Why you need to take notice of the .APPX installer framework

At Build 2015 in March, Andrew Clinick said: “APPX is now our deployment model. MSI isn’t going to go away, but we want you to move to APPX. We’re investing all of our efforts into making AppX the ultimate installer across the Windows ecosystem.” At build 2015 however Windows Phone was still being discussed along with “Continuum” (the idea that your phone can be a PC in your pocket) and UWP Apps (which only come in APPX format) were important for Windows Phone. Come build 2016, Windows Phone was missing and many people now regard it as dead.

In May we heard about Appinstaller (with Windows 10 Anniversary Update) allowing you to install an .appx file by double clicking on it.

There has been recent news about Desktop Bridge and the Desktop App Converter. This is about making it easy/easier to move/shoehorn existing apps on to the .APPX model (but not making them UWP Apps). This news was fairly low key and I didn’t find the benefit arguments given too compelling for a corporate environment (Live tiles, Notifications, Cortana Integration, Re-installation of your apps after a broken PC), but there are productivity and admin reduction advantages to self-service app-stores, particularly for apps where licensing is not an issue and admin rights are not required.

For Nano Server, the news is that .APPX is the deployment framework and .MSI has been excluded:  See “Installing Windows Server Apps on Nano Server“. So it appears Andrew is still at work and APPX is still considered to have advantages over the .MSI model.

So the underlying message here for us .MSI Packagers is that although things have gone very quiet on Windows Phone and the Windows Store hasn’t taken off yet we are still going to have to take notice of the .APPX format. The good news (announced at the same Desktop Bridge session) is that the format is now supported by both Advanced installer and Installshield.

To throw in a final titbit, did you know that packages created with the Desktop App Converter use the same techniques as App-V and seemingly you can even use the SDK Tool MakeAppX.exe to Pack & Unpack App-V 5.0 Files.