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Build: Microsoft Turns Spotlight on 'Universal Windows' Platform

Microsoft spent much of Thursday's Build keynote stumping for its new Universal Windows Platform (UWP).

As Microsoft explained at Build, which is taking place this week in San Francisco, the UWP enables developers to create a single binary Windows executable that can adapt and run on the entire range of Windows systems, from phones and PCs to Xbox controllers, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and Microsoft's new Windows Holographic Platform.

David Treadwell, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Operating Systems Group, kicked off a series of demos focused on UWP, emphasizing that developers can target the new APIs to produce one project package that can run on every device. He also talked about opportunities to tailor programs for best-possible experiences on different devices.

"The new adaptive triggers feature lets you respond to changes such as windows size and automatically adjust your layout, all in markup," Treadwell said. "You can tailor [software] on input, orientation, availability of sensors, app services or pretty much any other changes you can detect. You can even create a totally custom XAML here, for each device, all sharing common code."

A series of XAML-focused demos showed how the same app can run, in adapted format, on phone, PC, Xbox and other platforms. The Raspberry Pi demo, for instance, showed how developers can adapt the app for a kiosk scenario, so that the display of library images changes based on detected proximity of users. Another demo showed how the new DirectInk API could be used to add the ability to draw on content displayed on the large-format Surface Hub client.

Bridging Beyond Windows
Treadwell talked about the Microsoft Edge browser (previously code-named "Project Spartan"), which is built on the new Microsoft EdgeHTML Web engine. He said Edge is 150 percent faster than Internet Explorer (IE) 11 in the JetStream benchmark, and 200 percent faster in the Octane 2.0 benchmark. The new browser also delivers gains in compatibility and functionality, Treadwell said.

"Microsoft Edge leaves behind all the Internet Explorer behaviors...that have been built up over the last 20 years," he said. "It has over 4,200 interoperability improvements to ensure that the Web just works."

More broadly, Treadwell described how Windows 10 makes it possible for Web site code to be packaged as a Windows app in the new OS.

"With Windows 10 you can reuse your existing Web site code and create an app that points directly to your URL," he explained. "You can access universal platform APIs directly through the Web code that came down from your server. And you can distribute the app you made in the Windows Store."

Microsoft's effort to make Windows 10 a host for a wide range of different application types extends beyond the Web. Kevin Gallo, director of Windows Developer Platform at Microsoft, walked through adapting a WPF application in Visual Studio to integrate new functionality like Windows toasts and connecting to Azure services.

Android and iOS apps were also discussed in the keynote. As Treadwell explained: "You can update your code to take advantage of key features of the universal Windows platform, like Live Tiles. You can distribute your apps to Windows Store to phones using Windows 10."

Treadwell showed the Android app Lose it! and how it could be integrated to leverage Windows features like Windows Share contracts and connecting to Microsoft Azure cloud services. He explained that a rich SDK for Microsoft services in Java make it easy for developers to reuse Android code to build Windows apps. He also showed how the Math Dreams iOS app was quickly adapted for Windows, by bringing the native Xcode project into Visual Studio.

Microsoft opened the keynote with a bit of self-effacing levity, as Treadwell noted that customers complained about losing the ability to run multiple application windows. He joked that, "One of the things we are doing in Windows 10 is we are bringing back this fine feature from 1986 -- resizable overlapping windows for apps."

More from Build 2015:

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.