Here is why Microsoft should use 'Runs Anywhere' branding in the Windows Store

Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform brings a lot of tools to the table for developers to get their apps on the Windows Store. However, the term causes confusion amongst some users who mistake it to mean an app that can run everywhere including PC, HoloLens, Mobile, Surface Hub, and Xbox.

The problem seems easy enough to solve. Microsoft should mirror the new Xbox Play Anywhere naming scheme with a Windows 10 Runs Anywhere one.

What is UWP?

The problem for consumers and many in our audience, who tend to be more sophisticated, is the mistake that UWP or Universal Windows Platform translates to 'an app that can run on Mobile, PC, HoloLens, Xbox, etc.'.

Evidence of this confusion is seen in our new tutorial on using the Desktop Bridge to convert desktop apps to apps for the Windows Store. People in comments were claiming that UWP is "a lie" or the article title was "misleading" since those converted apps cannot run on a phone (Mobile apps need to be ARM compatible, not x86 like desktop apps).

Here is both the problem and source of the confusion. Microsoft's UWP (opens in new tab) is a term for developers. It encompasses the universal libraries, and APIs developers can leverage to get their apps onto the Windows Store. It does not mean those apps run everywhere universally.

Some apps can run across all Windows device families. Some cannot. Others can, but only if the developer enables the option when submitting the app to the Store (developer discretion).

A simpler way of thinking about it is any app listed on the Windows Store is technically a UWP app.

UWP Bridges are hybrid apps

Project Centennial i.e. the Desktop App Converter is one of Microsoft's UWP Bridges (opens in new tab). And yes, Microsoft considers them UWP apps (opens in new tab).

Microsoft's Desktop App Converter making a UWP

Microsoft's Desktop App Converter making a UWP

The term 'bridge' is a metaphor to get developers from Point A (Classic Win32 apps) to Point B (UWP). That conversion can be thought of as a hybrid, allowing the Win32 app to continue to exist without substantial modification while also adding UWP APIs for things like Cortana, Live Tiles, Notifications, App updates, and more. When completed, the converted app is repackaged as a .appx or .appxbundle where it can be submitted to the Store.

The point of the bridge is to let developers bring apps to the Windows Store, leverage some of the benefits of Windows 10, and get started with UWP. The endgame is the developer will eventually re-write the app without reliance on Win32 so that it could reach more people on other devices. The current problem is that "pure" UWP apps still have some limitations compared to Win32 desktop apps. Those are being worked out, and it is why Microsoft hosts their Build conference every year.

We need a Runs Everywhere badge

The issue right now is people confuse the developer term UWP to mean it universally runs everywhere. Part of this problem is exacerbated by Microsoft who do not currently have a consumer name for an app that is targeted for all Windows device families (HoloLens, IoT, PC, Mobile, Xbox, and Surface Hub).

I propose that developers who write an app for Windows 10 that targets all device families – or at least PC, Mobile, and Xbox* – get a Windows 10 Runs Anywhere designation similar to Xbox Play Anywhere (opens in new tab) (games that run on Windows 10 and Xbox).

Surface Hub, Internet of Things (IoT), and HoloLens currently are not consumer-facing technologies, so I think omitting them is okay.

An example of Microsoft's new Play Anywhere strategy for the Store

An example of Microsoft's new Play Anywhere strategy for the Store

The naming scheme compliments the one for Xbox, keeping consistency. It also gives developers some incentive to boast while informing consumers that this Windows app can deliver the same experience across many devices.

If getting developers to go down the path of UWP is the goal, then there should be some Holy Grail achievement for them if they hit all the main Windows devices families. Let those apps shine in the Store as being able to Run Everywhere. Doing so will also inform customers that they could run this same app on their TV, phone, or PC – that's an experience they may not know about. Finally, people can point to the lack of a Runs Anywhere badge in the Store as a reason why that particular app does not run on their PC or phone.

Why are some 'universal' Windows 10 apps only available on desktop but not mobile (and vice versa)?

Daniel Rubino

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.

