Microsoft has spent a great deal of time and money trying to convince developers and customers that “Universal” (formerly “Modern,” formerly “Metro”) apps will drive the future of Windows.
This is the third time we’ve heard variants of the same spiel, but it (finally!) just might work.
What exactly is a Windows Universal app?
The software we interact with — whether you call it a program, an application, or simply an “app” for short — nearly always runs on top of an operating system. And most of these applications communicate withthe OS through a set of routines collectively called the application programming interface or, simply, “API.” With Windows, the API is colloquially known as Win32, and — with rare exceptions — all the desktop apps you and I have ever run have relied on this set of API routines.
But in early June 2011, Microsoft revealed a new set of APIs called Windows Runtime — or, more commonly, WinRT. Speaking at the All Things D D9 conference, then–MS Windows president Steve Sinofsky and then–VP Julie Larson-Green debuted Windows 8 (video). As part of the show-and-tell, they demonstrated new “Metro” apps, which would interact with Windows in a very different way: the apps would use the newly minted — and still evolving — WinRT API set.
Microsoft used labels such as “immersive” and “full-screen” for these apps, but almost everyone else settled on Microsoft’s internal code name: Metro — a name I and a zillion other techies still prefer for clarity. (Microsoft had to give up the use of “Metro” to avoid a lawsuit — more info.)
It seemed as if Redmond would never settle on a final name for WinRT-based applications; it’s used “Modern UI,” “Windows 8 apps,” “Windows Store apps,” “New User Interface,” “Microsoft Design Language,” “Microsoft style design,” and simply “Modern.” With Windows 10, these “Windows-native” apps are now called “Universal.” (A recently posted MS support page still refers to them as “Windows Store apps.”)
Whatever you call them — Metro, Windows Store apps, or Universal — they all refer to the same type of software; they’re all applications that use the WinRT API.