UWP needs some friends these days
March 4, 2016 5:15 AM   Subscribe

Remember when Valve founder Gabe Newell called Windows 8 and its Windows Store a "catastophe" for the industry? Now another founder of a hugely important PC software company has come out against the Windows Store in a Guardian op-ed. posted by selfnoise (25 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
My criticism is limited to Microsoft structuring its operating system to advantage its own store while unfairly disadvantaging competing app stores, as well as developers and publishers who distribute games directly to their customers. [...] It’s true that if you dig far enough into Microsoft’s settings-burying UI, you can find a way to install these apps by enabling “side-loading”. But in turning this off by default, Microsoft is unfairly disadvantaging the competition. Bigger-picture, this is a feature Microsoft can revoke at any time using Windows 10’s forced-update process.

so, right now, he has a UI issue? also, how is this different from Apple's closed iOS platform? isn't that even more limited since it's only usable by a specific configuration of hardware?
posted by runt at 5:28 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


The restrictions of UWP being placed on games to give a "console like" experience is getting the shit beaten out of it in the mindshare of the enthusiast community. So far UWP games have been a disaster with no SLI, always vsync, always borderless fullscreen and control options having the guts ripped out of them. No FRAPS, no Steam overlay, no SweetFX, no macros, no modding, no screen recording, OBS can't game capture so streaming them is incredibly annoying.

All of this ancillary stuff that is developing as new ecosystems around gaming is basically being kneecapped by UWP.
posted by Talez at 5:33 AM on March 4, 2016 [14 favorites]


a hugely important PC software company

Okay, I just came in to find out if that company was Microsoft. That would have been news. I was already assuming that everyone else in the world thinks it's a bad idea.
posted by sfenders at 5:37 AM on March 4, 2016


At least this is an impetus for Valve to finally release a gaming console.
posted by MisplaceDisgrace at 5:55 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


so, right now, he has a UI issue? also, how is this different from Apple's closed iOS platform? isn't that even more limited since it's only usable by a specific configuration of hardware?

1. Yes, iOS is more limited. I'm not sure why that's the standard to which we should hold all ecosystems.
2. Windows is on an open platform, whereas iOS was always a walled garden. Developers on iOS knew what they were getting into.
3. The implication is that Microsoft has hidden away sideloading because it's heavily encouraging users not to stray outside its ecosystem. Android has a similar problem, and it's one of the things preventing alternative app stores from gaining much ground beyond the people who are comfortable with tinkering around with security settings and dismissing the WARNING THIS IS AN UNVETTED APP IT COULD BE A VIRUS ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO INSTALL THE AMAZON UNDERGROUND APP. So to call it "just a UI issue" implies that there isn't a greater strategy behindthe decision.
4. Microsoft would love it if you thought of the Windows app store and the iOS/Android app stores as the same kind of thing, but the actual comparison should be made to the current PC environment, where you can install whatever the hell you want without issue.
5. iOS apps are first-class citizens. Currently, Universal Windows Platform apps are not, as noted by Talez above.

That this is coming from the head of Epic, the company that gave Microsoft one of its crucial Xbox 360 pillars in Gears of War, is interesting. Epic is not particularly beholden to Microsoft or Gears of War these days, but presumably the company had at least some insight/input into the new Windows PC gaming push, given that they put out Unreal Engine.
posted by chrominance at 6:10 AM on March 4, 2016 [19 favorites]


One of the creators of DirectX, doesn't much like Windows 10 either: http://www.alexstjohn.com/WP/2015/07/31/windows-10-the-ultimate-craplet/
posted by reiichiroh at 6:40 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sounds like a welcome incentive for developers to continue targeting Windows 7 for games.
posted by straight at 7:01 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sounds like a welcome incentive for developers to continue targeting Windows 7 for games.

The worst part is that DX12 in Windows 10 is an actual advancement in game development and will allow games to do so much more without being CPU bound. Windows 7 is on a timer not because Microsoft say so but because eventually the demand for power to do things in games is not going to work on DX11 no matter how much single threaded performance you throw at it.
posted by Talez at 7:07 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think the better "how is this different from Apple" comparison is to the Mac App Store. That could have turned into the same kind of catastrophe for developers that Sweeny is worried about. As it turned out, Apple has half-assed everything about that store, including making new MacOS features store-only, so the damage has been limited. But for a while they looked serious about a future where nearly all Mac apps went through the store.
posted by Banknote of the year at 7:09 AM on March 4, 2016 [8 favorites]


The other reason Apple isn't getting this attention is that Windows still dominates gaming. I've seen various figures quoted but it sounds like Mac OS users are still less than 4% of Steam users. So it makes sense that Valve doesn't care about MacOS or the Mac App Store very much.


