Epic Games CEO Finally Notices That UWP Apps Are A Walled Garden
Written by Mike James   
Saturday, 05 March 2016

If you have been following news items in our "Fear And Loathing In The App Store" series you will know that I Programmer has long been worried by the move to closed apps stores. Now it seems Epic Games co-founder, Tim Sweeney, has written about this aspect of Windows 10 in the Guardian, sparking a lot of discussion and some hysteria. 



There is no doubt that some aspects of a controlled app store are beneficial. There is more control of malware and other low quality apps that would  otherwise give the whole community a bad name. The single market also focuses the users attention on apps and provides us with opportunities to make money without having to engage in extensive marketing.

The downside is obviously that we have to give up control of quite a lot and trust that the system is fair. 

The most obvious example of a walled app store is of course the App Store, i.e. Apple's app store. It is generally ranked slightly worse than Google's app store for being over-controlling and who knows how bad Amazon's app store really is. 

All of this happened without Microsoft and the biggest OS on the planet - Windows. Microsoft didn't have an app store at the time because it had no way of controlling the apps that ran under its OS. You could say Microsoft made Windows open because it hadn't really thought about any alternatives and their associated advantages. Follow this up with the Windows 8 slow train wreck and Microsoft's one attempt at an app store seemed to be a failure along with it. However, things didn't just stop at this point. 




While Satya Nadella was busy getting Microsoft to open source things, he also signed off on Universal Windows Platform and its associated apps and app store. If you want an app to run on all Windows 10 devices that it has to be a UWP app and it has to be sold and delivered via Microsoft. While it is possible to sideload UWP apps, this is not something that users are going to do on a regular basis and it doesn't represent an effective way of selling or distributing UWP apps.

It has been obvious for some time that Microsoft was following the lead of Apple and Google and making Windows a closed app environment so it is surprising that Tim Sweeney is only noticing it now. He writes in his Guardian editorial:

"With its new Universal Windows Platform (UWP) initiative, Microsoft has built a closed platform-within-a-platform into Windows 10, as the first apparent step towards locking down the consumer PC ecosystem and monopolising app distribution and commerce. 
In my view, this is the most aggressive move Microsoft has ever made..."

If you want to argue that there is still the good old open Win32 and .NET environments then the counter argument is that Microsoft is putting all the good stuff into UWP.

It is clear that Win32 is legacy and it's really only a matter of time before this becomes very clear. 

This issue that Sweeney is so up in arms about is not that Microsoft has an app store, but that it is locked down and games makers, such as Epic, can no longer sell their games directly without giving a cut to Microsoft.

The games industry, it seems, has seen the writing on the wall - Win32 is dying - and doesn't like being forced into a controlled app store where a percentage of the profit goes to Microsoft for doing what exactly? 

"The ultimate danger here is that Microsoft continually improves UWP while neglecting and even degrading win32, over time making it harder for developers and publishers to escape from Microsoft’s new UWP commerce monopoly. "

He proposes a three point solution: 

  • That any PC Windows user can download and install a UWP application from the web, just as we can do now with win32 applications. No new hassle, no insidious warnings about venturing outside of Microsoft’s walled garden, and no change to Windows’ default settings required.

  • That any company can operate a store for PC Windows games and apps in UWP format – as Valve, Good Old Games, Epic Games, EA, and Ubi Soft do today with the win32 format, and that Windows will not impede or obstruct these apps stores, relegating them to second-class citizenship.

  • That users, developers, and publishers will always be free to engage in direct commerce with each other, without Microsoft forcing everyone into its formative in-app commerce monopoly and taking a 30% cut.

Any of these are about as likely to happen as Microsoft declaring that Windows 8 and 10 were just a mistake and producing a Windows 7.5. 

"We wouldn’t let Microsoft close down the PC platform overnight without a fight, and therefore we won’t sit silently by while Microsoft embarks on a series of sneaky manoeuvres aimed at achieving this over a period of several years."

I would say that the only thing wrong with  this perception of the situtation is the idea that it is going to take a period of several years.

We are almost there. 

Tim Sweeney has just woken up to the real world of software development in the 21st century. Both iOS and Android programmers have been accustomed to living in a walled garden for many years now. Not all of them like it, but few rebel for the simple reason that there are few alternatives - in Apple's case no alternatives.

You either play ball with the app store or it takes its ball away and plays with someone else. 


Gears of War - ironically an Epic game that is available in the Windows Store. 


More Information

Microsoft wants to monopolise games development on PC. We must fight it

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