Why Microsoft Should Backport the Windows RunTime Environment to Windows 7

Why Microsoft Should Backport the Windows RunTime Environment to Windows 7

The Windows RunTime environment is the platform on which Windows Store apps (once called Metro Apps) run. It’s included with Windows 8 and Windows RT, and it isn’t available for Windows 7.

Given Microsoft’s goal of increasing the number of quality apps in the Windows Store, perhaps it should give consideration to vastly increasing the potential audience for Windows Store apps by backporting the Windows RunTime environment to Windows 7.

Windows 7 is the new Windows XP. By that I mean it has become the benchmark operating system. Windows 7 is likely to dominate operating system market share statistics as long, if not longer, than Windows XP did. That’s not because Windows 8 and Windows Next won’t be adopted, it’s just that Windows 7 is an operating system that a great number of people think is terrific and if you’ve got no compelling reason to change, why would you?

Given that Windows 7 is going to be with us as the dominant operating system platform for at least the next half decade, and given that Microsoft’s strategy appears to be to encourage future development on the Windows RunTime platform, why not release the platform for Windows 7?

Releasing the Windows RunTime platform for Windows 7 would accomplish a couple of things:

  • It would vastly increase the number of computers that can run Windows Store apps. Nothing compels developers more than the thought of a massive user base (well that and dumptrucks full of cash). This increases the number of available apps and it will increase the adoption of Windows RunTime as a dev platform. A positive feedback loop.
  • It would vastly increases the importance of the Windows Store. Suddenly there is a method for small developers to sell and expose their software on Windows beyond setting up a shopping cart on their own website and hoping the users will come. The catch is that your applications have to be compatible with Windows RunTime. A win for both sides.
  • It also demonstrates that just like Windows 8 – you can continue to run and install existing x86 and x64 applications while also using apps designed for the Windows RunTime environment. There are people who believe that Steam doesn’t run on Windows 8 because the guy that runs Valve made some comments that were taken out of context. Running the “new fangled Start” side by side with the “old fangled start” shows the dual nature of Windows 8 and makes it a lot less scary.

Providing Windows RunTime doesn’t mean switching out the Windows 7 Start Menu. Instead Microsoft could provide a TaskBar shortcut to the Windows RunTime menu. Clicking this shortcut would be the same as pressing the Start key on a computer running Windows 7. Opening the shortcut gives you access to the Windows Store and allows you to run your Windows Apps side by side with all your other software, just as you do on Windows 8 already.

Backporting Windows RunTime also deals with what I call the Sushi Problem.

The new Start menu on Windows 8 is a bit like Sushi. I remember when I first heard about Sushi – back when I was an unsophisticated teenager (rather than an unsophisticated adult), I thought “yuk – who wants to eat raw fish?” (something compounded by the fact that my high school job was working at a fish shop selling raw fish). If you’ve never tried it, the idea of eating Sushi seems crazy. However at some point I had a California roll. I was converted and these days it’s Bento Boxes, sashimi, squid and seafood salad as often as I can get it.

Providing Windows RunTime Environment is a bit like that first California roll. People would discover that much of the angst about the Windows 8 Start screen is journalists racking up page hits with “sky is falling” scare stories the same way that journalists always have.

Windows RunTime seems to be the future. If it is, backporting it to Windows 7 will allow more people to get in the Tardis to take that trip. Microsoft can ensure that Windows Runtime can be available on the majority of computers in the world today by backporting to Windows 7, rather than waiting for some unspecified point in the future, years from now, when Windows 8 and Windows Next marketshare exceeds that of Windows 7.

All that needs to happen is that Microsoft needs to make it a freely available download to Windows 7 users from Microsoft’s website.

Twitter: @orinthomas

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