Desktop Bridge: A stairway to Universal Windows heaven?



Desktop Bridge: A stairway to Universal Windows heaven? 2nd October 2016

The first time I read about Project Centennial, I was quite excited – excited and sceptical. Microsoft promised it would be possible to convert existing desktop applications to the Universal Windows Platform (UWP).

With all the existing Win32-, and .Net-applications I could see massive conversion problems ahead. But now Microsoft has, apparently, delivered.

Project Centennial has been renamed to Desktop Bridge and with the tool Desktop App Converter [1] existing classic Windows-applications can be turned into Universal apps.

There are 16 million Win32 or .Net apps out there, so the ability to convert them ‘painlessly’ to Universal apps is a big thing

16 million classic Windows applications

According to Microsoft, there are 16 million Win32 or .Net applications out there, so the ability to convert them ‘painlessly’ to Universal apps is a big thing.

When the classic Windows applications are converted to UWP-apps, there are a couple of advantages.

Firstly, the classic application is now wrapped as a UWP app and can be distributed via the Windows Store. This makes it easier to get exposure for your apps.

Easy deployment and updates

Of special interest for companies who do not necessarily develop consumer facing apps, but have internal business applications, the Windows Store for Business [2] offers an easy way to deploy and update the internal business apps.

This alone could be very valuable for small organisations which do not necessarily have separate deployment and update systems available. For bigger organisations, the Windows Store for Business could be an attractive alternative to existing deployment systems.

More API’s available

Secondly, when your applications have been converted you will get access to UWP APIs such as Live Tiles, Cortana and notifications. Code changes are of course necessary to actually use those APIs.

No code changes – for some

As you can see on the video with Kevin Gallo from Microsoft’s Windows Developer Platform [3] he explains that roughly half of the applications Microsoft have tried to convert could be done without any code changes.

He also mentions that 10 – 20 percent of applications required some small changes; e.g. some applications are making assumptions about their work-directory, which have to be fixed before the conversion can take place.

And then there are the applications which require some more work. Kevin does not specifically say that 30 – 40 percent of applications needed some more work, but that must be the case if the sums are to add up.

How much work is needed for those kind of applications is not exactly clear, but I can already hear Kevin or another Microsoft-representative say the enlightening “It depends on the actual application.”

Third-party Installers ready

You can already download the Desktop App Converter from Windows store [1] and start to experiment.

If you are using third-party installers such as InstallShield, WiX and Advanced Installer you don’t have to do much. They already have the Desktop Bridge built-in. This means if you are using the latest version of these installers, you will have the option to convert your existing desktop-applications to UWP-apps.

For a more in-depth look at the technology behind Desktop Bridge, there is an excellent video from Microsoft’s Build-conference in March 2016 [4]. To ensure you don’t miss future blog articles and knowledge documents or reports please sign-up to the Curo Bulletin below.

Links

[1] Desktop App Converter from Windows store: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/desktopappconverter/9nblggh4skzw
[2] Windows Store for Business: https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/business-store
[3] A video with a conceptual overview of Desktop Bridge by Windows Developer CVP, Kevin Gallo: https://channel9.msdn.com/Blogs/WindowsDev/Desktop-Bridge-Update-with-Windows-Developer-CVP-Kevin-Gallo
[4] A more in-depth look at the technology behind the Desktop Bridge is given here by Distinguished Engineer, John Sheehan, Microsoft Windows Group: https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2016/B829

Dan Mygind

Author: Dan Mygind

Dan Mygind is a Journalist and Computer Scientist with a strong interest in technology, technology-related businesses, and the transforming effect source code can have on society.
He has worked for startups, SMEs and global IT-organisations such as IBM as a developer, consultant, and IT-architect. With a solid technology background, he has written extensively for a wide variety of publications such as Computerworld as well as writing technical white papers for Microsoft and other companies.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the view and opinion of Curo Talent.
Contact Dan Mygind: mygind{at}writeit{dot}dk

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