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What’s the future of Win32 and UWP?

For those who aren’t familiar, Win32 applications are your traditional desktop programs. They are typically installed via a downloaded installer, can be run directly from their .exe files and are located in the Program Files folder of every Windows computer. 

UWPs, on the other hand, are essentially glorified mobile apps as part of Microsoft’s last-ditch effort to gain developer support for Windows Phone. They can only be distributed via the Windows Store, designed from the ground up to be mouse-unfriendly, and use a completely different application architecture than traditional programs. UWPs cannot be launched directly from their exe files; their program files are hidden away in special directories that regular users are not allowed to access. 

The idea behind UWP was to create an application that could be programmed once and run on all Windows devices, both phone and desktop. This way, it would be easier to create software for Windows Phone, thus incentivizing developers to write more mobile apps. However, with the demise of Windows Phone and the failure of Windows 8, it doesn’t seem that UWPs need to exist anymore. Yet, despite this, Microsoft is throwing more and more resources into UWP. They’ve converted all of their first party-software to the UWP platform, made it the only kind of software that can run on Windows VR/AR/MR headsets, and stopped adding new features to Win32 entirely. 

Where is Microsoft going with this? Does Microsoft plan to eventually deprecate Win32? Microsoft hasn’t made their goals or intentions very clear, and it’s causing no small amount of concern in the developer community. The fact that they have no public plans to deprecate Win32 at the moment is little comfort- everything Microsoft has done so far has indicated otherwise.