  • I think this would be a very smart move. Makes it easier for consumers to know it can be used anywhere. I know they have the badges for what systems can use them but I think it would be just a easy identification for someone to see that they can run it on their other Windows Devices.
  • Knowing general public, my concern is that they will think "runs everwhere" means it will also run on Android and iOS devices!
  • True I can see that too, but with Microsoft most of their apps do too, but not in the sense of what this would be claiming.
  • IMHO WCentral isn't helping to clarify the confusion surrounding this topic. This article makes a few mistakes. This quote contains two that I think are relevant to the issue at hand:
    That conversion can be thought of as a hybrid, allowing the Win32 app to continue to exist without substantial modification while also adding UWP APIs for things like Cortana, Live Tiles, Notifications, App updates, and more. When completed, the converted app is repackaged as a .appx or .appxbundle where it can be submitted to the Store.
    What the developer actually gains by using the desktop bridge is the ability to access UWP APIs, but that ability doesn't mean those APIs are actually accessed. Accessing those APIs requires that the developer modify their program. The part I quoted above makes two mistakes:  APIs are not added to the Win32 app (that sentence itself doesn't really make sense)  the Win32 app is not modified or converted in any way. The Win32 app itself stays exactly as is. If the Win32 app didn't access a single UWP API before using the bridge, then it won't access a single UWP API afterwards either. MS confirms my second point in this article where they state:
    Your code is still the same, it's just packaged differently.
    Why is this important? Because it explains how a Win32 app can be distributed via the Windows Store without actually using any part of UWP. That we're calling these apps UWP apps regardless is the real source of the confusion! In fact, at least some people at MS realize that this is slightly ridiculous. MS are themselves using various definitions. For example in this article MS states:
    For example, a UWP app is an app that specifically targets the universal device family, and consequently is available to all devices.
    That article was last updated two weeks ago, and in contrast to the definition WCentral is using, that one actually makes sense. Based on that terminology, an app that is brought to the store using the desktop bridge wouldn't be called an UWP app, because it doesn't target the universal device family set of APIs (the set of APIs shared by all devices that run W10). In contrast to what WCentral is proposing, I'd recommend the following: App is availble in the Windows Store: "Store app" (that term is already in use and was established in W8) App specifically targets the universal device family set of APIs: "UWP app" (based on the definition used by MS in the article I referred to above) UWP app that targets more than desktop systems: signaled using the badges on the store webpage (which MS already uses) IMHO adding the tagline "runs anywhere" isn't a good solution. It means we can have a universal app that doesn't even have the potential to "run anywhere", in which case we have to ask "why call it universal to begin with?". It degrades the term "universal" to mean nothing more than "available in the store". Is that really an intuitively grasped meaning of the word "universal". For developers the proposal is outright counterproductive, as developers associate specific APIs and a specific run-time environment with the term UWP. We'd also have to repeatedly explain why an app with the tagline "runs anywhere" doesn't actually run everywhere (often not on Xbox, very often not on Hololens). I understand that WCentral is basing their proposal on how some at MS use the term "universal app", but considering MS are themselves inconsistent, I'd say it's best to push for a definition that actually reflects the technical reality of the situation. IMHO this proposal does the opposite. It doesn't solve the fundamental cause of the confusion and will ultimately just end up confusing even more people.
  • That is a pretty good point!
  • Runs Everywhere right on a Windows Logo would solve that confusion.
  • "windows 10 everywhere"
  • @sunnybyday;The developer might be an Andriod/IOS developer porting to Windows, etc., in that case yeah it can be available on those as well. What I like about the Windows is a developer can really make more dough in using UWP that can target more devices.
  • I have pestered them about badges like this forever in feedback. I also have a bunch of other badge ideas I gave them like for gamepad support a little Xbox controller etc. Hope they go down that path.
  • That would be cool. Gamepad support show the Xbox controller, wheel support show a wheel, same with mouse and keyboard and so fourth. Also same with if the game supports achievements, coop, online play and so forth. They already do this on the boxes of games, why not display it on the store too? Would make it easier for folks to know what kind of support the game has.
