Microsoft's Project Centennial App Bridge makes sense of Win32 apps on phone

It's understandable to be skeptical — we've been promised for years a future of "your phone as your PC", despite many failed and aborted attempts from a number of supposedly capable companies. But Microsoft and their partners are closer to realizing this goal than ever before, as evidenced by Continuum and HP's Workspace implementation on the Elite x3. Unaltered legacy apps projected onto a large screen via Continuum is certainly one logical application of the ARM tech. HP's Workspace scenario also exemplifies how win32 apps would execute on the PC in the pocket concept.

Make no mistake, Windows 10 on ARM has the potential to literally put a full PC in a user's pocket. Though some reject the practicality of this aspect of Microsoft's personal computing vision, there are use cases in both the enterprise and consumer sectors for this level of PC mobility. For example, a user with a smartphone ultra-mobile PC (as I call them) would not need to invest in a full PC setup in a location where the full power of a PC may be necessary. A workstation with keyboard and mouse would be sufficient to accommodate the projection of the full Windows environment via Continuum to an accompanying monitor.

Modernizing Win32 apps with Centennial is key.

Continuum is a big part of Microsoft's vision for Win32 apps on an ultra-mobile Surface. Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella stated: "I'm not trying to be another phone guy with the other persons' rules." The other part of the vision, I believe involves the modernization of legacy apps for a mobile platform.

Microsoft has positioned Centennial as the "on ramp" to converting classic Win32 apps to robust mobile-friendly UWP apps.

You have to start somewhere – Convert

Win32 apps on ARM in their current form is not Microsoft's end goal. It's shortsighted to think that this is where Microsoft stops, as many naysayers seem to. Microsoft's Desktop Convertor for the Centennial App Bridge is the beginning of the process of bringing even just a portion of the 16 million desktop apps out there to the Universal Windows Platform. Microsoft's Stefan Wick, Program Manager for the App Model team explains:

That's [the installer] just the beginning of the Bridge. The converter gets you on the Bridge, with the new installer, now that you have converted and you are in the UWP app model you now can evolve your app further.You can use new UWP API's that you couldn't do before. And you can completely migrate all your apps functionality over to UWP and ultimately become a UWP app that can deploy not only to your desktop but to Xbox, HoloLens and so on.

Wick makes clear that Microsoft's goal is to bring legacy apps to the UWP as fully functional Universal Windows Apps that can be deployed across all form factors. When we overlook Microsoft's inclusion of the Desktop Convertor in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update and neglect the goals of the Centennial Bridge, we miss the path Redmond is laying to modernize legacy apps for today's personal computing platform.

Adding some sizzle – Enhance

The conversion software for legacy apps that preceded the recent announcement of Win32 apps on ARM (and eventually phone) is the piece to the puzzle connecting classic apps to the UWP environment. Forgoing the technical jargon used in the video below, converted apps are initially quite basic.

Once converted Win32 apps can be enhanced with UWP features.

Once in the UWP environment, however, they are positioned to be distributed through the Windows Store, provide push notifications, integrate with Cortana, use Live Tiles, run background tasks and access other app services. Microsoft is encouraging developers to "light up" UWP features to enhance their converted legacy app.

As we envision this evolution of legacy apps into UWP apps, the strategy that Microsoft is unfolding with Win32 apps on a Continuum-powered ultra-mobile Surface begins to take shape.

Bring it all over – Migrate

Microsoft's goal is to have all of an app's legacy code migrated over to UWP. Developers can then give the app a modern XAML interface to replace its classic UI. This will allow converted Win32 apps to be interacted with more naturally on a "non-desktop" form factor.

Though a small screen still may not be ideal for some apps, with UWP features like a modern interface, Cortana integration, notifications, Live Ties and other app services, then "Win32" apps on an ultra-mobile PC with Continuum makes much more sense.

Once all code is migrated a modern UI can replace the classic UI.

It is not yet known how Microsoft will execute full Windows on a phone, but just as touch-friendly UWP apps can be launched on a 2-in-1, can we expect touch-friendly converted Win32 apps in time? Of course, Continuum will always allow for the optimal interaction with apps designed for the desktop. Or will a pro ultra-mobile Surface with full Windows exist alongside a Windows Mobile version?

Finally, Microsoft's strategy is platform-focused. Thus, their "reach all" goal is that converted Win32 apps be targeted at all Windows 10 devices of which an ultra-mobile PC is just a part. Redmond's motivation is not founded on its unimpressive mobile position. As such, Microsoft is vested in seeing this "conversion, enhancing, migrating and reaching all" process of the Desktop App Convertor and Centennial Bridge succeed.

Microsoft's ultra-mobile PC vision is coming together

Some people ask, "Who wants PC apps on a phone?" The answer from many: "No one."

I asked, "Who wants PC apps on a PC?": "Everyone."

In April I made the case that smartphones as we know them are dead and that Microsoft was ushering in the age of the ultra-mobile PC. Centennial was key to my view of how to bring Win32 apps to that modern platform. Now Microsoft has introduced full Windows on ARM and cellular PCs; full Windows on phone-style hardware will naturally follow. Your PC in your pocket isn't just a dream, it's a vision with a clear, recognizable, and obvious path forward.

What is Microsoft's next step? A major push of Centennial. It only makes sense.


