The End Of Win32 Apps?

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yereverluvinuncleber
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The End Of Win32 Apps?

Post by yereverluvinuncleber » 08 Apr 2019 18:57

Anyone who has been coding for Windows for the last few years has been coding within the Win32 environment, using Win32 apps or making apps for it. The vast majority of Windows apps exist within the Win32 framework but there are hints that this might not be Microsoft's future path. MS is attempting to change the way we use Windows possibly charging a licensed rental of the o/s as some software providers already do (Adobe &c). They are also attempting to migrate all user downloads/installations to the Windows store so that all apps must be certified by MS before you can think of loading them onto Windows. Their current business strategy is to morph Windows into the universal platform they want it to be (tablets, desktops and IOT) and therefore your apps in the future must be Universal Windows Apps to conform with that strategy.

Windows 10 already complains that during any manual installation that your software is not certified and states that you might prefer to look in the Windows store for an alternative app...

The newest builds of Windows now have an option for the user to prevent installation of Win32 apps. This is the first step to closing the shop to win32 apps altogether.

In addition MS has designed UWP so that win32 apps cannot run within that framework without conversion. It IS providing tools to do this but that tells us where they are going. This obviously indicates the direction and that means no Win32 apps in the future (near or far) and all UWP installations to be performed via the store, manual installation will be a thing of the past.

This is basically the death of Windows - as we know it today. Think of Windows running more as Apple's closed model with MS retaking control over its environment, what is allowed in the store and how much you have to pay.

Ultimately I think Microsoft will fail in this plan and they will never be able to kill Win32 entirely but I am certain they will make it as difficult as they can for ordinary developers to build and install win32 apps. Microsoft is quite capable of abandoning an entire user base, look at how they abandoned their VB6 users, VB6 was their biggest installed user base and they destroyed it willingly. I never underestimate Microsoft's capability to feck something good and useful until it is made unusable.

The end result of all this is that programs like RJTextEd and all the other apps we are used to using every day are actually under threat, if not in the near future then in a time not too far away. I have been bitten by MS before being a VB6 developer and rememeber having the rug pulled from under my feet.

There are solutions or at least alternatives. One is to soldier on an convert your Win32 apps to UWP, as the APIs are not the same this could be more difficult than it sounds. Some applications are simply not suitable for the tablet style that MS wants you to adopt.

I believe RJTextEd isn't actually under direct threat as it uses another framework, however the death of Win32 apps is a death knell sounding also for any other framework that cannot build UWP apps. Other frameworks exists that also allow you to build apps for alternative platforms, a good strategy might be to convert to MFC, QT, Delphi and Java. Delphi is looking as if it might have been a sensible choice. These choices require retraining and migration that may not be possible.

Another route that some are taking is to revert to Win 7. A large number of diehard users are already swearing that Win10 is the last Microsoft o/s for them as it morphs gradually into something that becomes unfamiliar and unusable to devs. MS has already stated that Win10 is the last o/s version they will create. It will basically change step by step until it conforms with their business model.

Another more appropriate solution is available but it is unlikely to be ready by the time it is needed. That is ReactOS, a home-grown NT5 compatible o/s, compatible with all the Win32 APIs, software and drivers as well as providing a familiar desktop interface as provided within Win 2003. ReactOS will run all your win32 apps in the future, the trouble is, is will not do it now. ReactOS is very much in Alpha stage, meaning that it is unstable and cannot be used in a situation where your data, the functions the PC provides are valuable. Don't take this as a recommendation to install ReactOS, it is simply NOT ready.

My only additional comment is that I strongly suggest that RJ does not abandon Windows NT5 as a platform for RJTextEd. Microsoft will be pushing you to do so by abandoning XP as a platform for its own dev tools. The trouble is if you stop building your apps for NT5 then you may be burning your own bridges as the natural home for Win32 apps is NT5. The only o/s that is specifically targetting that platform is ReactOS.

I haven't tested RJTextEd on ReactOS yet but I intend to. I am building a NT5 system and it is currently running XP to allow testing of all the correct drivers. I will then build a ReactOS system drive and see how far it goes with the real hardware I have available. ReactOS will run in a semi-stable fashion in a VM but real hardware is the real test.

ReactOS will be NT5 compatible so it will run all your NT5 software (XP/2003) it will also provide NT6 API compatibility and hence your Vista/Win7 software should run there too. Don't depend upon ReactOS as the solution and don't take this as a recommendation, it won't be ready for a long while yet. It is however the direction I choose to take in the future, the fact that RJTextEd runs under XP is the final confirmation that I made the correct choice of editor.

I'd be fascinated to hear Rickard's opinion on this, whether my feelings are all doom and gloom or not.


EDIT: Changed the title to suit the thread better.
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Rickard Johansson
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Re: The End Of Win32 Apps?

Post by Rickard Johansson » 16 Apr 2019 10:53

What you describe is the route Microsoft was taking with Windows 8. A lot has changed since then. For instance, the edge web browser. Microsoft is currently working on replacing the current edge browser app with a chromium based win32 based application (which I'm currently using by the way). Windows 10 is much more desktop friendly and they have abandoned the mobile phone version.

I’m pretty sure Microsoft knows that most desktop users prefer win32 software by now. Companies prefer win32 software, regular users prefer win32 software. Office will probably never be converted to a Windows app and their future web browser is a win 32 application. The Microsoft store is not that successful, and many users don’t ever use it (or even know what it is). I’m pretty sure win32 software will be around for a long time.

BTW. Isn’t ReactOS still an alpha release? I’m not even sure it can be installed on a physical machine… I tried it in VMWare Workstation once. It worked nicely but I much prefer a more modern look and feel.

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yereverluvinuncleber
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Re: The End Of Win32 Apps?

Post by yereverluvinuncleber » 16 Apr 2019 21:04

Good feedback - thanks. I will take some of those thoughts and muse on them. Installing some s/w onto Win10 and getting that "not from the Windows store" message and hearing about the new Windows option to prevent Win32 apps makes me realise how dependant upon win32-style apps I really am.

Yes ReactOS is still well and truly Alpha and not ready for use yet - but it is progressing in leaps and bounds and I see a time when it will be usable, so much is working or getting close to being there - so please keep it in mind when deciding to abandon NT5 support.

Before you try it again, note ReactOS is testable in a VM but not yet on real hardware bar a small set of tested examples with Windows drivers that function.

Re: the more modern look and feel, ReactOS has to ship with the classic skin as that is the default for NT5, ReactOS being a functional 'clone' of NT5. Unlike Windows themeing is not disabled and so it can carry any look/feel that you want. People are themeing it already.
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yereverluvinuncleber
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Re: The End Of Win32 Apps?

Post by yereverluvinuncleber » 23 Sep 2019 20:46

For those that are interested - ReactOS 0.4.12 was released today https://reactos.org/project-news/reactos-0412-released a small step further toward non-Microsoft dependent version of Windows.
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