  • That's an awesome idea. I had assumed that at least games did this that had a box counterpart.
  • They have some of this info under the system requirements but it doesn't list it all.
  • Whoever come up with this idea, he should be the product and marketing advisor of Nadella.
  • Agreed... But they need to advertise this. Not just advertise the use of a pen on the Surface. UWA, whatever name they give it for consumers is a huge differentiator, that nobody outside of Windows fans know about.
  • Hmmmmmm, We have icons for where you can get that app\game....
  • Hypothetically speaking, if GoW4 were recompiled for ARM, how well could it run on a high-end phone like the Elite X3?  If the resolution were downsampled to 480P, could it get a reasonable frame rate with decent effects turned on?
  • No
  • I think its possible. Look at what Gameloft can do with their games. Personally i think every MS game release should have a mobile version
  • Lol. Let's try running GoW4 on a Surface 3 with Intel Atom, at min settings, 480p. See what performance you get out of it.
  • Some future estimations are that in 2017 high end smartphones will catch up with current version of xbox and ps4 in terms of performance:  
  • And cooking your hands in the process :P
  • Hmm, sorry, I'm still confused. What does the Universal in UWP refer to?
  • Did you at least read the article? O.o
    Microsoft's UWP is a term for developers. It encompasses the universal libraries, and APIs developers can leverage to get their apps onto the Windows Store. It does not mean those apps run everywhere universally.
  • Did you read my question? I did not ask what is UWP. I asked what does the Universal in UWP refers to (obviously not that the applications can run universally, but... what? What is universal then?).     
  • "I asked what does the Universal in UWP refers to"
    But I answered that. It refers to universal libraries for developers. Instead of targeting different OSs (Phone, PC, Xbox), devs now target devices because the libraries and APIs are universal.
  • Ah, thanks. Your last sentence clear it up for me. It is universal because the same libraries are in the different variants of Windows 10.
  • If the 'U' in Universal refers to the universal libraries, then it stands to reason that a UWP app should use those libraries. A Win32 app that is run through the desktop bridge and made available in the Windows Store most likely won't use any part of those libraries. That's where this idea falls on its face.
  • The universal in uwp refers to a universal set of APIs developers can use. Whether your building an app for Xbox, phone, or desktop, the api is largely the same (I.e. Universal) and don't need extra libraries to build for a particular platform. Before, phone had its own library of APIs as did desktop and Xbox. Now, they all use the same library of apis which allows you to target all platforms with one app
  • Microsoft may have meant/changed the meaning of UWP but Universal Windows Platform (literally) actually means a platform that is universal to all variants of Windows. It definitely does not mean anything that is delivered through store. They better get the naming right before it is too late.
  • This. Has been like this from the beginning, even if practicallity has forced them to redefine it...
  • Completely agree Daniel. This is seriously needed, and MARKETED.
  • However, the term causes confusion amongst some users who mistake it to mean an app that can run everywhere including PC, HoloLens, Mobile, Surface Hub, and Xbox.
    I see what you're saying, but as long as these BS "tech writers" continue to spread FUD, and the lemmings continue to buy into it despite anything else that's being said, there will still be confusion. Has nothing to do with marketing, it's about idiocy at this point.   /rant 
  • Agreed, communication is key here.
  • The problem here is that in future we could have more family of devices.
  • It's not something I look for when searching the store for an app. If I'm on a phone I should only see apps that will run on my phone. If I'm searching on my PC then the same should apply. I would assume and hope that any flagship Microsoft apps would show up in all.
  • When I find a WP8 app in the store on my phone, I'm less likely to want to use it if I know it wouldn't also work on my PC or Surface. Those of us who feel that way are probably edge cases, but still.
  • Yeah, also WP8 apps show on a W10 phone so sometimes its a pain to get the right one. If they had something that was at least a symbol for W10 apps, it can spare someone from having to read in the description if it's the new version. They could even put this on the thumbnail so you don't have to go into the app's page to see it.
