Microsoft has Yet Another Messaging Disaster

Last week saw a very aggressive statement by Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney about the state of Windows Universal Platform.

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.

Sweeney’s argument revolves around UWP being a locked down platform that is totally controlled by Microsoft and requires developers to release their titles through the Windows Store.

The specific problem here is that Microsoft’s shiny new “Universal Windows Platform” is locked down, and by default it’s impossible to download UWP apps from the websites of publishers and developers, to install them, update them, and conduct commerce in them outside of the Windows Store.

It’s true that if you dig far enough into Microsoft’s settings-burying UI, you can find a way to install these apps by enabling “side-loading”. But in turning this off by default, Microsoft is unfairly disadvantaging the competition. Bigger-picture, this is a feature Microsoft can revoke at any time using Windows 10’s forced-update process.

The whole piece just has me thinking about how this feels compared to what Apple is doing in the PC space. Apple also has an app store (terrible as it may be) in OS X, but it doesn’t make the Mac a locked down platform the way Sweeney makes out the Windows Store to be. You can still download apps and games from anywhere you’d like on the Mac and they install just fine. OS X isn’t a massive gaming platform, but Apple has done nothing to prevent players like Steam to deliver their software outside the App Store and take advantage of all the features of OS X1.

If this piece is accurate, and Microsoft is looking to make Windows more like a mobile OS in terms of locking down access to features of Windows to Windows Store apps, Microsoft would be going down a path that I think a lot of Mac users were worried Apple would go down a couple years ago. The “iOS-ification” of the Mac, if you will. Thus far, Apple has been very good about giving Mac users the control over their systems that they have grown to expect. Sure, some things are only available to apps in the Mac App Store, but users have spoken with their wallets that these are mostly features people don’t need. There are plenty of third party apps that are doing just fine outside of Apple’s store. And if you listen to Apple lately, it seems like they are very aware that the Mac is a different beast than iOS.

I have to imagine Microsoft is smart enough to not go down the doomsday path that Sweeney worries they will, but this is another in a long line of Windows and Xbox messaging disasters they have had over the past few years. They continue to backpedal on the bad roads they look to be going down, but it seems like many big things they want to do are being aggressively vetoed by their customers. The Windows Microsoft wishes they could make is very different from what their users are demanding.


  1. Minus iCloud features, but Steam has their own cloud save feature, so the point is moot.