One Small Step for Microsoft: Universal Apps

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) introduced a developer’s tool that will allow users to produce apps that can be used on Windows phones, PC, and even the Xbox One. The announcement came as part of the keynote speech at Microsoft’s BUILD 2014 conference. A press release announcing the news was also released Wednesday.

Cross-platform applications are a first for Microsoft. It is part of the company’s transition to a mobile first strategy without abandoning desktops completely by encouraging content that can be used by a wide variety of Microsoft products. Developers will be able to create one app that hypothetically would work across all Windows products. It would also unify Windows as one platform across all devices it puts out — from smartphones to Xbox.

Microsoft’s Kevin Gallo posted a blog about the new unified Windows platform. Gallo, who will serve as a technical head for the universal Windows platform strategy, wrote that the change will expand the reach of Windows apps.

“We’re enabling universal Windows apps for a common Windows runtime today, and we know we have more work to do, including expanding the range of devices running universal Windows apps so developers can reach more customers in more places, from Xbox One and the Internet of Things scenarios, to millions more desktop Windows users,” he wrote.

In a move that further encourages developers, Microsoft has also made its Windows Library for JavaScript open source, allowing developers who write apps using the JavaScript programming language access to pieces of prewritten code useful to their work. The JavaScript is available on Github as a part of Microsoft Open Technologies.

In a post on the Microsoft Open Technologies site, Gianugo Rabellino, director of open source communities at Microsoft, explained that offering the Windows Library for JavaScript, also referred to as WinJS, was a response to feedback Microsoft received from developers.

“A key role we play in the Microsoft Open Technologies Hub is taking top feedback we’ve heard from developers and using it to ensure Microsoft products and services are meeting their needs,” he wrote. Recently, we heard from developers who use HTML/CSS/JavaScript for their app development that they appreciate the reach it gives them across device platforms and they would like to see the same reach for WinJS as well.”

By opening up this code, developers can use it to develop those apps that will now be universal. It also makes creating software written for intended use on Microsoft easier on people who use browsers other than Internet Explorer, a change that will benefit Microsoft, notes CNET’s report.

Microsoft has also launched a Try WinJS website. It provides some sample code in a JavaScript/CSS/HTML framework for developers to experiment with or start using. Brief testing done for the story by the reporter showed that it was functional in three common non-Microsoft Browsers – Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) Safari.

In the end, all of this opening of code and expanding of the platform is really for the developers to innovate so that Windows gets more customers.

More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet: