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Microsoft Store Will Be Getting Progressive Web Apps

Microsoft outlined its progressive Web app (PWA) vision in a Tuesday announcement, and promised to start actively putting PWAs into the online Microsoft Store.

PWAs are Web pages designed to work like applications, with the ability to work offline. They use particular Web technologies to that end, such as push notifications, Fetch, Cache API, Web App Manifest and Service Worker. They are typically hosted on servers "and can be updated without issuing new updates to an app store," Microsoft's announcement explained.

Microsoft is touting benefits to cataloging PWAs in the Microsoft Store. When that's done, PWAs will get isolated from the browser via a "sandboxed container" and they also can use Microsoft's WinRT APIs. If given permission, they can tap Windows 10 contacts and calendar data like other apps, and they can be launched through Windows 10's Start button or Cortana.

Applications specifically built for Windows 10 are called "Universal Windows Platform" (UWP) apps. Microsoft promotes them, of course. But now Microsoft is declaring it's "all in" for supporting PWAs in Windows 10, too.

Microsoft's announcement indicated that with the "next release of Windows 10," it plans to make PWAs available in the Microsoft Store. Possibly, they'll be available at the preview level. PWAs will be available in the store like native Windows 10 applications. The search process to make that happen has been ongoing for about a year, and Microsoft has already reviewed "nearly 1.5 million candidates" for inclusion the store.

Microsoft's Bing crawler has been finding the PWAs and automatically indexing them for the Microsoft Store. "Once in the Store, the publisher will have the option of claiming their apps to take complete control of their Store presence," Microsoft's announcement explained.

Alternatively, developers can submit their PWAs to the Microsoft Store. The PWAs have to meet Microsoft Store policy requirements, though, and they get submitted to the store as AppX files. Microsoft pointed to its free PWA Builder tool as a means of creating such files.

Microsoft is promising developers some benefits to housing their PWAs in the Microsoft Store. They get access to telemetry information from crashes, installs and shares. They get feedback and reviews, plus the ability to monetize their PWAs. Microsoft typically takes a cut from apps housed in the store, but this point wasn't elaborated.

The Microsoft Edge browser is getting prepped to support PWAs. The browser will be adding some of the requisite Web technologies in a production release next year.

"Service Worker, Push, and other technologies are enabled by default in current Insider builds in Microsoft Edge, and we intend to enable them by default when EdgeHTML 17 ships to stable builds of Windows 10 next year," Microsoft's announcement explained.

Microsoft was quick to say that it isn't abandoning UWP apps, explaining that "the Universal Windows Platform fully embraces Progressive Web Apps." It sees its support for PWAs goes all the way back to Internet Explorer 9 and that browser's Pinned Sites feature. Which apps developers choose to build -- UWP or PWA -- will depend on the particular dev team, and whether or not "immediate app updates" are critical, Microsoft claimed.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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