Containerization to enhance Windows 10X app compatibility


Don Sharpe
by Don Sharpe
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Microsoft has demonstrated how existing apps will run on Windows 10X, the operating system set to power dual-screen devices such as the Surface Neo. Developers put a lot of effort into coding, and Microsoft is providing them with a container architecture that will guarantee backward compatibility for the Win32 apps they have already built.

Addressing developers, Kevin Gallo from Microsoft said that apps on Windows 10X would run in containers. This model will ensure that apps and websites built for existing OS environments can work smoothly on dual-screen devices.

For the first time, apps will run in containers to deliver non-intrusive updates and improved system resources for extended battery life.

Gallo also announced the availability of the Microsoft Emulator, which will help developers build and test apps for Windows 10X.

The Win32 app container

In an explainer video, Microsoft’s Peter Torr explains how containerization enables existing UWP and Win32 apps to work on Windows 10X, an OS designed primarily for futuristic form factors.

Microsoft acknowledges that not all existing UWP and Win32 apps might work optimally within the proposed Windows 10X container architecture.

Windows 10X supports three types of containers, starting with Win32—a multi-app single container. The others are MSIX containers and native containers.

Microsoft described these containers as unique since apps run in them without requiring any extra configuration or modification by the developer. It said that apps in the Win32 container boast the highest compatibility level.

The container functions as an OS within the main or “host” Windows 10X OS. It has its own set of resources, including a kernel and drivers, which apps in it will be able to access.

However, apps in the Win32 container (including MSIX apps) do not have direct access to the main system resources, such as network, mic, keyboard, or mouse. So, if an app needed to leverage the keyboard to capture user input, it would have to go through the host system.

Windows 10X provides a “high-performance” RDP client for each Win32 app that is running to enable it to accept user input as well as deliver output via the device’s screen.

The highly integrated Windows 10 container architecture enables Win32 apps to communicate with the host resources. For example, if your Win32 app required internet access, it would “talk” to the network resource to get it.