Microsoft emits Preview 3 of next-gen WinUI framework, says Linux support 'is not off our roadmap'

One framework to rule them all? Or yet another one to add to the confusion?

Microsoft has released Preview 3 of WinUI 3, its next-generation framework for Windows desktop applications.

Those still trying to keep track of Microsoft’s plans with regard to Windows desktop development were given some new insights in the latest preview of WinUI 3 and an associated community standup with Kevin Gallo, corp VP of the Windows Developer Platform.

WinUI 3, you might imagine, is the successor to WinUI 2; and in some ways it is, but it is also a new direction. WinUI 2 (there is no WinUI 1) is a library of controls for UWP (Universal Windows Platform), this being the not-very-universal application platform that evolved from the Windows Runtime introduced for Windows 8.

WinUI 3 on the other hand is the heart of Project Reunion, which Gallo described as “a common platform for new apps and APIs so that they will work down-level across supported versions of Windows.”

Gallo said at the standup that the big deal in WinUI 3 is not new features, since many of the components have been lifted from WinUI 2, but that the framework is “delivered in a more flexible way.”

WinUI 3 is no longer just for UWP, but also works in desktop applications, and its content can appear in an HWND – a window identified by a number called a window handle, as used since the earliest days of the operating system.

That said, there are new features, including the WebView 2 Chromium-based web browser component, and a RenderTargetBitmap class which will be familiar to developers using WPF (Windows Presentation Framework) – though it only works with XAML content for now. The goal, said Gallo, is to make WinUI 3 suitable for large, complex applications, something for which WPF is currently more suitable than UWP.


The XAML Control Gallery project is the starting point for exploring the WinUI 3 control library. Source: Microsoft. Click to enlarge

Principal program manager Ryan Demopoulos demonstrated new Visual Studio tooling for WinUI 3, including Live Property Explorer, allowing properties to be changed on the fly while debugging, without persistence; and XAML hot reload, which allows the XAML source code to be modified while debugging, with persistence.

“Simple question, simple answer please,” asked a developer at the standup. “For a new desktop app what is your recommendation, UWP? WinUI, WPF or WinForm? if all then how to decide which one?”

Unfortunately no simple answer is available. WinUI 3 is in preview, after all, and Microsoft emphasises that the preview is only intended for trying things out. The API could change before release and break code.

There is also mixed messaging. WinUI 2.x will still be developed after WinUI 3 is released, and version 2.5 is expected in December. Some things in WinUI 2.x will not be in WinUI 3.0, with mixed reality an example.

Gallo talked about no longer having binary choices, but being able to mix and match in the brave new Reunion world. At the same time, he also said that “we are recommending WinUI 3 as the way forward for all user experiences.”

Everything's fine!

The Windows desktop is more popular than ever, according to Microsoft, with PC use booming during the COVID-19 lockdown. While that may be true, the app world has changed profoundly since the heyday of PC applications.

JavaScript runs like lightning, enabling rich browser applications or PWAs (progressive web applications, which can install to the desktop); and mobile platforms are also ascendant. This drives developers towards cross-platform solutions, so another obvious question is whether WinUI 3 can work as a cross-platform framework?

A variant of WinUI already does, thanks to the Uno platform which lets developers target Windows, WebAssembly, iOS, macOS, Android and Linux. But what about Microsoft’s official framework? Might it run, for example, on Linux, where the .NET runtime already works well?

““We’ve some requests for allowing WinUI to run cross-platform,” said Gallo. “I continue to just ask for the scenarios that developers want and what they’re trying to target … our goal is really to make sure that developers can build best of breed apps on Windows and then have an easier transition to write cross-platform experiences. This is not off our roadmap, it’s not on our roadmap, it’s something that we’re listening to the community to try and understand if it makes sense.”

That’s a definite maybe then. In the meantime though, developers have many other choices, from Uno to React Native to Google’s Flutter, leaving WinUI 3 looking almost isolated.

The primary goal though is to be a desktop framework for Windows that will make sense for developers currently using one of Microsoft’s other desktop frameworks - as long as they use C# or C++, since VB is not supported. Or is it just going to be yet another one? Now is too soon to draw conclusions, and it appears that a release version of WinUI 3 remains at least six months away. “The end is approaching,” said Demopoulos. “We’re aiming for a date in the first half of next year,” though he asked developers not to bet on the accuracy of that prediction.