Smartphones are dead: Evolve or Die; Microsoft's ultra-mobile PC strategy

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

  • Thanks for reading folks! As I shared in "Smartphones are dead Part II: Evolve or Die; Microsoft's ultra-mobile PC strategy", Redmond in route to bringing an ultra Mobile Surface to the Surface line that will occupy that spot which was initially related to the cancelled Surface Mini. It will also ultimately benefit from fully converted Win32 apps that have the benefit of a more modern XMAL UI. As I shared, in November 2015, in "Will the rumored Surface phone be a reimagined Surface Mini" this device will retain the things Panos likes about the Surface Mini, which he still uses as a Mole Skin, such as the Note📝 taking/pen (and inking) focus. I also pondered in a piece I wrote in January 2015, during my pre-Windows Central day, "Is a 7" Surface Mini phablet on the horizon. I'm not sure how big Microsoft will go with an ultramobile Surface, but "folding" or hinged concepts seem popular among some fans. My piece "Did Microsoft give us a glimpse of the Surface phone?" explores that idea a bit. It's interesting watching the ongoing narrative of this analysis unfold. It's impossible to see everything, but as we delve into the shadows of murky details, communicated plans, industry trends, technology investments and more, we seem to be coming up with an accurate view of Microsoft's strategy. As I strive to remain proactive in my analysis, maintaining a long-term view and big picture perspective, I think we're going to see an extra push from Redmond for Centennial soon. Whatever happens, these are interesting times, and I'm glad to be along for the ride...LET'S TALK!!!
  • As a developer, I can say that Centennial just won't work as a useful 'bridge' to UWP on mobile. Yes it is useful for deploying Win32 apps to the store and that's great but so many Win32 applications are written using technology so far from UWP that people cannot migrate code. You really are talking about starting from scratch with a UWP app. Even the UWP extensions which permit notifications to be added (example) aren't useful on mobile as you're not going to want the x86/ARM emulator application running constantly in the background killing the battery to generate a notification from say your old but modified accounts system (example). I do see the x86/ARM being a game changer for the mobile PC though when docked, but not for when mobile. That will permit the full desktop to operate and conventional applications to run. Great. But Centennial is not going to be used to convert them into anything magically universal. I hope however that any mobile PC would permit the full desktop to be effectively started when mobile (i.e. unsuspend Win32 user tasks) and view via an interface similar to the Remote Desktop zoomable display. That would in a pinch enable a truly mobile PC operation, but something that would typically auto-suspend and use no power when the phone is sleeping.
  • They said you can add background tasks too to the converted app which would negate everything your talking about. You're right however about a converted app needing alot of extra work if you intend to run it on non-continuumed mobile (such as having to add background tasks, notifications, new UI, etc.)
  • There is no emulator running at all, it's doing the binary translation compilation when you run the app so it's a system function but that only targets Desktop ARM, Mobile lacks legacy APIs for this solution to actually work. You'd be running a Windows 10 on ARM with Phone UI on a phone for this feature, not Windows Mobile.
  • I tend to disagree on this, however for a lot of legacy apps it's spot on. A well designed WPF app is quite easy to port to UWP manually depending on what APIs are being used, but really it applies to any well designed software where your UI is separate from logic. The way I envision this going forward is as a staged process, first step is getting on the Windows Store with no bells and whistles, next step is to start adding bells and whistles for desktop, then from there slowly building out a UWP UI and porting legacy code across to UWP APIs. For smaller apps I think it's definitely a lot easier to start from scratch but for large applications this is perfect for "getting to market" to monetize quickly.
  • @mbrdev...yep!🙂 and that's pretty much the sequence Microsoft laid out as their strategy - Convert, Enhance, Migrate and finally Reach All. 😉
  • The number of WPF apps are small in the big scheme of applications written in C++, VB, Delphi, C# WinForms, Java etc. WPF apps would be the ones with least effort, but that can still be a significant rework. I'm just being real here from someone who does this stuff daily.
  • No argument there at all, in fact probably 99% of all legacy apps will be a pain in the ass and much easier to start from scratch. But for that magical 1% of well designed not too ancient .NET based apps this bridge is a fantastic time saver. I work mostly with legacy apps so for me it's easier to just start from scratch in UWP but there is 1 app that I'm looking at using the converter for that I estimate will save me a couple of weeks work at least.
  • Is there anything specific to the 835 chipset that we currently know of that indicates the reason why it's the minimum requirement for WonARM? I'm sure it's faster than the 820 and has better graphics but is there anything specific to that SoC that makes it especially suited to windows emulation? I saw where the emulation is hardware based so is that the main driver here?
  • From what I have read they have it working on an 820 so I doubt any specific hardware features are actually required. Qualcomm could well have added some ASIC's to the 835 to help performance though. I think the most likely reason is Microsoft need this to be a success so need the first time user experience to be good, performance will be a huge part of this. Setting a minimum spec of an 835 won't hinder early adopters and the hardware upgrade cycle over a few years will make it available on more phones.
