Later this year, Microsoft will begin inviting third-party developers to create their own widgets for use in Windows 11, Microsoft said at its Build 2022 developer conference.
“You’ll be able to start building Widgets as companion experiences for your Win32 and PWA apps on Windows 11, powered by the Adaptive Cards platform,” chief product officer of Windows and Devices Panos Panay wrote in a blog post accompanying the show.
Widgets are part of Windows 11, though the content is pulled from the same sources Microsoft puts on the Edge browser’s new tab page, the older News Bar, and the “News & Interests” feed that is part of Windows 10. Today, Widgets is a (user-configurable) collection of news, weather, stock prices, and photos pulled from the your OneDrive cloud storage repository.
What Widgets does not offer is any third-party content that Microsoft doesn’t manage and license itself: no collection of Facebook posts, no notifications or conversations from Slack (or Teams), no WhatsApp messages, no RSS feeds, no new posts within Reddit, and so on. It sounds like, though, that could change: if a third-party developer makes that content available via a Win32 app or a PWA app, it should show up within Widgets.
That opens the door to all sorts of third-party applications. A Progressive Web App, as we’ve explained earlier, is essentially a Web page (such as Outlook.com) that can be saved to the Start menu as a dedicated app. If you open Outlook.com within Edge, for example, you can use the ellipsis menu in the upper right-hand corner, navigate to Apps, then use the option to Install Outlook (PWA) to install the app. (The new version of Outlook is designed to eliminate the need for the Outlook PWA, but you get the idea.)
Adaptive Cards are simply “small snippets of UI” whose UI can be adapted to its surroundings. If you’re interested, the short introduction on the Adaptive Cards website goes into more detail, though if you think of the weather forecast widget that already exists within Widgets, you won’t be far off. It’s unclear, however, whether developers will be happy funneling their content into Windows 11, instead of into their own pages where they can push ads and other monetized content.
Incidentally, these Widgets won’t have anything to do with the free-floating version of the Search bar that appeared in a recent Windows Insider preview. Instead, they’ll simply appear in the Widgets board that can be accessed via the left hand side of the Windows 11 taskbar. Nor will they reproduce the widgets that appeared within Windows 7 and Windows Vista.
Right now, Widgets is part of Windows 11 that you can dive into, browse for a second or two, and then leave it again. If you’re able to add third-party content to it, though, it could become a lot more sticky.