What about open source? Microsoft has gone the open source route with most .NET code, but WinUI 3 is absent from GitHub. Gallo said that open source, “is a high priority thing after 3.0 comes out. Open source is a lot of work. If we focus on the open source part of it, it just delays it even more.” ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Electron-to-joule conversion formulae? Cute. Welcome to the school of hard knocks

    Shake, rattle and roll is incompatible with your PABX

    On Call There are some things they don't teach you in college, as a Register reader explains in this week's instalment of tales from the On Call coalface.

    Our reader, safely Regomised as "Col", headed up the technical support team of a PABX telecom provider and installer back in the early 1990s. PABX, or Private Automatic Branch eXchange, was the telephony backbone of many an office. A failure could be both contract and career-limiting.

    Col, however, was a professional and well versed in the ins and outs of such systems. Work was brisk and so, he told us, "I took on a university grad with all the spunk and vigour that comes with it. He knew the electron-to-joule conversion formulae et al."

    Continue reading
  • Korea's NAVER Cloud outlines global ambitions, aim to become Asia's third-biggest provider

    Alibaba is number two in much of the region, but is a bit on the nose right now

    Korean web giant NAVER has outlined its ambition to bring its cloud to the world, and to become the third-largest cloud provider in the Asia-Pacific region.

    NAVER started life as a Korean web portal, added search, won the lion's share of the market, and has kept it ever since. South Korea remains one of the very few nations in which Google does not dominate the search market.

    As NAVER grew it came to resemble Google in many ways – both in terms of the services it offers and its tendency to use its muscle to favour its own properties. NAVER also used its scale to start a cloud business: the NAVER Cloud Platform. It runs the Platform in its home market, plus Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Presences in Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand are imminent.

    Continue reading
  • Build it fast and they will come? Yeah, but they’ll only stay if you build it right

    Here’s where to start

    Sponsored Developers have never had so much choice. Every week there’s a new framework, API, or cloud service that promises to help deliver software to market faster than ever. And it’s not just tooling. Agile, continuous integration, and DevOps techniques have made teams more efficient, too. But speed brings with it increased expectations. Pressure from customers and colleagues, alongside the burden of staying current with new tooling, can lead to mistakes.

    Whether it’s a showstopping bug that slips through into production or an edge case that lies in wait for years, pressure to deliver is driving some teams to pile up technical debt and mismatched stakeholder expectations.

    What’s the solution? Well, it’s to do what we’ve always done: build on what came before. In the absence of unlimited time and budget, a low-code platform gives both experienced and new developers a suite of tools to accelerate their development. Automation in just the right places lets teams bring their unique value where it really matters, while all the standard building blocks are taken care of.

    Continue reading
  • Royal Navy will be getting autonomous machines – for donkey work humans can't be bothered with

    No robot killers 'in my lifetime' says admiral

    DSEI 2021 The British armed forces will be using robots as part of future warfare – but mostly for the "dull, dangerous and dirty" parts of military life, senior officers have said.

    At London's Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair, two senior officers in charge of digitisation and automation said the near future will be more Wall-E than Terminator – but fully automated war machines are no longer just the stuff of sci-fi.

    Brigadier John Read, the Royal Navy's deputy director of maritime capability, said in a speech the military "must automate" itself so it can "take advantage of advances in robotics, AI and machine learning."

    Continue reading
  • WTF? Microsoft makes fixing deadly OMIGOD flaws on Azure your job

    Clouds usually fix this sort of thing before bugs go public. This time it's best to assume you need to do this yourself

    Microsoft Azure users running Linux VMs in the IT giant's Azure cloud need to take action to protect themselves against the four "OMIGOD" bugs in the Open Management Infrastructure (OMI) framework, because Microsoft hasn't raced to do it for them.

    As The Register outlined in our report on this month's Patch Tuesday release, Microsoft included fixes for flaws security outfit Wiz spotted in Redmond's open-source OMI agents. Wiz named the four flaws OMIGOD because they are astonishing.

    The least severe of the flaws is rated 7/10 on the Common Vulnerability Scoring System. The worst is rated critical at 9.8/10.

    Continue reading
  • Businesses put robots to work when human workers are hard to find, argue econo-boffins

    The lure of shiny new tech isn't a motivator, although in the USA bots are used to cut costs

    Researchers have found that business adoption of robots and other forms of automation is largely driven by labor shortages.