  • Even if they were all rewritten as UWP apps, there's not a single win32 app that exists today that I would want on my phone. Not ONE. The existing Win32 apps are targetted specifically for use on PC. And the apps that Microsoft lacks today in its store (but which are being created for iOS and Android) are apps for mobile use for which no win32 equivalent exists because PC's were never truly mobile the way smartphones are. Converted Win32 apps will never help close the app gap, simply because the gap is about an entirely different type of apps. I fully agree with realwarder in this thread who said "I do see the x86/ARM being a game changer for the mobile PC though when docked, but not for when mobile." This mobile PC you keep talking about Jason (as if not calling it a smartphone will somehow help MS) is destined for failure exactly because it's not mobile: this device, when used as a mobile device that you can take with you in your pocket and use wherever you are will be the same device that consumers have rejected today. Now, when used in continuum mode it will suddenly become a very powerful device. But at that point you have lost the mobility part because you need to connect it to another screen and a keyboard and mouse. So what is the point of carrying a device with you that is "useless" as a mobile device and only becomes interesting when you connect it to other stuff? It's a 2-in-1 device that can only do 1 thing well enough. In other words, it's not really a 2-in-1. The same problem applies to the Surface tablets today: they are usefull when used as a PC but ****** as a tablet simply because they lack apps. And that's why I, unfortunately, have to drag an Android tablet with me next to my SP3 every day.
  • How about desktop browsers, with desktop plugins? No need for mobile Edge plugins when you can run it with desktop versions. Or desktop FF.
  • Yeah, desktop browsers could be useful. Of course, there's probably a good reason why mobile Edge doesn't support those plugins in the first place (UI, battery life).
  • There should be no excuse, android has had apps with plugins for a long time, and IOS, the slow, usually feature-absent OS even has it.
  • Sorry NokianWP,  IOS is far from SLOW.   Its the fastest OS available right now on mobile devices.  Its has lots of features too not found in any other mobile OS.  comparing to windows moible......features like APPs,  3d touch is awesome, control center is very cool.  The notifications are much more feature rich than windows mobile.  Yes,  before you call me a apple lemming/fanboy/ whatever you want to call me....This is being typed on a windows 10 dell touchscreen laptop.  I tried to stay with windows mobile but it was slow/and lacking any real world features that a mobile os needs. 
  • Off the top of my head, Quicken is a Win32 app I'd like to see converted to UWP. Store the file on One Drive and it's available everywhere I am.
  • People like you are the problem, where all you say is no no no and don't ever want it to work... =/
  • I use my Surface Pro 4 as a tablet over using it as a laptop 90% of the time, imo apps do not hurt using Windows in a tablet form at all. Remember most cell phone apps people use are websites anyway. Also my wife is a huge Apple person and she uses my Surface almost nightly now as a tablet and had a choice of me getting her IPad Pro or Surface Pro to use as a tablet or laptop, she chose the Surface Pro. So saying it's not a good tablet is just your opinion, not close to fact.
  • I have a Surface Pro 3 and I agree that it is terrible without the keyboard. Anytime you see one, the keyboard is attached. You never see anyone with a Surface without the keyboard!
  • totally bleached. I never used mine without the keyboard either. The only time I used my surface without the keyboard was reading magazines....but texture was so flaky with their windows app, that I just got rid of my surface. I now have an ipad for full tablet duties and its miles beyond windows tablets. I do have a new dell 13" 2 in 1 that replaced my surface for notebook work. Very cool device.
  • I really like my SP3 as a Desktop that I can take with me as a laptop when needed. If I typed more on it though, then I would have a real laptop. the only time I would remove the keyboard is watching movies on airplanes where I want more room. Then I only take the keyboard off after starting the movie!
  • Same here.   I will miss mine while flying but both my ipad air 2 and Dell 2 in 1 will be OK.  
  • - Some people ask, "Who wants PC apps on a phone?" The answer from many: "No one." Perhaps regular phone users say no. But for enterprise would say yes. An inexpensive mobility device to give employees, and the business doesn't have to re-develop their Win32 software. Especially useful for mobile users that require a Win32 laptop on the go. Police force, construction workers, and the like. Even the company issues laptops that we plug into a docking station in the office. If that laptop took on a much smaller form factor, we'd all be happier than having to lug a 15" laptop around. A separate dumb laptop without internals. Just battery, screen, keyboard, mouse. And we're good at home too. Most importantly. The Win32 apps that we need to emulate are not graphic intensive, they are not CPU intensive. But they do need to work. So emulation works fine in this scenario. +++ath0
  • Was just thinking, every celluar PC purchased is basically a Windows Phone....Microsoft basically flipped everything to their advantage, like overnight!!!! LMAO!!!
  • App gap?! (flips ARM switch) umm, what app gap? #TheGiantHasAwoken
  • iOS apps 2 million
    Windows apps 16 million
  • Win32 apps on my smart phone is the next best big thing and a game changer. Maybe the hardware hasn't caught up yet but it's coming, and I can't wait to have it.
  • It is happening.  SD820 uses a 14nm process chip and SD835 uses a 10nm process chip.  The 7nm process chip will arrive in 2018, 5nm process chip will arrive in 2020 and 3nm process chip will arrive in 2022 according to TSMC's production schedule.  The ARM chips will become increasingly more powerful and energy efficient.  Cellllar PC devices will pop up all over in different form factors.
  • I like it except the "modern UI" stuff. All "modern" apps look hideous with unnecessary animations and huge fonts. For all there fancy animations they never look or perform as snappy as legacy stuff. I want modern apps to like like all other classic windows app at 100%. Now when windows is at 100% the modern apps look like they are in 125% mode.
  • "Some people ask, "Who wants PC apps on a phone?" The answer from many: "No one."
      Expand the question beyond the loyal Microsoft fanbase and the more pertinent question should be, do regular phone users want PC apps at all? Are phone users really crying out for old x86 programs, on their phone or otherwise? The answer will be mostly no, and that really renders the whole question moot.
