Future of RISC Analysis Desktop Version

In Brief: Microsoft's long term desire to force customers to only use store based (UWP) apps on Windows 10 is well documented, and at some point Microsoft intend to do away with support for traditional Win32 apps and programs. UWP is Universal Windows Platform Win32 App refers to applications that use the traditional Windows API (32 and 64-bit) As Microsoft's implementation of Windows changes over the next few years, we believe we can best serve our clients using an O/S and Platform independent Web Application, instead of a device specific or O/S specific app. We have several resons for this, which are discussed below. Although we will continue to support RISC Desktop for clients using older versions of Windows, the limitations and restrictions of UWP based apps means that we will not be developing a desktop version of RISC for Windows versions that no longer support Win32 applications. Our On-Line version (RISC Analysis DataBox) contains the same information as the desktop version, is mobile device compliant, and needs only a modern browser (Chrome, FireFox, Safari). Consequently, RISC DataBox is supported on Windows, MacOS, Linux or any O/S that supports a modern browser. Therefore, we are strongly encouraging all clients to begin familiarizing themselves with the On-Line version sooner rather than later. If you have lost or need updated log-in credentials (we sent them out to all clients in late 2017) then please contact us.
In Depth Microsoft Windows Over the past few years, Microsoft have issued many contradictory and confusing statements regarding the future of the Windows platform. Some comments clearly state that in the future, only apps sourced via the Microsoft Store will be supported. Store based apps are built on the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and are often limited in I/O function. Traditional installabe programs ('.exe') are often referred to as Win32 Apps (a reference to the Windows API). The recently withdrawn Windows 10S version of Windows 10 served as a test bed for Microsoft since it was designed for Store Based Apps only (known as 'S-Mode'). In withdrawing 10S, MS stated that newer versions of Win10 would include S-Mode 'Enablement', allowing PC and Laptop vendors to decide how to ship new systems. Although S-Mode can be disabled by upgrading to Win 10 Home or Win 10 Pro, it adds to confusion for end users when they have a system which does not allow installing of Win32 traditional apps. Even for non S-Mode systems, Microsoft are incredibly vague about the handling of Win32 apps. One comment from a MS exec suggested that Win32 apps may still be allowed, but with only one or two permitted on the desktop or pinned to the taskbar. Why? Another stated that Win32 Games and Anti-Virus programs would be allowed. Microsoft's previous position (that all UWP apps must be sourced via the MS Store) has now supposedly been reversed, allowing developers to host their own UWP apps. This in itself speaks to the poor launch and implementation of the Microsoft Store - which is very light on business related apps (even MS-Office is not available). The problem with all these comments is that they are usually remarks made in interviews or at trade shows. There is no clearly defined official Microsoft statement or position. The net result is confusion for users and developers alike.
RISC Analysis DataBox A few years ago, we re-built our On-Line version of RISC Analysis from scratch. We refer to this as RISC DataBox. So far, we have received a great deal of positive feedback and many users now prefer using RISC DataBox. DataBox contains the same Descriptions, MT-FC Compats and FRU/PNs as the desktop version. It is a fully integrated Web Based Application, and is supported on all modern devices and modern browsers which offer full html5 and current level javascript support. Unfortunately this does not include Microsoft's Internet Explorer or the MS-developed version of MS-Edge. (The new Chrome based version of Edge is supported, though it has yet to be released by Microsoft). Although we will continue to support the DeskTop version of RISC Analysis for as long as possible, it is clearly evident that at some point Microsoft will force all users to only install UWP based apps.
Web Applications vs O/S Based Apps We have been asked several times why we do not have apps for the various platforms (Chrome, Windows, MacOS, iOS, etc.). The most obvious answer is that it would be expensive and time consuming to maintain multiple versions for all the different O/S vendors. But there are several other significant reasons. First, there is not much we can't do with html and pure javascript that an O/S based app could do better. In fact, the opposite is true. A web based application can offer far more versatility than an O/S specific app. Also, a web based application allows us to make changes to code which are immediate. O/S based apps need to be bundled and uploaded to each of the various stores. We should also consider how mobile and UWP apps work at a fundamental level. One of the arguments in favor of O/S based apps is that they can be used off-line. This is true, but most apps do not contain a great deal of raw data. Apps which do have above average or constantly changing data (News Readers for example) need to re-poll their server to retrieve fresh or revised data. In this regard, they function just the same as a browser and can not retrieve updated content if off-line. Where apps include data that changes infrequently, the footprint is usually small. Even News Readers only download less than a couple of mb. For us to include all of the data in RISC we would be looking at an app size close to 100mb, which is significantly larger than the average. From a user perspective, a web based application has a distinct advantage over any O/S based app. There is nothing to download and register. Let us assume you are visiting a client and you drop your iPad, smashing the screen. You need to look something up on RISC to complete the sales call, so you ask to use someone elses PC, Laptop, or Device. If we were creating device or O/S specific apps, you would need to download, install, and register the app on the other device. But, by using a web application, all you need to do is use a browser to go to the web site. Any PC, Laptop, Phone or Tablet will do - with nothing to download and install. By far, the biggest drawback for us with an O/S specific or device specific app is the control exercised by app stores themselves. Quite apart from the commissions they charge, or their various limitations and requirements, we do not believe that being dependent on such third parties is in our long term best interests.
Other Considerations Browsers Of the two leading independent Browser providers, Google Chrome and Mozilla FireFox, neither have plans to develop a Windows UWP app. Each of their current Windows applications are Win32 based. If Microsoft are going to limit Win32 Apps in the future, they are essentially saying that the only browsers supported on Windows will be either the outdated MS Internet Explorer, or MS-Edge. (I seem to recall Microsoft getting sued for limiting browser choice few years ago). The status of MS-Edge is somewhat unknown right now in June 2019. After over 5 years of development, Microsoft announced in late 2018 that Edge would start using the Chromium browser engine. In other words, Edge will soon be a version of Chrome. Although a general release date has not yet been announced for Edge-Chromium, the developer version looks and feels like Chrome and is now supported for use with RISC Analysis DataBox. Until Microsoft release a final version, users wishing to install Edge on Chrome need to install the Dev version. For Win 10 users, there are two options 1. Go to the Microsoft Store and search for Edge. Among the various Edge products is "Edge Dev Tools Preview". Install this item from the Microsoft Store. The installer will add the Edge Dev icon to the desktop. 2. Alternately a downloadable/installable version is available from Microsoft at: https://www.microsoftedgeinsider.com/en-us/download/ Win 7 and Win 8.x users users need to use option 2 above.