Visual Studio|Windows 10

The Dashboard: Microsoft's Unhealthy Relationship With UWP Devs

There is little doubt Microsoft is a developer company. There is, however, serious doubt about Microsoft being a company which supports indie app developers. The demise of UWP and its confusing twists and turns is no secret and is now old news. As that news was bouncing around the Microsoft blogs, UWP developers’ dedication was being tested and even taunted.

Developers Are Now Partners

Access to the Microsoft Store for developers came through the Microsoft Developer Dashboard. This is where UWP creators could: submit their apps, read and respond to reviews, go through feedback, analyze data, and get paid. A year or more ago Microsoft rebranded the developer dashboard to the Partner Center and made it the hub for activities such as Windows Store apps, Cortana, and Cross-Device Experiences. All of which are different ways for developers to leverage Microsoft technology. So, the previous brand “Developer Dashboard” would have still fit.

No matter, with a new header and URL, the new “Partner Center” will be new and improved … right? Wrong. All the previous issues remain, and a few new ones got thrown in. App information such as crash data frequently would not be updated for a week or more and information such as how much money is being made would also be wrong for a couple weeks every month. From the first until the 16th when the payment would be sent to developers payment data was frozen.

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The issues did not stop there. Nearly every part of the Partner Center would have stale data, laggy performance, confusing inconsistent UI, and the web page would frequently freeze. Quick graphs would greet developers and give an update on their app performance were a neat idea but had terrible execution. The colors frequently did not match the sentiment. For example, fewer crashes is good but the graph would be all red. Not to mention the mobile experience is riddled with the same issues and a few more for good measure.

Health Data Delayed Banner
Health Data Delayed Banner

It is hard to understand how the world’s most valuable company could build an experience so reliably bad. Microsoft is not just any large Fortune 100 company; they are a technically focused technology company. One major customer group of Microsoft is developers. Obviously wading through this garbage portal did not stop thousands of indie developers from targeting UWP but Microsoft was not done.

Dysfunction On Top of Dysfunction

Beginning around June, the payment system broke. With no warning or communication from Microsoft, payments froze and did not update for months. Eventually, a warning banner was added to the payout page explaining the data was old and a new experience was coming soon. This new payout system would not show the historic payout data from the old system so both would be accessible.

Unsurprisingly, no one from Microsoft ever signed their name to any error banner. Across the dozens of developer-focused blogs Microsoft failed to communicate their plan to their dedicated UWP developers. Still, as of writing this post, it is unclear what Microsoft plans to do with the UWP developers like myself who continue to write UWP apps for Windows 10.

Make no mistake, I am aware that UWP is ‘dead’ and Microsoft is not going to invest any more in this platform. Yet the individuals who still use Microsoft technology, tooling, APIs, and platform are extremely dedicated and talented. This crowd, while small, has stuck around and is actively using their skills to improve Windows by providing an ecosystem of apps, and with users numbering in the hundreds of millions, Windows still provides a good business opportunity for enterprising developers.

Not only are these crazy die-hard UWP developers dedicated to Windows, but they provide obvious spillover benefits to Microsoft in several ways. Most of the developers I connect with say the more they develop for the Microsoft platform the more likely they are likely to buy Surface hardware, play Xbox, use Office, and target Azure.

Most of these developers would like to be full time UWP developers but due to difficulty of making serious money with UWP, they all have day jobs. This means they are either Microsoft technology advocates within their companies, or they are building their skills to enter the technology workforce armed with Microsoft knowledge and tooling.

What Kind of End In Sight
The future for Microsoft devs is .Net 5
The future for Microsoft devs is .Net 5 (image courtesy of Microsoft)

Admittedly, Microsoft is at a crossroads when it comes to their developer story. With DotNet Core 3 around the corner and DotNet 5 on the horizon, Microsoft sees where they need to be. But as for today, Microsoft takes the shotgun approach. Embracing tried and true tech like WPF and WinForms while promoting Azure every chance they get. Talking about awesome upcoming projects like Blazor and even building the incredibly futuristic HoloLens.

Yet UWP is ignored and the silence is painful. Where should we go from here? How should we target Windows? What platform will be there in five years when we are still maintaining our niche apps? What tooling is best for us for CI/CD: AppCenter, Azure DevOps, or GitHub? Microsoft, do you have a plan for what will happen to UWP developers? Are you working on one?

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Comments (8)

8 responses to “The Dashboard: Microsoft’s Unhealthy Relationship With UWP Devs”

  1. dontbeevil

    Are you really sure you're a UWP developer? you should know that .net core 3 support is coming to UWP, they need just a bit more time because are moving from .net native to core

    • Joseph Finney

      In reply to dontbeevil:

      If UWP is here to stay, then why is Microsoft not investing in the Dev Dashboard? Also why are no senior executives at Microsoft saying UWP is the future?

      • dontbeevil

        In reply to joseph-finney:

        At least you reply and looks like we can have a discussion, not like someone else that just delete comments and block people that doesn't think like him.

        I have not much time to go trough twitter, but chack many MS developers and MVP like Rudy Huyn what they're keep saying about UWP, also .net conference is not finished yet.

        feel free to join the UWP community if you really like to discuss and develop uwp


        latest 4 days updates from the store:

        MR portal: UWP

        MS whiteboard: UWP

        Xbox game bar: UWP

        Sticky Notes: UWP

        Lenovo Vantage: UWP

        Snipe & Sketch: UWP

        Nightingale: UWP

        Your Phone: UWP

        Angry birds 2: UWP

        Awesome Tube: UWP

        Xbox game bar plugin: UWP

        SKype: UWP

        Store: UWP

        • Joseph Finney

          In reply to dontbeevil:

          Fans were holding up Windows Phone as "not dead" for years. Pointing out that apps were being updated and it "still worked great" but it is now clear that Microsoft was pulling back and not investing in Windows Phone for the long term.

          UWP is an awesome tech stack and I enjoy making UWP apps. Also whatever Microsoft has in store for the evolution of UWP it will probably build upon the existing UWP framework.

          Yet the question remains, why do they do such a bad job of supporting their indie developers?

          Why is there no CI/CD pipeline for UWP in Azure DevOps, Visual Studio App Center, or the Partner Center?

          Why is developer data reporting constantly crashing?

          Why do they change the way free trials are displayed in the Microsoft Store (which has a massive impact on dev revenue) without communicating changes to devs?

          So many more questions about their commitment to their developer community.

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