  • its not necessarily about having PC Apps displaying on the "phone", its more about having PC Apps usable through the phone in Continuum. The negative people keep saying "who wants PC apps on the phone". U guys keep overlooking one of the main advantages...having everything that's on your PC with you at all times, in your pocket & on One Device.
  • It has nothing to do with negative or positive.  It's just reality.   IBM lost the desktop battle before there was really the word desktop in the late 80s - early 90s to Microsoft but the war was actually lost in the mid-80s.   MS lost the mobile war in 2005-2008, it's over.   Although, you in particular may want win32 on your phone, to the masses they don't even really know what that means and diffently aren't asking for it.  Beside that nothing stopping someone from just remoting in to their windows machine on any device (more or less). This conversation is like 3-5 years too old.  Its not like MS isn't making a profit but as far as some huge move back, I think that is wishful thinking. 
  • no one asked cause no one thought it was possible, no one asked about xbox 360 games on xbox one cause no one thought it was possible, now its possible and 50% of xbox users make use of it
  •   Its possible to run win32 on 8 inch tablets... nobody cares about that either.  Xbox 360 games was always possible as long as someone built an software emulator just like you could play original Xbox games on the Xbox 360 or PS2 games on the PS3.   I play Nintendo 64 games on my original Xbox, I even play old Atari games on it.   (not sure your post is serious)   I think the Windows Phone is already better than the iPhone in many areas, but so what, the masses don't care.   Kind of like during the 90s when companies were ditching Novell products for Microsoft... the Novell products were light years better... so.  If I asked 10 common people, hey look, this windows phone can run win32 apps.  My bet is at least 9 of them go, what is a win32 app.  I see nothing wrong with win32 on the phone, but its not really going to change much.... let alone you can already remote in to your win10 machine right now.
  • Yep, just like I run NES, SNES, N64, Sega MS, Genisis games all on a Sony PSP.... better than a 3ds if you want just classics and pretty good battery life for what it is..
  • The first desktop app I want for my cellular ARM PC is Putty(oops, that app has already been converted), then I want SecureCRT. Soon after I want DNS Admin and Hyper-V manager. The thought of being able to quickly make a change, start a VM, do a show config on a Cisco router, all without waiting to get back to my PC or remote desktop from my phone but while im in the Datacenter is mind blowing!!
  • This. Most people would probably won't know what a Win32 app is, so the key here is MARKETING/ADVERTISING. Microsoft should promote the hell out of this feature if it wants people to notice.
    And as for people not wanting this feature, I beg to disagree. I don't know where you live but for a student like me in a developing country (Philippines), this is HUGE.
    If Microsoft and its OEMs manages to produce affordable cellular PCs, Windows on ARM will have a chance.
  • Hi @theefman actually the question is evisioned posed beyond the loayal fanbase.🙂 if you look at precisely what's asked,
    Some people have asked, "Who wants PC apps on a phone?" The answer from many, "No one." You failed to include the question I asked, I asked, "Who wants PC apps on a PC?"
    When you look at this within the context of the analysis and what Microsoft is doing, from my perspective and what I believe they're doing, they're not position phones in the market, they're playing to they're strength, they're positioning ultra mobile cellular capable PCs that do everything a PC and a phone would do. Now, is this a slam dunk? Of course not. They have to play it from the angle that Yes, everyone wants a PC, so they're making this ultramobile PC as capable as possible by endowing it, through full Windows, modernized Win32 apps as fully functional UWP apps and Continuum. Furthermore, this in no way precludes the efficacy of, nor the importance of getting all of those popular Mobile-centric apps on board. Just as those apps work on a 2-in-1s, alongside legacy apps, they'll do the same on this ultramobile Continuum powered cellular PC. How they market it, they're success with getting developers to covert apps and win developers that have been reluctant thus far to embrace Windows all play into this. But perspective needs to be reframed from a phone perspective whether individuals agree with the strategy or not. Microsoft, is approaching is from a PC perspective. So who wants PC apps on PC?: "Everyone." Is the rhetorical question I asked and answered. And if Microsoft is successful, with they're difficult and grand vision and strategy they'll get mobile developers through Islandwood as well; thereby converting popular mobile iOS apps. Centennial will bring legacy apps and Continuum will make everything play together smoothly as this one device conforms to a user's context. Will the plan work? I don't know. But that's what they're doing. Its been time to reframe our perspective folks, and now more so than ever, it's not a phone perspective anymore.
  • "So who wants PC apps on PC?"  ​As theefman mentioned, I think even this is the wrong question within the bigger picture or more like moot.   At this point, the question is more or less do the masses need PC apps or even Windows?   I mean that is what this comes down to.   I agree its not a phone perspective, its whether Windows has been selected to be eliminated like the dinosaur.   Now, don't confuse my comments to what I would rather -- I don't get the whole iPhone closed system mentality and I have no use for their products or Google's products.   Also, we have to remember their are currently billions of Windows machines still out in the world, but really it comes down to how long MS stays with the legacy i.e. Win32.   Microsoft is more or less stuck as many super large companies do i.e. IBM and MaBell -- the legacy earns money but stamps out the ability to compete with more flexible companies i.e. Apple and Google.   With that said, MS still makes a good profit on many of their other products but windows is more or less dead man walking.