  • Nist, this is where I disagree with you. I was searching for a finance app on my phone and found an app that would also work for my surface. I was able to download the same app on each device and sync the data nicely between the two. So that when I'm out and about I can input my transaction on my phone. Then when I get home I sync the data and can sort through it on my PC and make and track budgets and so forth. Using your vision of the store would have caused me to actually search each store individually side by side to find an app that I could do as described above. However, I was able to find an app easily because of the simple badging and UWP strategy of writing one app that can target various devices. And that is the exact thing that I like about Microsofts UWP strategy. I couldn't do that with any Android apps. Sure I could sync date between DIFFERENT apps. One on my phone and one on my desktop. But the interfaces were different. Leaving a not so polished feel to the experience. If Microsoft can get the developers on board. I believe people will follow just as I did.
  • I personally never liked UWP name or acronym. It is too "geeky". They do need something more mainstream that resonates with consumers and even developers who can tie in the concept across all of Windows 10. I like "Runs Anywhere" even if it hints that it can run on amy platform. At least it will get people's attention to find out that "Anywhere" means any device and the only platform that can offer that solution is WINDOWS
  • Yeah, this is a mess in many peoples head :D I still only use the term UWP only for apps that CAN instantly run everywhere, because they're native to the UWP framework. They not always run everywhere, but they could with little to no work at all. All the other apps are different, and can't run on every Windows 10 device by nature, so I call them Windows Store apps, or if they're created/ported with any bridge, I call them bridged apps. Windows 8 apps are WinRT apps, and Windows Phone apps are WP apps, or Silverlight apps. And yeah, Xbox One apps are just Xbox One apps (if they aren't UWP) :D But this is only my terminology, and the problem is, that almost everyone uses a different one :D
  • Your terminology is better than both what MS uses and what is being suggested in this article. Your approach is the one favored by pretty much every developer. Yours is a natural appraoch for developers, because it's the API set that is used by the software that determines what we call it. With MS' terminology (or what is being sugested in this article), that is no longer the case. With MS' approach, they can call anything that should be called a Windows Store App an UWP app. Whether it actually uses a single API related to the UWP or not, or runs on the UWP platform is completely irrelevant. I suspect MS is obfuscating the terminology in an effort to inflate the number of apps they can officially call UWP apps (for marketing reasons).
  • Xbox Play Anywhere, Windows Use Anywhere.
  • That's really good.
  • I suspect they'll never adopt the word "anywhere" for legal reasons.  Someone is bound to sue them when they can't run something on their Windows 7 box, their device that doesn't meet the minum specs for a particular app, their Andoid phone, their Windows IOT raspberry pi, or some future something that hasn't even been developed yet.  In the developer space they are relatively safe with that kind of wording, but in the consumer space they'll get sued. Incidentally, the "universal" in UWP is more accurate than "runs anywhere" would be.  Considering people already call "univeral" a lie, I can't see "anywhere" being taken any better.  I get that the whole point of a new moniker is to help people understand what "universal" does NOT mean, but sadly I don't see it working. I guess I don't have a lot of faith in people's willingness to understand.  And it do think it comes down to willingness more than anything else.
  • "I suspect they'll never adopt the word "anywhere" for legal reasons."
    But the already used 'Play Anywhere' for Xbox/Windows 10 games, that's why I suggested 'Runs Anywhere' for parity.
  • I understand the thought process Daniel, but I think if its gunna say it Runs Everywhere, then it shouldn't leave out surface hub or should truly run everywhere that uses a variant of windows 10 as an OS or it could lead to further confusion. Not to mention, by this logic, just how few runs everywhere monikers will be seen (at least for another year or two while UWP gains more momentum). Maybe we should stop saying UWP when saying an app is released and just say xx is available for windows 10 mobile, pc, etc. After all, UWP is just the technology the app was built with..we never used to say, Starbucks releases a new C# .Net app, so why do that with uwp apps? I understand it gives some insights, like one being able to expect uwp features like live tiles, or that it MAY run on the phone too, but the most definitive description is just saying Starbucks releases new app for windows 10 mobile, pc and Xbox...
  • But it's not "Play Anywhere", it's "XBox Play Anywhere".  Just enough of a qualifier to make a difference.  "Runs Anywhere" or even "Windows Runs Anywhere" doesn't actually describe the subset of platforms/devices where it will run.
