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Microsoft Bridges Windows to Android and iOS With New APIs

Microsoft's new Universal Windows platform aims to make it more easy for developers to extend their Android and iOS apps to the new operating system with its appeal lying in a code-base that extends from phones to Xbox, to PCs, tablets and even its new Holographic platform. Having outlined its blueprint in the opening session of the Build 2015 developers conference yesterday in San Francisco, Microsoft used today's keynote address to explain how programmers can bridge their apps from the new Universal Windows platform to Android and iOS and vice versa.

Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft corporate vice president and chief evangelist, and John Shewchuk, Microsoft technical fellow, headlined today's keynote where they demonstrated the capabilities of the new Universal Windows platform (UWP), which enables developers to create a single binary Windows executable that can adapt and run on the entire range of Windows systems, from phones and PCs to Xbox controllers, IoT devices and Microsoft's new Windows Holographic Platform. 

"The new adaptive triggers feature lets you respond to changes such as windows size and automatically adjust your layout, all in markup," Treadwell said. "You can tailor [software] on input, orientation, availability of sensors, app services, or pretty much any other changes you can detect. You can even create a totally custom XAML here, for each device, all sharing common code."

A series of XAML-focused demos showed how the same app can run, in adapted format, on phone, PC, Xbox and other platforms. The Raspberry Pi demo, for instance, showed how developers can adapt the app for a kiosk scenario, so that the display of library images changes based on detected proximity of users. Another demo showed how the new DirectInk API could be used to add the ability to draw on content displayed on the large-format Surface Hub client.

Bridging Beyond Windows
Treadwell talked about the Microsoft Edge browser (code named 'Project Spartan'), built on the new Microsoft EdgeHTML Web engine. He said Edge is 150 percent faster than Internet Explorer (IE) 11 in the JetStream benchmark, and 200 percent faster in the Octane 2.0 benchmark. The new browser also delivers gains in compatibility and functionality, Treadwell said.

"Microsoft Edge leaves behind all the Internet Explorer behaviors... that have been built up over the last 20 years," he said. "It has over 4200 interoperability improvements to ensure that the Web just works."

More broadly, Treadwell described how Windows 10 makes it possible for Web site code to be packaged as a Windows app in the new operating system.

"With Windows 10 you can reuse your existing Web site code and create an app that points directly to your URL," he explained. "You can access universal platform APIs directly through the Web code that came down from your server. And you can distribute the app you made in the Windows Store."

Microsoft's effort to make Windows 10 a host for a wide range of different application types extends beyond the Web. Microsoft Director of Windows Developer Platform Kevin Gallo walked through adapting a WPF application in Visual Studio to integrate new functionality like Windows toasts and connecting to Azure services.

Android and iOS apps were also discussed in the keynote. As Treadwell explained: "You can update your code to take advantage of key features of the universal Windows platform, like Live Tiles. You can distribute your apps to Windows Store to phones using Windows 10."

Treadwell showed the Android app Lose it! and how it could be integrated to leverage Windows features like Windows Share contracts and connecting to Microsoft Azure cloud services. He explained that a rich SDK for Microsoft services in Java make it easy for developers to reuse Android code to build Windows apps. He also showed how the Math Dreams iOS app was quickly adapted for Windows, by bringing the native Xcode project into Visual Studio.

Microsoft opened the keynote with a bit of self-effacing levity, as Treadwell noted that customers complained about losing the ability to run multiple application windows. He joked that, "one of the things we are doing in Windows 10 is we are bringing back this fine feature from 1986--resizable overlapping windows for apps."

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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