Microsoft continues to try to unify Win32, UWP Windows apps with 'Project Reunion'

Microsoft is continuing its quest to try to get Win32 developers to adopt more 'modern' Windows 10 platform elements. That effort now has a name, Project Reunion, and its first two official libraries.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is continuing to forge ahead with its plan to try to close the divide between Win32 and Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps. This year, its strategy around this is getting a codename -- "Project Reunion" -- and more of a formal structure, which Microsoft is announcing at Build 2020.

Last year, at Microsoft's Build developers conference, I had a chance to ask Kevin Gallo, the corporate vice president of the Windows Developer Platform, about Microsoft's plans to try to undo some of its past mistakes it created with its "Universal Apps/One Windows platform strategy." Gallo said a year ago that Microsoft wanted to get to a place where Windows developers would be able to build "Windows apps" by adding "modern desktop" elements to Win32 (which Microsoft also refers to these days as the Windows API). His team also was working to decouple parts of the UWP platform from the OS, so that developers could adopt them incrementally.

At this week's Build, Microsoft is providing an update on that plan. The Windows Developer Platform team is releasing previews of the first two official Reunion components: WinUI 3 and WebView 2. WinUI i3, which has been in alpha testing since last fall, is the modern, native UI framework for Windows 10, and WebView 2 is a control for integrating web content into an app. Both of these components should be generally available by year-end, officials said.

Microsoft is open-sourcing both of these libraries and enabling developers to grab them and pull them into their code when they're ready to incorporate them. The team will be using GitHub to gather requests for the next set of libraries developers would like to see become part of Reunion.

Microsoft's contention is, by providing Windows 10 developers with this set of libraries, it will facilitate developers being able to target immediately all one billion Windows 10 PC users, instead of only the fraction of them running the latest Windows 10 builds. (The Reunion strategy seems limited to PCs only. Microsoft seems to have given up on the central UWP tenet that developers would want to write applications that could target any Windows 10-based device, including HoloLens and Windows IoT devices.) 

Microsoft officials aren't saying anything publicly at Build about Microsoft's plans for the built-in Store apps in Windows 10. Last year, Gallo implied that Microsoft would just let the consumer Store remain part of Windows 10 for commerce purposes, while simultaneously allowing users to circumvent the Store and download their Windows apps directly. I've also heard Microsoft is planning to phase out the Windows Store for Business and Store for Education, but maybe later than originally planned. 

In other Windows news announced at Build this year, Microsoft is making available Windows Terminal 1.0 for enterprise use. It's available from the Microsoft Store or manually from the Terminal GitHub repo on May 19.

Microsoft also is making more improvements to its Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), version 2 of which will be part of Windows 10 2004/May Update 2020. Microsoft plans to add "soon" support for GPU-compute workloads, which matters for development scenarios in parallel computation and training ML/AI models. It is going to support Linux GUI apps direct without needing a third-party X server. And it soon will support a simplified install experience by running the command 'wsl.exe-install.'

Microsoft is adding two more utilities, Keyboard Remapper and PowerToys Run, to its PowerToys collection. And the Windows Package Manager Preview is adding a command-line interface to enable developers to install their favorite tools faster and more easily.

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