Microsoft to release an alpha of WinUI 3.0 next week

Microsoft's plan to try to undo some of its past missteps around its Windows app development strategy is moving ahead.

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Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is making progress toward its goal of closing the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and Win32 divide. Next week, timed with Microsoft's Ignite conference, the company is planning to release an alpha version of Win UI 3.0, its next-generation user interface platform for Windows.

As I noted a few months back at Build, Microsoft's days of trying to push Windows developers to build or repackage their apps to be UWP/Store apps seemingly are over. Microsoft is changing the definitions and goalposts so it ultimately will just designate everything as "Windows apps."

The WinUI 3.0 alpha will be for testing and feedback and fairly rough. After the alpha is out, Microsoft is planning to get the full Win UI 3 Xaml platform migrated over to GitHub in open source form. A more complete preview of WinUI 3.0 is coming in the first half of 2020, according to the team's roadmap, and the final release of WinUI 3.0 will happen sometime next year, as well.

The WinUI 3.0 alpha will start with UWP. Among the features not yet implemented will be WebView. Credit for all this information goes to enterprise software developer Ginny Caughey (@gcaughey on Twitter), who has tweeted a thread with an update on WinUI 3.0 today, October 30. Developers will be able to create new WinUI apps using the new Visual Studio 2019 project templates. For existing UWP Xaml apps, "there will be some updates required when migrating to WinUI 3.0," however, Microsoft is acknowledging.

WinUI 3.0 will result in the full Windows 10 native UI platform being fully decoupled from the UWP software development kit. This means users who want to build new Windows apps will have a choice of using Win32 or UWP and .NET Core or C++. Microsoft also will be enabling other frameworks like React Native when running on Windows. Developers who are still interested in "modernizing" their existing Win32 apps with the Windows 10 UI can do so at their own pace using the latest version of Xaml Islands, the roadmap notes.

Microsoft plans to ultimately replace WinUI 2 with WinUI 3. Microsoft is telling developers the existing UWP Xaml programming interfaces that ship as part of the OS will no longer receive new feature updates as part of the move to WinUI 3.0; instead, they will receive security updates and critical fixes only. The roadmap notes that "all-new Xaml features will just be developed and ship as part of WinUI instead."

Microsoft has a significant number of developer-focused sessions on the Ignite docket, which is unusual given the show's traditional history as an IT pro-focused event. One of the most anticipated sessions next week is "Windows App Development Roadmap: Making Sense of WinUI, UWP, Win32, .NET." Several attendees are hoping they will hear more about Microsoft's vision toward bridging the UWP/Win32 divide there.

Some of us also are wondering if Microsoft will share more about its developer story/strategy for its newly announced Windows 10X Neo dual-screen tablet and Duo Android phone during Ignite. Caughey tweeted today that while Microsoft isn't yet sharing when it will make a 10X emulator available, more information is likely coming at Ignite next week.