Microsoft's Metro apps rechristened with a new, sixth name: Windows apps

windows10 app commands
Credit: Image: Microsoft

After years of shuffling through various names for its modern app platform, Microsoft is keeping it simple with “Windows Apps.”

The name will refer to universal apps that can run across phones, tablets, PCs, Xbox, Internet of Things, and emerging devices like HoloLens. Microsoft revealed the branding during its WinHEC hardware conference last week, Paul Thurrott reports.

As for traditional desktop software, also known as Win32 programs, Microsoft will officially refer to them as “Windows desktop applications,” so "Windows apps" and "Windows desktop apps" will be two different beasts with awfully similar names. Microsoft says it’s fully committed to supporting desktop programs in Windows 10.

Ever since Microsoft launched the Windows Store in 2012, the company has struggled to come up with app branding that sticks. Originally, apps from the Windows Store were called “Metro-style apps,” but then Microsoft had to abandon all Metro branding due to a trademark dispute. Employees then vacillated between “Modern UI-style” and “Windows 8 Store apps” before settling on just “Windows Store apps,” sometimes sprinkling in "Windows 10 universal apps" to describe apps that work on any Windows 10 device.

The name was at least descriptive—all modern apps in Windows 8 came exclusively from the Windows Store, after all—but it may not be useful for much longer. Microsoft has hinted that it will let developers sell desktop software through the Windows Store in Windows 10. Microsoft hasn’t even said for sure whether Windows Apps will only come from the Windows Store, either. The official definition of Windows Apps makes no mention of the Store at all.

The story behind the story: The Windows Store was supposed to usher in a new wave of software for Microsoft’s operating system, but it didn’t work out that way. The store itself was a mess, and relegating these apps to the unloved “modern UI” side of Windows 8 insured that many users would ignore it. Windows 10 is effectively a do-over, with modern apps that can run in full windowed mode on the desktop. Likewise, the “Windows Apps” name is Microsoft’s way of re-establishing modern software as a central part of the platform.

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