  • What would be really sweet is if they make a pure UWP app run on Android and iOS too via techology from the Xamarin aquisition.   That is currently not possible as the Xamarin UWP is different... XAML is different etc. but with engineering probably could be made to work. Then it really would be promoting "Run Anywhere".
  • I like "runs anywhere". The problem is, the Windows side of Microsoft has absolutely no clue how to market products for consumers. So I doubt you will see them adopt such a tagline.
  • "Runs" also associated with uncontrollable pooping :D
  • Hey Cori,  thats exactly the perfect term for windows 10 and the UWP...."RUNS" everywhere!  ha ha ha. fact,  the whole UWP was NOT intended to promote one windows/one app across all platforms,  I think it was insinuated by MS that this was the case.  However,  we all know that it's not.  you can't use 80 percent of the universal apps on mobile,  nor,  can you buy a new copy of windows 10 and load in your phone via USB DVD in REALITY!  not dev land,  or windows fanboy fantasy land...the UWP is just a hoax by MS....
  • it goes very well with all the enigeers laid off. They RAN everywhere.
  • I think that makes sense, but it might turn people off when they start noticing how fragmented the Store still is, given how it is loaded with older apps that weren't updated for the UWP. Also, anyone else kind if wish they did tiles like W10M, or even widgets, letting me put my Weather tile on my desktop, rather than needing to open the Start menu to check it?
  • @Keith. I thought it was just me, but you are right, I would like to see live tiles on my desktop as well. only for the apps that I picked.
  • That would be windows 8,  They had that,   and the "general public" scoffed at it.    Or,  maybe nadella scoffed at it because it did not align with dataminging 10/mobile.
  • Great article Daniel!
    I like your suggestion a lot. Hope Microsoft will take note.
  • Very good idea. I like it when I can use the same app everywhere (if it is well made).
  • I agree. Nice article Dan, and I think Microsoft should implement this soon. A Windows Store update should do the job I believe
  • NIce article but It is all Microsoft fault not brading stuff properly and change things in the middle without renaming. this guy is explaining it here
  • Sadly, I don't think the general population even knows that Windows has a app store similar to what they have on their iPhones. Having a runs everywhere logo would be a plus for people familar with Microsoft products.  It would also be a treat if I could target the device(s) I wish to install  a given app to using the browser.  I seem to remember being able to do that in WP7 & WP8, but not 10. As a developer, I can't really get into UWP as everthing seems to be moved around and a bit more difficult to get started.  If I wanted to learn a new API, perhaps Andriod or Bootstrap would provide a better ROI going forward.  There doesn't seem to be any real push for UWP from Microsoft and its usually burried at the end of MSDN articles if mentioned at all.  Its not clear what UWP really is or if it is ready to compete with Win32.  Is UWP just another stepping stone before a complete redo in a year or two?
  • It is all Microsoft fault not brading stuff properly and change things in the middle without renaming.
    this guy is explaining it here
  • I not sure if it is all branding.  Is UWP actually as good what is available on competitors platforms?  I don't enjoy using my windows tablet as much as I should because it doesn't have Microsoft's word flow keyboard.  If UWP was in the same league as the competitors, we should be able to install swipe or any other 3rd party keyboard by now.  That is failure on multi levels in my opinion. 
  • UWP isn't THAT far removed from what was in WP 8.1 to be honest. There's mostly subtle differences, and things like handling navigation are easier and more flexible than ever. Also, not sure about your documentation comments either as it's really well documented in my experience - Pretty much all links have been updated to point to the Windows 10/UWP docs and they have a message at the top informing the reader where to go if they want the old 8/8.1 docs. You can still use the same databinding, you don't need to use compiled bindings....A lot of the controls are the same or very similar. If you know 8.1 there's a very short transition period to get used to a few changes but really not much at all.
  • I like the idea, but I think the specific "runs anywhere" tag seems too close to Java's "write once, run anywhere".  And nobody wants to be likened to the generally-negative PR that is Java...
