‘Write once, run everywhere.’ That was the promise of the Java programming platform from way back in the day. The idea was simple. Developers would use Java to create their applications, and thanks to the Java Virtual Machine, those apps would run everywhere– Mac, Windows, Linux, whatever. It was a great idea back then, and it still works today except for one slight adjustment to the promise.
Java became ‘write once, debug everywhere‘ which became a mess for developers who could not create the same functionality on every platform and make it work the same way.
Guess what? Microsoft wants to do something similar to get app developers– specifically those that create and publish applications for iPhone, iPad, and various and sundry Android devices– to create the same apps for Windows. It’s called the Universal Windows Platform, a 21st century version of Write Once, Run Everywhere.
Here’s the deal. The software business is hard work. It’s feast or famine. Either you make a buck, or you lose money creating and publishing applications. iOS stands as a shining example of both, with upwards of 1.5-million apps for iPhone and iPad which have generated billions of dollars for a few developers, but not so much for many, many others, most of whom find themselves reluctant to port their iOS app to Windows.
The idea of Universal Windows Platform is to create the Windows app from an iOS app in minutes, not days, weeks, or years. Here’s a sample of how it can work and the result (about five minutes).
We’ve seen this movie before. Write once, run everywhere ends up more like ‘Write once, debug everywhere‘ except in this case Microsoft is targeting iOS apps for iPhone and iPad. No Android for you! Yet. Besides, all the good apps that most people want are on iOS, right?
Is this a clever ploy to get app developers to adopt Windows? Yes, of course it is. Will it work? Of course not. Why not? There’s more to developing a popular application than merely the code. Marketing and promotion take effort, too, and there’s always the support costs, which are likely to grow as another platform gets the same application.
Then there’s the chicken and egg syndrome. Windows Phone, which I predict will one day be called Windows Surface, has an anemic marketshare relative to iOS and Android, so even a perfectly ported application from iOS to Windows won’t get much traction because fewer people (fewer as in, sales are going down) buy Windows phones.
Universal Windows Platform is a wonderful idea but it’s already been done and didn’t exactly work out like it was planned and promoted. Pretty much like everything Microsoft tries to do to catch up to Apple.