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  • Universal Windows Programs (“Metro apps”) aren’t dead yet, but there’s a better alternative on the horizon

    Posted on February 6th, 2018 at 11:56 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Microsoft just announced that it’s going to start building Progressive Web App support into Edge and Win10.

    Progressive Web Apps aren’t so much Google’s much-better alternative to Win10-only Universal Windows Programs (formerly known as “Metro apps” or “Universal apps” or “Windows Store Apps” or any of a half-dozen other monikers) as they are a genuine attempt to make browser-based applications look and feel more like regular ol’ apps.

    Chances are very good you’ve never seen a PWA in action. But they’re definitely coming. At some point.

    The theoretical benefits of PWAs over UWPs are enormous. Just for starters, UWPs can only run in the stripped-down Win10 environment. PWAs, on the other hand, should be able to run on just about anything that supports a browser — particularly Chrome, or ChromeOS. Yeah, that includes Chromebooks, at least at some point.

    The browser requirement has vanished in the past couple of years, banking on a concept called service worker. Horrible name, but web folks are good at horrible names. Paul Thurrott described service workers months ago:

    Google’s initial take on PWAs wasn’t that compelling: The full resources of Chrome needed to load each time a PWA ran, and there was no minimal user interface or runtime. But when Google introduced the notion of service worker, the technological core of what we now know as PWAs, it was a big differentiator. With service workers, PWAs could work like native apps, offering features like offline support, background processing, and more.

    It now looks to me as if there’s going to be a headlong dash into developing PWAs — and that UWP’s days are numbered. Time will tell.

    UPDATE: Mary Jo Foley has a calendar for future developments in Microsoft’s side of the PWA wars, in her ZDNet blog.

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