    A study, authored by boffins from MIT and Boston University, will be published in a forthcoming print edition of The Review of Economic Studies. The authors, Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo, have both studied automation, robots and the workforce in depth, publishing numerous papers together and separately.

    "Our findings suggest that quite a bit of investment in robotics is not driven by the fact that this is the next 'amazing frontier,' but because some countries have shortages of labor, especially middle-aged labor that would be necessary for blue-collar work,” said Acemoglu in a canned statement.

    Continue reading
  • After eight years, SPEC delivers a new virtualisation benchmark

    Jumps from single-server tests to four hosts – but only for vSphere and RHV

    The Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) has released its first new virtualisation benchmark in eight years.

    The new SPECvirt Datacenter 2021 benchmark succeeds SPEC VIRT_SC 2013. The latter was designed to help users understand performance in the heady days of server consolidation, so required just one host. The new benchmark requires four hosts – a recognition of modern datacentre realities.

    The new tests are designed to test the combined performance of hypervisors and servers. For now, only two hypervisors are supported: VMware’s vSphere (versions 6.x and 7.x) and Red Hat Virtualisation (version 4.x). David Schmidt, chair of the SPEC Virtualization Committee, told The Register that Red Hat and VMware are paid up members of the committee, hence their inclusion. But the new benchmark can be used by other hypervisors if their vendors create an SDK. He opined that Microsoft, vendor of the Hyper-V hypervisor that has around 20 per cent market share, didn’t come to play because it’s busy working on other SPEC projects.

    Continue reading
  • Forget that Loon's balloon burst, we just fired 700TB of laser broadband between two cities, says Google

    Up to 20Gbps link sustained over the Congo in comms experiment

    Engineers at Google’s technology moonshot lab X say they used lasers to beam 700TB of internet traffic between two cities separated by the Congo River.

    The capitals of the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Brazzaville and Kinshasa, respectively, are only 4.8 km (about three miles) apart. The denizens of Kinshasa have to pay five times more than their neighbors in Brazzaville for broadband connectivity, though. That's apparently because the fiber backbone to Kinshasa has to route more than 400 km (250 miles) around the river – no one wanted to put the cable through it.

    There's a shorter route for data to take between the cities. Instead of transmitting the information as light through networks of cables, it can be directly beamed over the river by laser.

    Continue reading
  • Apple's M1 MacBook screens are stunning – stunningly fragile and defective, that is, lawsuits allege

    Latest laptops prone to cracking, distortions, owners complain

    Aggrieved MacBook owners in two separate lawsuits claim Apple's latest laptops with its M1 chips have defective screens that break easily and malfunction.

    The complaints, both filed on Wednesday in a federal district court in San Jose, California, are each seeking class certification in the hope that the law firms involved will get a judicial blessing to represent the presumed large group of affected customers and, if victorious, to share any settlement.

    Each of the filings contends Apple's 2020-2021 MacBook line – consisting of the M1-based MacBook Air and M1-based 13" MacBook Pro – have screens that frequently fail. They say Apple knew about the alleged defect or should have known, based on its own extensive internal testing, reports from technicians, and feedback from customers.

    Continue reading
  • Microsoft's Azure Virtual Desktop now works without Active Directory – but there are caveats

    General availability of Azure AD-joined VMs

    Microsoft has declared general availability for Azure Virtual Desktop with the VMs joined to Azure AD rather than Active Directory, but the initial release has many limitations.

    Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), once called Windows Virtual Desktop, is Microsoft's first-party VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) solution.

    Although cloud-hosted, Azure Virtual Desktop is (or was) based on Microsoft's Remote Desktop Services tech which required domain-joined PCs and therefore a connection to full Windows Active Directory (AD), either in the form of on-premises AD over a VPN, or via Azure Active Directory Domain Services (AAD DS) which is a Microsoft-managed AD server automatically linked to Azure AD. In the case that on-premises AD is used, AD Connect is also required, introducing further complexity.

    Continue reading
  • It's bizarre we're at a point where reports are written on how human rights trump AI rights

    But that's what UN group has done

    The protection of human rights should be front and centre of any decision to implement AI-based systems regardless of whether they're used as corporate tools such as recruitment or in areas such as law enforcement.

    And unless sufficient safeguards are in place to protect human rights, there should be a moratorium on the sale of AI systems and those that fail to meet international human rights laws should be banned.

    Those are just some of the conclusions from the Geneva-based Human Rights Council (HRC) in a report for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021