At least this is an impetus for Valve to finally release a gaming console.
posted by MisplaceDisgrace


I don't understand this comment? The Steam Machine has been on sale since last fall. (Released to mixed reviews, and a tepid response to SteamOS) Does it not count as a console?
posted by Wretch729 at 7:37 AM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Both Apple and Microsoft have on their platforms shown a tendancy to want to lock things down in a way that is not consumer-friendly. The difference in these two situations is that Microsoft's prior PC iniatives have been not only unfriendly to an open platform, but also (outside of DX development) universally incompetant and ineffectual. The result is a situation where PC gamers are happiest in a scenario where Microsoft is paying little attention to them, and that's... quite strange.

And just from reading NeoGAF and other gamer forums... it's amazing how large that one MS Xbone press event features in people's minds. Microsoft has just been really struggling to connect with their users.

At least this is an impetus for Valve to finally release a gaming console.
posted by MisplaceDisgrace

I don't understand this comment? The Steam Machine has been on sale since last fall. (Released to mixed reviews, and a tepid response to SteamOS) Does it not count as a console?


I took this comment as a fucking sick burn.
posted by selfnoise at 7:40 AM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


To put more succinctly, the response to every non-DX Microsoft PC iniative since the launch of the original X-Box has been "Nobody wants this!" And then that moved over to their Xbox platform with the XBone reveal. They need to make something that somebody outside of MS wants.
posted by selfnoise at 7:42 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


BTW, it's Xbox. Not X-Box, not XBox, not X Box, not Eks-Bawks.

And it's also not a PC. (Do you hear that MS? I will buy a Playstation instead if I have to read hardware requirements for Xbox titles.)
posted by evilangela at 7:57 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


And it's also not a PC. (Do you hear that MS? I will buy a Playstation instead if I have to read hardware requirements for Xbox titles.)

Exactly. Hasn't this always been the strength and selling point of consoles?

You don't have to worry about graphics cards, drivers, system specs, etc. You plug your console into an outlet and into your TV and it works. You put in a game for that console and it works. Nothing else is required of you.

Many people, myself included, just don't want to deal with all the bullshit that can come with PC gaming. I want something, as Apple says, that just works. I just want to able to play the games I want to play without trouble.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:23 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


And people like myself who do mess with that kind of bullshit have no desire to mess with it twice.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:54 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think Microsoft has been crystal clear that they want to lock down the PC so you can only run what they authorize. It's been that way for over a decade, but it became crystal clear when they made and pushed the UEFI signing (key) rules. They really, really, really want to control what you can run on your box.
posted by introp at 9:00 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


iOS: growing, popular, locked-down app store. Moving up to try to take more Windows share with the iPad Pro.

Mac OSX: locked-down app store. Gradually getting harder to run non-app-store programs.

Android: growing, popular, locked-down app store. Now more machines than Windows.

Chromebook (and Chrome): growing, popular, locked-down app store. Taking chunks out of education.

Windows: stagnant numbers. Reputation for high cost of ownership, security issues. Have to download EXE files from websites and run them, get security warnings, put in your credit card, never know if you click something it'll give you a virus... ugh.


So Microsoft wants to enable Windows to be locked down and safe, not a pain to administer, but still have useful apps, now through a curated app store so easier management for corporations and better personal security and stability, just like all the other platforms... um, okay? Seems reasonable?

This as simply the way the market is going. Gaming is along for the ride. You may prefer GNU/Linux if you want to have total control over what your machine runs: most people want safe, convenient and useful apps on a stable platform, and Microsoft wants to give them that.

You'll be doing everything in your browser in five years anyway.
posted by alasdair at 9:43 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think Microsoft has been crystal clear that they want to lock down the PC so you can only run what they authorize. It's been that way for over a decade, but it became crystal clear when they made and pushed the UEFI signing (key) rules. They really, really, really want to control what you can run on your box.
I don't do Windows, so I don't know what they've been doing. But I've experienced UEFI from the linux server side, and other than the bugginess that's inherent to software from hardware manufacturers, UEFI's been great. More power and control, no more crappy little BIOS screens. However, everything I've heard about UEFI has been just the opposite: completely about taking control away from users, whereas I've experienced more control. So I'm somewhat skeptical that the criticisms of Microsoft are painting the full picture.

