Google Play Store, web in beta, and macOS and Linux in alpha," according to Google.
With today's news, developers can begin writing apps using Flutter and target Windows devices, including desktop PCs and more mobile solutions like Surface Go. The challenge has been adding support for desktop mouse and cursor interaction paradigms instead of just touch for phones. From the press release:
Developers can download the Flutter Gallery app from the Microsoft Store (opens in new tab) to see an example demo of the Flutter framework as a UWP on Windows.
Google is also highlighting multiple plugins for Windows that will help developers get started on building new apps. Some of these plugins include a way to launch URLs in the browser from your app, keep user preferences serialized on disk, storage encrypted by biometrics, and playing audio from your desktop apps.
The group behind Flutter understands that there is a lot left to work on for Windows, including adding features for "accessibility, globalization and localization, enhanced keyboard and text handling, support for command-line arguments, and more."
Interestingly, while Flutter supports the classic Win32 API, Google is also experimenting with supporting UWP as well, so Flutter apps can run on "next-gen Windows devices," including Windows 10X and Xbox. You can read more about the progress of Flutter for UWP on GitHub here.
Microsoft and Google have been getting a lot cozier lately, with both companies working on the new Surface Duo, including dual-screen support for Flutter apps. Platforms matter less than the tools and services used to power them, a truth both companies are coming to realize. Maybe someday we'll even see Google apps in the Microsoft Store.
Much more info about Flutter for Windows Alpha can be found in the Google press release, which contains links to many examples, tips, and how to get started for developers interested in trying out the framework.
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Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.
With Swift and Flutter on board, I wonder what other excuses developers will have for not making windows apps. I'm sure someone will enlighten me.
I'm with you. They'll probably claim that nobody uses Windows for anything but web browsing and old Win32 apps and that they can't monetize. 🤷♂️ Honestly, it just feels like developers (except game Devs) are apathetic towards Windows now.
Developers go where their users are. Windows is just not the primary focus anymore. Windows doesn't even have a mobile presence anymore. You can't keep developers if you don't even have a platform for developers to develop for. Even Microsoft prioritizes many of their mobile apps above their Windows apps. My opinion is that mobile apps are simpler and easier to install and use. Consumers are more likely to try them out because of that. More consumers means more developers. That also has the benefit for developers in that they are usually also simpler and easier to make and maintain and they get more user feedback to improve. If you can get more users to try your app and put in less effort to get that app out there it's quite normal to decide to focus on mobile apps.
Except for all those silly people sitting at a PC or laptop for 8+ hours a day.
Yeah, but they don't care about Fart Apps.
Yeah, developers when it comes to making Windows apps are full of ****. I feel like they need to be called out for it. Nothing like a bit of nagging will start bringing the message across their thick skulls. Its not like Apple has treated their developers with equal respect with their monopolizing gimmicks yet they still worship them...
Well, that's an easy one.
Developers be like "Microsoft is so lame, only Boomers use M$. Long live the fruit logo, oh yeah and that robot language because we have to". Now let's all go to Starbucks and drink our soy-skinny-decaf latte while we show off our $3000 MBP laptop, because we code, ok.
If you go to https://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_os.asp, you can see the web statistics that w3schools.com (a popular developer education web site) publish. The distribution is Windows 71.1%, Linux 4.9%, Mac 10.3%, Chrome OS 0.3%, and Mobile 13.5%. Most of the developers are on Windows! There is clearly some hypocrisy going on. This is the thing, larger screens, keyboard, and mouse are not going away, and will be the human interface for information worker for the foreseeable future. Clearly, developers prefer something larger to use w3schools on. The phone is mainly for reference on the go. There has been a lot of development for mobile lately primarily to fill the mobile gap. That gap has been filled mostly. PC sales have skyrockets during the COVID pandemic. You can't work from home or go to school from home on a phone. They just are too small. Hopefully devs will wake up and give Windows the attention it deserves.
Oops was a reply.
How would this compare to React Native? Microsoft made a big deal recently about React Native having proper Microsoft support with integration in Visual Studio.
They're just different places for teams to start from when making an app. If you're a Flutter/Dart dev, or primarily make Android/iOS apps and want to bring that to Windows, now you can with the same codebase. If you develop primarily for iOS/iPad OS and use Swift, you can now write to Windows using a shared codebase. These are just options based on a dev's background and preference. If you like RA and prefer that, then you use that.
this is AMAZING, looking forward to the future of Windows Apps with MAUI, WinUI, Flutter and so on
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