  • You do have to wonder that if you already need to convince the people on *this* site that they need to reframe their perspective to understand this strategy, how will this ever convince the rest of the world? That alone should have warning bells go off. "they're positioning ultra mobile cellular capable PCs that do everything a PC and a phone would do." Except for 1 tiny detail: the phone does not do what most people today expect a phone to do. "They have to play it from the angle that Yes, everyone wants a PC" Everybody wants a PC? Not conviced of that at all. For a lot of people, a PC is overkill. "Microsoft, is approaching is from a PC perspective." Of course they do. It's also the only thing have been able to do and not fail. And so they keep doing it. It all feels kinda desperate to me: we failed at mobile so now we're gonna try to push this PC thing in every direction we can (up with Surface Studio and down with ARM). But it will only get them so far. And I'm not convinced that this will make the world sit up and take notice of Microsoft. Not when it comes to making mobile devices.
  • Actually I don't think we or most, Windows "Phone" Central audience (as this site was previously called due to its initial phone focus) has that much more inclination to shift our thinking from a "phone" focused paradigm and all that entails to the intricacies' of a PC focused paradigm and strategy than Joe consumer. Actually, our passion and knowledge may make many here even more resistant to the subtleties' of the shift that will be introduced to the market as a whole. Microsoft will likely market this in a way that doesn't have an "in your face-switch-from-iphone-android tactic). It'll likely start with a degree of aggression in the enterprise, while cellular PCs (full Windows on ARM, tablets, laptops and 2-in-1s) from partners hit the consumer space as a harbinger of the "phone", gaining mindshare for the concept of an always connected highly Mobile cellular PC. Ideally, the push for developer support will also continue and see some success winning developer support during that time as those nee type of PCs (hopefully) gain popularity. Then the phone (ultramobile PC) will follow in the wake of a market accustomed to full always connected PCs on ARM, tablets, 2-in-1s and laptops. In this way the convincing will be through a subtle introduction of a new type of product. Just as Joe Consumer has no idea about what we're talking about now, but will likely embrace always connected cellular PCs, laptops and tablets and 2-in-1s as they come out in the coming year. When that always connected PC concept that people will have grown accustomed to morphs into a "phone" maybe in the following year, maybe they won't need to be convinced, it may just make sense to them. Especially if developers may find it more appealing to develop mobile apps for always connected cellular tablets(particularly smaller ones) 2-in-1s and laptops, as they hit the market and increase in use. We'll see how things pan out. But I believe the initial introduction of Cellular PCs into the market will play a role in both consumers minds and developers motivation.
  • Developers are no longer going to be motivated to create UWP at all. Why bother targeting just W10 and the tiny W10M when you can just stick with Win32 and continue supporting Windows 7 and 8. Windows on ARM will be nice as chips increase in power and efficiency but this will slow developer interest in UWP. It will take several years before legacy Windows versions are irrelevant.
  • Or perhaps the opposite. MSFT is trying to encourage W32 developers to (partially, at least) port their apps to UWP, and providing the tools to do so. If anything, this should increase the uptake of UWP as W32 developers easily port their apps over. It's not clear that they would have invested at all in UWP without Centennial; what Microsoft is trying to do is to nudge them along gently with little investment required, and while retaining backward compatibility for Win 7/8.
  • Can they capture and maintain 10-20% of the market with a business centric product?
    One would presume yes and I guess there in lies the strategy. If you can grab a sustainable chunk of the corporate market, others will also follow.
    In time, 20-30% market share??
    Not enough to dominate but certainly enough to be viable and influential.
    At this point in time, 20-30% market would I bet be awesome for all concerned and who knows where it will finish up.
    Interesting times indeed.
  • Let's take a historical point of view on APIs here. Win32 was introduced in WinNT 3.1 and Windows 95 as a replacement for Win16. There's roughly 11 years between Win32 (1994-ish) and Win64 (2005). I'd argue it took another 5-7 years before Win64 apps really began to take off in any significant number (2010-2012). Point being, here we are with another API change with Microsoft. And unlike last time where we have to worry about which API, the bitness of the OS, and the architecture the OS runs on, now we have something different. There's a clearer path to go from Win32/Win64 to UWP. You can phase in what is possible when the development cycle permits. Targeting PC or Xbox or x86 or ARM is easier than ever. But it's not going to happen overnight. I understand the arguments about how terrible it would be to plunk a W32 app in a UWP container and run it on ARM and expect it to sensibly do things like notifications without modification or killing a battery. For mobile, I agree with others that this approach makes sense for "Win32 apps work when the phone is in Continuum Mode" otherwise in Phone mode they're suspended. Continuum is the key to making this happen - I wish MS would be a bit more clear about how different classes of devices running Win32 on ARM would operate. It wouldn't make sense for a Phone form factor to run on the same start menu and launch apps a tablet or PC would display. However, It does make sense when you consider Continuum. An ARM tablet shouldn't have the Phone interface, but should be a compromise between desktop and phone for an all-touch scenario. An ARM Laptop/PC would be at the same end of the spectrum as an existing x86/x64 Laptop/PC with no requirement for a mobile-specific UI. To that extent, that's how I see Windows on ARM working out. Removing architecture as a programming consideration and moving toward a model where form factor (consumption model) is king. Bridging the best features & re-using code where possible and phasing in that over time will generate some interesting possibilities. Xbox games that span architecture and device. Win32 apps that can work on a phone when connected to a Lapdock or Desktop Dock. One of those paths appeals to gamers, another appeals to the enterprise. The key is all of the devices run one common OS and use the same API & Runtime. I can't think of anything more monumental than appealing to several market segments simultaneously, *and* be good at all of them.