And there's a huge huge argument for "locking down" what can be run on PCs; through code-signing, sandboxing, and other containment techniques. Take this Ars Technica article for example:


It’s 2016, so why is the world still falling for Office macro malware?
As hackers have long known, there's no patch for human gullibility.


Which is so wrong on almost all counts: the issue is not your users, the issue is your stupid insecure crappy application that runs random unsecured code when it's supposed to be a document viewer, and also that gives that random unsecured code access to all of a user's files. The astonishing stupidity of the OS and the application is what's at play here, and blaming users is just utter mind-bogglingly inexcusable passing of the buck.

It's 2016, it's possible to write secure, flexible, systems that allow people to open documents without the risk of compromising everything on their PC.

The toggle to give over your keys to a mugger shouldn't be an obscure option in the program, that's stupidity of the highest order, and maybe excusable in the 90s, but come on, it's no longer the 90s.

The way out of this is pretty clear: granular and limited permissions granted to code. It's been trialed on iOS and on Android, and it works pretty darn well.

Bad things: having a single application source tied to the OS provider is pretty bad. But the benefits to users are so immense that it should be that way. Adding a new source of trust should be an arduous process, because gaining trust should not be easy.

So it can sort of be argued that Microsoft wants to control what can be run on a box, but based on my experience with the UEFI arguments, I'm guessing that Microsoft also wants to let users control what gets run on their box.

If Microsoft had a sandboxed environment, and their core applications like MS Office or email worked such that code in those programs could only access files explicitly chosen by the user, then I may consider the OS again for daily use after nearly two decades. Giving me the power to control what gets run is a significant feature, and a significant value add.

Maybe anti-trust should go after Microsoft again to make sure that there are other trusted app sources, but given the general scuzziness of the Windows software and hardware markets, that makes me really really nervous. Microsoft seems to be the most honest player in the whole damn market. I'm sure Dell would be installing a malware store on every PC it ships, just for the extra $2.50 per computer from the malware store. It seems to me that despite their bad behavior, if people are going to use Windows, they actually are better off completely submitted to Microsoft's whims. Better than Dell or HP or those guys.
posted by Llama-Lime at 9:51 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


The problem for Windows is that the only reason people want Windows machines is to run the software they already have on their existing Windows machines. If you make it difficult/impossible to run arbitrary software, you've killed your own selling point. This is why Windows RT got slightly less traction than wet ice on teflon.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:52 AM on March 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


This as simply the way the market is going.

It seems to me like you're comparing a bunch of different markets by fairly arbitrary and unrelated metrics, and probably ending up overgeneralising a fairly reasonable point.
posted by howfar at 3:03 PM on March 4, 2016


Does anyone have a link to a basic overview (or can anyone provide a basic overview) of what this locking-down actually consists of? I run Windows 10 and I buy games on Steam and download and install freeware and buy and install software, and I can't see anything different from Windows 7, and the only difference between that and Windows XP is the "Do you want to authorize this program to run?" screen. My impression is that MS was going to make Windows 10 into a walled garden but then totally didn't, but this discussion and the linked articles indicates that somehow it is, but I don't understand how.

It kinda sounds like they're rolling out some new features, but to access them devs will have to sell through the MS store. But devs are saying "that sucks". So...wouldn't the devs just continue to sell games without the new features in the conventional non-MS store manner? What are these features, and are they even remotely compelling? Is it just "you can cross-save and cross-play with XBoxes, tablets, etc."? Because if so I can see how some consumers would want it, but it wouldn't be enough for someone to say "I was gonna buy Gears of War 27 but it doesn't have crossplay so fuck it". Devs choose all the time to not include certain features, and their decisions are based on to what degree the lack of a feature would impact sales. If devs hate a feature, and its absence wouldn't hurt sales, why would a dev even consider deploying (and troubleshooting) that feature? What am I missing? (I suspect rather a lot)
posted by Bugbread at 3:05 PM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


most people want safe, convenient and useful apps on a stable platform, and Microsoft wants to give them that.

