At Google I/O in 2015, the Android team came up with the idea of ‘streaming’ apps. It’s quite ingenious really; instead of downloading and installing an entire app, Google would ‘stream’ only the parts of an app that are required.
Android apps split these sections as ‘Activities,’ where each ‘page’ of an app is a unique Activity. The implementation works, and it works well. Microsoft is bringing the feature to Windows 10, with a slight difference.
Microsoft is calling the feature ‘Playable Ads.’ The feature will indeed only work for UWP apps, but it’s a start.
It works quite the same way as Google. A user might see an advertisement for an app and tap on it. Microsoft will then generate an app stream and deliver it in-line.
However, unlike Google’s implementation; Microsoft’s implementation limits the app stream to three minutes. After three minutes, the user will be redirected to the Windows Store where they can choose to install the app. Users can abandon the app stream at any point too.
Since Microsoft is building the app stream on its end with its voodoo magic; the developers do not have to do anything to accommodate for this feature.
While Google and Microsoft both are utilizing this feature to promote applications via advertisements, there’s much more potential hidden underneath.
In the case of Google, Android can deliver these app streams via Google’s search results. If you are looking for a restaurant, for example, a result from Zomato could open within an app stream rather than the website.
That’s not something easy to do for Microsoft. This feature relies on UWP, and the only UWP browser is Microsoft Edge. Microsoft could implement the feature in Edge, but that would still leave out the majority of Windows 10 users on PC who use Vivaldi, Firefox, Chrome, or absolutely anything else but Edge.
This feature, hence, will only benefit the users who are already invested into the UWP ecosystem. It’s not introducing more people into the UWP ecosystem.
Playable Ads are available right now via the Windows Dev Centre.
Since Microsoft builds app streams on its end, all a developer must do is enable it. There are no modifications needed in the app.
Those who have tried the feature do mention that it is quite resource intensive for the client PC, though.
You can read more about the feature at the Windows Blog.