  • I certainly do. Do you know how much of a pain in the ass it is to send java code to phones? .java and .txt (or something of that caliber) dont work on friend's iphones. Having an IDE that could scale the code just to look through it would be amazing.
  • Mmm...I'm not the most tech savvy, but I have always had the view that the continuum project was a 'stepping stone'. From day one it has always felt like a beta for us to test. I use it a lot in meetings and its just one of those things that seems 'out of place' or 'too early'. With the potential of Win32, continuum looks to make sense with the scaling up facility. Of course, I could be talking out of my @rse, but continuum has always prompted me to think 'why?'
  • I think Continuum has some rough edges, but MS has been iterating it pretty well with the various releases. I use it every day I'm at work. My work computer usage is tracked, so anything I want to look up on my break, etc., is available for my employer to see. With Continuum, I'm using my device projected onto a screen, so no privacy issues. I use Continuum when I travel, and it saves me having to lug a laptop around. It's a brilliant concept and I'm excited to see where it goes.
  • I believe continuum will ultimately contain all UI's, desktop-tablet-mobile-holographic. The ultra-mobile device you have in your pocket will connect to whatever screen size you want to use and provide the ideal UI. So centennial apps would in a first stage only work while in desktop mode.
  • Akira - that's part of my point. When people are busy slamming a new technology, they tend to not be thinking creatively as to what new possibilities will be opened up. I don't just look at Win32 Apps/programs being able to run on a "phone", I see it as just one thing that a more powerful piece of tech (that fits in your pocket) can do
  • I look at it as, maybe then we can use the Spotify desktop client on our phones which means I can finally use Spotify Connect feature to control Spotify on my ps4 or surface from my phone! The windows phone version of the app doesn't have it for whatever stupid reason..
  • Fuzzy - Yep, Who would have thought people would pay for satellite radio when OTA radio is FREE. And now, every new car has satellite capability. Spot On!
  • What will happen to Windows 10 Mobile? Will they keep supporting it? They had told that they'll support Windows 10 Mobile because it runs on ARM, now full Windows 10 runs on it. They have no reason to support Windows 10 Mobile now. I hope they don't abandon us.
  • I think the Windows 10 Mobile features/interface will be migrated into Windows 10.  Then Windows 10 will be used on the phone.  To the mobile user, the interface/features will remain the same... until you hooked it up to a larger monitor. From a development perspective, this is way better.
  • Windows 10 Mobile = Windows 10 = Windows 10 ARM = OneCore.. Think of the Windows 10 mobile as part legacy, part modern, phase out the legacy parts and replace with Windows 10 ARM.
  • Nice to see the term Universal Windows Package (Desktop + UWP) and not Universal Windows Platform like people keep saying.
  • Porting a "pure" win32 app on uwp is just a bad idea in my opinion.... They belong to two different eras.
    Pure UWP is perfect for touch/mobile/scales from 5" to 80", pure win32@ARM is for next generation of arm pc/laptops, with a mouse and a kB.
    An intermediate, "migrated" app would not be a good uwp, nor a good win32 app...
    Ms confusing and fragmenting now.
  • Agree that a migrated app would not be a good UWP.  The author said as much, this is just a stepping stone. Though I disagree that this is fragmenting, this is the opposite - it's combining.  No more separate Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile.  Just a single Windows 10 that adapts.  And if it's on a large display, cool - you've got Win32 apps at your disposal.  If you're on a small screen, or don't need to use Win32 apps.  Then don't.  But the option is there.
  • The main benefit fo a Win32 UWP app is for easy install, uninstall & updating purposes. You can package a Win32 into a UWP (APPX) and its still a Win32 at heart. You just don't have to deal with DLL files & registry entries being tossed around your systems during install...and the developer can easily update it via the store.
  • I think it's fair to say that, generally, people--business or consumer--aren't looking to run Win32 programs on their phones.  But this point is from the perception of what current Win32 programs look and act like.  IF, the process of migrating Win32 programs comes with the ability to easily, seamlessly, see and interact with the mobile "presentation" of that program, the attraction becomes stronger.  I liken this a bit to the ability of many websites to look and behave one way if they detect you are on a desktop browser and then behave a different way if you're using a phone browser.  Many websites totally blow this.  But some really have an awesome mobile web presence.  I understand the progression as described.  First, modernizing the installer so that it couches the Win32 app in a Store manner, then various code is updated to take advantage of new APIs, sandboxing, etc., and eventually a complete morph into full-fledged UWP.  Some programs will lend themselves well to that.  I believe many will not.  Rather than being a naysayer outright, I think the point is that some Win32 apps will move to UWP fairly easily and be as useful when in mobile mode as Continuum/PC mode...just the interaction will be different.  I think also that some Win32 apps, despite all efforts and "magic", will only be useful while in Continuum mode.  And why wouldn't that be okay, seriously?  There are legitimately some programs that I'd like to be ABLE to access and run no matter where I may be, but I may only actually start up a particular app when the "conditions are right", e.g., I can dock with a monitor, keyboard and mouse.  Example: I have a music and video studio in my home.  I use Sonar X2 for my music creation/arranging.  There is no universe where this program is useful on my phone.  There is no way it could be scaled or otherwise rewritten to look good or be usable in any meaningful way on my phone.  