Friday, July 20, 2018

Microsoft is exploring new ways to seriously bolster its app line-up ahead of Surface Phone

Reportedly looking into alternatives to Progressive Web Apps

Microsoft Surface Phone

Microsoft is exploring potential new avenues to remedy its issues with a lack of applications in the context of its rumored dual-screen mobile Surface device – which will allegedly utilize a custom version of Windows 10, referred to as Andromeda – beyond initial app expansion plans driven by Progressive Web Apps.

At least that’s the word from sources at Microsoft who have talked to Windows Central about the so-called Surface Phone, which as we’ve reported in the past, won’t be marketed as a phone as such, but appears to be some manner of phone-laptop hybrid. Indeed, it’s billed as a new category of ‘pocketable’ device Microsoft intends to push, running the streamlined and tailored Andromeda OS (which is designed to still deliver a full Windows 10 experience on a smaller device).

The grapevine reckons that the device has been delayed until next year, and Windows Central also believes this to be the case. Part of the reason for that delay is the software side of the equation and Microsoft’s concerns about the number of apps that will be available to users.

Progressive potential

Now, as we’ve also talked about before, a major part of the solution will be Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), which are web-based apps that act like native applications rather than browser-bound software – but it sounds like Microsoft is worried that this might not pan out effectively enough to provide a complete solution.

Windows Central observes: “It probably goes without saying that UWP [universal apps] is also something Microsoft is actively pushing on Andromeda, and apps like WhatsApp are a possible contender for this, but progress on the UWP front is slow, hence the focus on PWAs.

“Furthermore, I'm told there are other ideas that the company is also considering to help improve the app situation on Andromeda, but I'm still digging for information on that. For now, we know that Microsoft is betting big on PWA, and rightly so.”

Apparently part of the reason for the delay of Andromeda and the related dual-screen device is wrapped up in getting more PWAs on the boil and into the Microsoft Store (and also optimizing the Edge browser to get better performance out of these web apps, and perhaps more importantly, to ensure they are suitably power-efficient so as not to drain too much battery on mobile devices).

As to what alternative ideas might be used to bolster apps with Andromeda, it’s evidently unclear exactly what Microsoft’s plans are, although one obvious Band-Aid would be to draft in Android apps.

Although there could be an argument that if Microsoft does resort to this particular Google-powered shortcut, as it were, it would almost be like admitting (another) defeat in the long-running battle to get more apps into its ecosystem. Still, the average user may not care much, as long as all the popular big-name apps are actually there – and, most crucially, they perform well under Andromeda OS.

As a final note, we must remember that all this is based on conjecture about a rumored device, so as ever, be liberal with those condiments.




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