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Don’t Call Them Metro: Microsoft Is Rebranding Universal Apps As “Windows Apps”

By on March 26, 2015 0

Windows apps versus Windows desktop apps.

In the beginning was the word, and the word was Metro. And then it was Windows 8 style. And then it was Modern. And then it was Windows Store. And then it was Universal. And today, Microsoft has decreed that henceforth these applications, which are all ultimately based on Windows Runtime, will be known as Windows Apps.

Historically, of course, “Windows applications” (or “Windows programs”) referred to standard Win32-based executables that ran on the Windows desktop. Under the new naming scheme, these Win32 applications will now be called Windows desktop apps. As you can see in the slide above, despite the new nomenclature, the differences between the two application types remain the same.

While the continual name changes are tedious, they make sense. I suspect Microsoft would have stuck with Metro if it hadn’t been the victim of a trademark dispute, but none of the following names ever made sense. Modern didn’t make sense. Windows Store wasn’t bad, but (at the time) it didn’t embrace the fact that Microsoft was moving towards apps that worked on Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox. Universal apps probably sounded good in the marketing echo chamber, but unfortunately they don’t make sense on their own.universal, but in what context? (Apple also referred to applications that ran natively on Power PC and x86 processors early in the transition to Intel processors as “universal applications.”)

And so we come to Windows apps. Using “universal Windows apps” might have alleviated much of the confusion/confusion with current Win32 apps, but since Microsoft continues to treat Win32 as a legacy, vestigial member, the new name is not not entirely surprising. Microsoft is always very keen on developers building Windows apps (i.e. universal apps) rather than legacy Win32 apps. With Windows 10, the plan is to have phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops running the same Windows apps, so the new name makes sense in that regard.

The other thing to consider is that even though Microsoft wants us to call them Windows apps and Windows desktop apps, that doesn’t mean the developer and user ecosystems will automatically make the switch. Here at Ars Orbiting headquarters, for example, it’s not uncommon to hear us still refer to Windows Runtime-based apps as Metro or Modern apps.