BUT, if it could still be a real UWP and be installed on my phone, I COULD use it if I'm visiting, say, one of my fellow musicians and want to collarborate on the work and could dock my phone with his monitor, keyboard and mouse.  That has value. The constraints really come down to, from a user's perspective, power and storage.  And, commensurately, cost.  I'll be quite honest with you.  I hate paying more than $500 for a PC.  I hate paying more than $200 for a phone.  I feel it was a complete waste to pay $600 EACH for two Lumia 950 devices (one for me, one for my wife).  They are ugly, cheap-feeling and VERY poor performing devices.  And, honestly, I love Windows Phone 8.1 and hate Windows 10.  Given these facts, it will be a very hard sell to convince me to spend the kind of money I'm SURE Microsoft and other OEMs are going to start demanding for a "mobile PC" that can run W10 completely on ARM and have access to the Win32-come-UWP apps.  I see the prices going UP, not down.  If I can get a tablet or a full PC for half the price of a Windows Mobile PC, it's going to be difficult to convince me to buy into the mobile PC.  My world consists of always carrying  my Lumia 1020 as my daily driver--it's just a better looking, better feeling device with WP8.1--my Lumia 950 (for continuing to test W10, reinforcing daily how much I hate it), and my Surface Pro 3.  I literally do go virtually everywhere loaded like that.  If I'm going somewhere that I can't bring my tablet, I can guarantee I'm not going to be doing anything that requires it anyway (e.g., movie theater, dinner, etc.).  So, I'm not going to need to do any non-"smartphone) type activities.
  • Sounds good but, what are they gonna do concerning the one app one window thing, where i need two or three instances of the same app running at the same time do they have a plan for that. Secondly, where are some of these centenial apps at that are out right now, not just microsoft stuff but other apps from other companies. Is there a list somewhere? And thirdly, how is this working out for microsoft so far? what numbers are there, How many centenial apps are already converted, are in a conversion stage? Anything?
  • When @realwarder mentioned a zoomable remote desktop-type display, I cheered. Love the Win32/Snapdragon developments coming, but for me, it's still the one or two apps that will make the difference between useful and game changing. I use outdoor mapping (UK Ordnance Survey and Admiralty) for work. It'll be great if I can dock my 'phone' to a screen at home or hotel in the evening and view my loaded maps. But if I can't efficiently access them in the Win32 Memory Map app and run GPS tracking, without ANY cell signal, on that same phone screen, then I still have to look elsewhere for a solution. In fact I bought a standalone Garmin GPS for that reason and have held off buying into iphone/android 'cos I like the simplicity of being all in with one (Windows) ecosystem. Just started using the Teamviewer app and, with the big L950XL screen, I find it pretty usable. A zoomable display for Win32 apps doesn't seem too bad. Plus, Memory Map don't seem interested in updating their desktop app to UWP (here's hoping, though...).
  • It's very questionable if this will be a success or complete failure. The tech is there for the most part (Some specialties not so, like gamers, HD/4k Video editors or graphic artists who need high end video). Android tried to do something like this 4-5 years ago (time frame ?) and as we all know it failed HARD. Maybe in the busness area would love this, as a lower cost per person but, consumers not so much. Even the current 950XL or the such, I find no appeal to connect my phone to use pretty much RT apps, I need Win32 x86.x64, NON store apps. Till that happens, it's just a nice feature that wont do good. If I have to "convert" then as a end user, or need to PREY the devs will update it, it will fail for most places. I want to take a CD, install an app (USB CD player ?) and run apps, some wont work on the phone but, that is to be expected but, EXPECT be able to use them when I connect a monitor...
  • Yeah, new ways to add useless opaque abstraction!
  • great article
  • Thanks Mani!
  • So my phone will be as powerful as a $3,000 six core i7 PC rig! Why get a Surface Book when all you need is your $40 phone!!! Awesome!!
  • All I'm asking is my phone to come with 4GB of RAM, Snapdragon 835 and be able to emulate Windows 32/ x64 development apps: Java, Scala, RStudio, Eclipse, Python, C++ compilers, etc. this is the true reason I didn't invest in a Lumia 950 or 950XL and Continuum, since all this is not available.
  • I just want nintendo ds emulator app on windows phones.
  • Good article. Ultra mobile PC is the next thing. The form factor of the smartphone is easy to carry, long battery life, and adds LTE, GPS, WIFI, BT, NFC, wireless charging etc. I look at my daily usage, I rarely place a single regular phone call or text message. Most of my daily work is done on WiFi or LTE data. I hardly place regular phone calls or texts. So an ultra mobile PC is what I want. A capable mobile PC device with all the connectivity, plus camera, long battery life. The ARM will enable it on the hardware side. What MS needs to do is make a new form factor for the ultra mobile PC, that takes the advantages of the smartphone form factor and merge it with productivity form factor. For current WM users, the mobile app gap is not an issue, otherwise we would not be using WM. But for W10 is get more droid/iOS users to use W10 for mobile, they will have to create a new device that is more advanced, and cool to use. Then the mobile app gap will narrow, or become more irrelevant.
  • Meh...wait and see. So many bridges so many fires.
  • Bridge didn't work for mobile apps.  why would this bridge make windows moible relevant? 
  • Bridge work for mobile app if mobile run x86 app and with Windows on arm x86 run on arm
    so bridge work for mobile apps
    They can be more touch friendly but it depends only for xaml ui,a small part of an app that can be modify later
  • If the Centennial is made available to all versions of Windows 10, instead of W10 pro 64 bit, and possibly to older versions of Windows (7,8.1) it would be easier for us to take interests in it.......