  • "Runs anywhere" makes little sense as it's vague and non-informative. Instead Microsoft must have clear indicators on any store (and browser store website) showing EXACTLY what platform that is supported by any given program/game running on Xbox, PC, mobile, etc. Including IOS and Android. MS should be (and is) prioritizing software (APPS/GAMES) not "systems" but also in terms of discoverability and it's own development. MS should be porting good apps such as people & photos to ios/android and allow the webstore to link appropriately. Each UWP should run on IOS/Android. Why develop a "photos" app for phone that is unused on mobile and ignored on desktop. This makes OS moot and benefits microsoft dramatically. This becomes more urgent as MS has given up on mobile for the next few years if not longer. Sad to say Microsoft just doen't get "apps" any more than they get "mobile. They simply haven't respected developers since the Vb6 <> vbNet fiasco way back where time was not spent porting APIs instead forcing Developers to redo code (sorta like WM -> WP7 ->UWP nothing moves forward). This set the table for the constant debacle of windows apps and code that is stuck in the past and not compatible. Unfortunately there is no end in sight with "UWP" desktop apps that wont run on mobile, xbox, etc.
  • Totally agree, when I got the NXOE update I expected all XB1 apps to be Universal. But nope! I'm not even trying to explain the schizofrenic world of MS to my parents, told them to stay on W7.
  • Yes i agree Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Absolutely! Microsoft is making the same mistake once again: Xbox Music and Xbox Movies (Zune, before) changed names because regular people thought they needed an Xbox console to use these apps on Windows PCs, and now they're making almost the same thing again now creating this kind of 'Play Everywhere badge' to go on apps too, even not Xbox-related. Does not make any sense, only confuses people.
  • Did you even read the article? Microsoft is not making a "Play Everywhere Badge" to go on apps that aren't Xbox related. The article was stating that MS SHOULD do some kind of W10 app badge that shows the app can be used everywhere there is W10 based code because UWP is confusing people.
  • Great suggestion!  Very informative editorial.
  • GREAT IDEA i hope it will be on next Store App update
  • Totally agree. I would say its hard to believe Microsoft hasn't done this already, but experience has taught me not to be surprised. Hopefully they take note.
  • great read thanks
  • Microsoft's "Universal Apps" is a great idea because they run on Windowsn10 mobile smart phones and Computers/Tablets/Laptops running  THE Full Windows10 OS which is on 400 MILLION COMPUTERS in number. they tie Windows devices together like no other Apps can. Microsoft alone cannot really bring out the full potential of Microsoft Universal apps. Microsoft need developers to make the Universal Apps that can make MS Universal Apps shine and worK well across all Windows 10 devices. BUT ALAS " I HAVE NOTICED SINCE WINDOWS PHONE 7 SMART PHONES CAME OUT THAT DEVELOPERS SEEM TO STILL BE HYNOTIZED AND MAKE MORE APPS FOR APPLE IOS AND ANDROID PRODUCT. I fear that the only way Microsoft can make it's Windows 10 mobile smart phones better is abandon the developers and hire 1000 programmers and make their own apps. This is a strange catch 22 situation Microsoft has the potential but cannot get others to help develop what they have and have to go it ALONE.   
  • Please gregory,  show us ALL the "universal apps" that are on windows 10 mobile since last year....I could probably count on one hand.   Please take off the blinders and see what really is going on here.  And no,  the developers are not hypnotized,  they are REALISTS.   why develop an app for 1000 users when for the same amount of time they can develop for MILLIONS of users instead.  .3% market share compared to real market share of IOS and android.  Nothing hypnotic about it.   And as for MS making their own apps,  you will still be in the same spot as Apps contain a small thing called INTILLECTUAL PROPERTY.   MS developed an flakey thrid party app for a first party company etc,  their ass would be in court so friggin fast.  Face it windows 10 and windows 10 mobile is going to be windows 7 very soon,  without the stability, speed and smoothness.
  •   I hope Microsoft can allow desktop users to edit documents using their office apps. It would be nice to start a document on my tablet or phone and finish it on my desktop without having to buy a office subscription. For now I have to keep using Google docs to achieve this but I would prefer to do it with Windows 10.  
  • Double...
  • ..double...
  • A “Runs Everywhere badge" ? In reality, we talk about “Runs on PC”…  We can cross over HoloLens and Surface Hub as they are sold in very low volumes, IoT is not “defined” (and the number of apps is low), Mobile is without focus (and sales), Xbox is doing somewhat good (especially in the US), but still…  No, the whole UWP story feels DoA.
  • Brilliant. Short, simple, concise. They should revolve their ad campaign around it using the apple/google style ads and rejuvenate the MS brand as a whole.
  • They should also create a "Doesn't burst into flames" badge for mobile!
  • NOT to me. in the current mediocre quality state, I would not want windows anywhere! #FireNadella