Also I work in Outlook everyday, because, like a lot of people, I have no option. If Microsoft want to give me convenient apps, why do I get frustrated with how shitty everything in Outlook is every fucking day? Why is adding things to your address book so inconvenient? Why are tasks utter dreck? Why are recurring appointments still utterly fucking broken? Why can't I search my emails in a sane way?

How can these people, who can't even make a core piece of software used by hundreds of millions of people anything less than a tortuous nightmare, be trusted to give me "convenient" apps. We've seen what Microsoft do with a monopoly. They make shit.
posted by howfar at 3:09 PM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Does anyone have a link to a basic overview (or can anyone provide a basic overview) of what this locking-down actually consists of? I run Windows 10 and I buy games on Steam and download and install freeware and buy and install software, and I can't see anything different from Windows 7, and the only difference between that and Windows XP is the "Do you want to authorize this program to run?" screen. My impression is that MS was going to make Windows 10 into a walled garden but then totally didn't, but this discussion and the linked articles indicates that somehow it is, but I don't understand how.

The "locked-down" aspect refers to UWP framework apps downloaded from the Windows Store. These are different from classic Win32 apps, but are not widely used because frankly most people don't care about the Windows Store. Gamers overwhelmingly choose to buy games from Steam, followed by other third party services like GoG, Origin, uPlay, Battle.net, etc.

What has happened recently is that Microsoft is making a big push to take some of the games from their faltering Xbox platform and launch them simultaneously on the Windows Store (and ONLY there) as UWP apps. Microsoft would very much like the Windows Store to be a Thing.

In terms of how these UWP apps are limited, or "locked down", this Ars Technica article does a decent job of going over it. Some of these concerns are apparently being addressed, like I think Windows 10 will now let you simply download a UWP installer from the web/Steam/whatever and install without complaints. Some other concerns are only issues to a fraction of vocal gamers, like only running in borderless windowed.

It kinda sounds like they're rolling out some new features, but to access them devs will have to sell through the MS store. But devs are saying "that sucks". So...wouldn't the devs just continue to sell games without the new features in the conventional non-MS store manner? What are these features, and are they even remotely compelling?


Developers and end users are concerned, I think, not so much because of the specific restrictions at the moment but just due to the idea of the Eye of Redmond turning once again to the PC.

Gaming is in a very strange place on the PC. It's become extremely successful and diverse, but:

A: The platform holder essentially has ignored them for years

B: The platform itself (windows PCs) seems quite unhealthy beyond gamers

C: The last time the platform holder tried to get in on the business the result was Games for Windows Live, an absolutely legendary disaster.

D: The most important companies for the continued health of the platform (Microsoft and Valve) seem at times to genuinely hate one another.

The situation is profitable and vibrant, but also very fraught. Microsoft has a lot of power over it, but its touch has been completely disastrous in the past and nobody trusts it.
posted by selfnoise at 5:21 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Thanks, selfnoise. I guess part of my confusion is that this reminds me so much of Games for Windows Live. Games for Windows Live was disastrous, but not for games -- it was disastrous for Games for Windows Live itself. If Microsoft's new moves were really compelling to gamers, like Steam was, then UWP would be a big threat, but the vibe I'm getting is more Games for Windows Live 2.0.
posted by Bugbread at 6:30 PM on March 4, 2016


So Microsoft wants to enable Windows to be locked down and safe, not a pain to administer, but still have useful apps, now through a curated app store so easier management for corporations and better personal security and stability, just like all the other platforms... um, okay? Seems reasonable?

This as simply the way the market is going. Gaming is along for the ride.


So, PC gaming. Based on the number of players, that's basically League of Legends, DOTA, Minecraft, Counter Strike, and World of Warcraft. (I guess there's some other games that a few people also play.)

What do those first four games have in common? They all started life as mods, or are highly dependent on modding, of the type that would definitely not be permitted by this kind of locked-down environment. (After every official Minecraft release, the mod community has to break in and reverse-engineer it to get all the mods working again that are critical to the game's ongoing appeal.)

And World of Warcraft? Not even Steam gets a piece of that action. There's no way Blizzard are going to sell their games through a Microsoft store.

That open environment? That's what the vast majority of PC gaming is. If Microsoft tries to create a closed Windows gaming environment, they're basically just trying to start up yet another console ecosystem to compete with Nintendo, Playstation, and Xbox. Good luck with that.
posted by straight at 8:15 PM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


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