  • I cannot help but to think that on a consumer level this will be a fail. I know that for scientist in the field and Business people on the go it will be useful. The average person though will not use this. Microsoft has already made the statement that they are going Business. If your company doesn't use Windows Mobile then this will be absolutely pointless. For Windows Mobile fans, you are already used to disappointment and there's more of it coming our way. From the very beginning Microsoft has tried to dictate to us what we wanted and they were wrong. I remember on Windows Phone 7 you couldn't even get custom ringtones. Never mind that my two year old flip phone from Trac Phone had custom ringtones. They simultaneously told us that we didn't want multi core processors when Android began dominating the market with them. And from the very beginning users called for apps and Microsoft turned a deaf ear. Face it friends, what we have is a different and beautiful UI that will NEVER give us what we want. It's like having a poster of a super model. It's lovely to look at but inside you know that you will never get more from this and even if you could speak they would shoot you down anyway!
    Knowing this, I have to start looking to the average girl next door who may in fact care what I think. Android, are you free this weekend?
  • And now there is the feedback/preview/insider program which negates the majority of your comment. If you happen to one day find yourself on an Xbox One and happen to be in the systems updates section and notice how easy it is to check for thanks are necessary, just enjoy....
  • Can you explain in what way does Feedback/Preview/Insider negates the majority of his comment? Actually, if you used the Feedback Hub for more than 10 minutes you'd notice it makes the issue with Microsoft even more apparent. People asked and voiced their opinions countless times for features they wanted (and it's nothing out of this world, mind you, it's features the competition already has) only to be completely ignored or be acknowledged by a developer but be told they won't implement said features. We're talking about Windows "phones" here, not Xbox consoles. And the update cycle for that is completely different and irrelevant to the discussion. Let's face it, they're only pushing updates on Xbox quickly (and more properly tested) because they got a lot of backlash with the Xbox One's initial strategy. It's the only division at Microsoft that listens to what people want to some extent. Microsoft needs to enable Win32 apps run with no input from the original developer and make it clear Windows 10 on mobile devices will be able to do so. It's better having 18 million apps that run fine on Continuum but don't have an optimized interface than having just 180 that are optimized and all the rest be left out. You can always sacrifice a nice, cohesive UI for more functionality and that's what Windows 10 on mobile desperately needs. Don't geat me wrong, it's a nice theory on paper, but how many developers will invest money and resources to adapt their software? I can assure you there won't be a lot. But if Win32 programs ran out of the box, then the platform would start looking more attractive, and maybe delevopers would pay attention to it. Microsoft can't afford to take shortcuts here. They have something on their hands with great potential and can't waste it once more.
  • Another puff piece from the chief puffer at Windows Central.  So you think this is gonna happen like your Wharton Brooks phone, eh Jason? LOL
  • Actually eryker, like you and everyone, I have no idea what IS going to happen. This is an analysis of Microsoft's strategy. Every company has one - a plan, a set course of objectives toward the goal, and a myriad of challenges along the way. Not to have a plan is foolish.
    My, and yours, and many analysts observation, or articulation of that plan is not a declaration that it will absolutely happen as designed. Even the company's themselves know things can change. But again, not to have a plan is foolish. My job(and joy) is to look into what these strategies may be and articulate them in a way everyone can understand.
    Thanks for reading. 😉
  • And most people would be would you would be targeting when selling want to sell as many as possible...going after enterprise is only a blip in the overall market.  
  • Good analysis. Lets wait for more...
  • The author seems to be conflating two quite separate things: running W32 applications (NOT "apps", please!) on ARM (i.e. CPU emulation and the Win32 API emulation), and converting W32 applications to UWP. The latter requires the former, but the former could stand alone entirely on its merits.  The ability to run W32 apps on ARM CPUs would open up some interesting and exciting possibilities for workstation-class but battery-friendly laptops and hybrids. The rest of the story sounds far less convincing to me.  It's a shame the author has bought into the Microsoft "puff": "Adding some sizzle – Enhance Once in the UWP environment, however, they are positioned to be distributed through the Windows Store, provide push notifications, integrate with Cortana, use Live Tiles, run background tasks and access other app services. Microsoft is encouraging developers to "light up" UWP features to enhance their converted legacy app." Sizzle?  Really?  You call that "sizzle"?  As a user of many pretty complex W32 and 64-bit applications I can't get excited about any of those.  Honestly, I don't give a stuff about Visual Studio 2017 having a live tile and integrating with Cortana!  Nor SolidWorks.  Nor Photoshop.  And the author seriously underestimates the challenge of converting a dense W32 user interface to the touch-friendly paradigm in UWP. And yes, UWP really does mean "touch-friendly".  The touch UI is creeping into every Microsoft product, even when they are used on mouse/keyboard workstations.  The 'File Save' dialog in Office 2016 takes up the entire window, for goodness' sake!  The Settings window has four times the screen area as Control Panel and offers less functionality.  Honestly, I can't see many vendors of professional-grade W32 applications bothering to move their programs along that path to UWP.  Let's be honest, nobody does professional-level software development, photo editing, video editing, 3D CAD, desktop publishing, or even word processing on a tablet or a phone.  They do that stuff on a decent workstation with a top-class mouse and keyboard, and most likely two screens or more. As it happens, I think most W32 programs that could be replaced with touch-orientated alternatives already have been.  There are plenty of lightweight, user-friendly photo-tweaking apps, media players and so on already out there.  So Bridge is too late for them. UWP looks like it should be great for content consumption applications.  But for content creation?  No way.