The big picture: Microsoft's bet on creating a new app ecosystem with Universal Windows Platforms (UWP) promised better security with its sandboxed approach and cross-platform compatibility across Windows devices (PCs, smartphones, tablets, IoT devices), but developer support and consumer interest have been rather lukewarm from the start. The demise of the Windows Phone was the platform's first major casualty, and now the company has decided to close its ad services for UWP apps in the coming months, further sliding the Microsoft Store into irrelevance and frustrating developers who took the chance and poured months or years of effort into making free apps for the UWP ecosystem.
In a brief post, Microsoft announced that its Ad Monetization platform for UWP apps would be shutting down on June 1, 2020, since it is no longer viable for the company to "continue operating the product at the current levels."
Regarding its June deadline, Microsoft notes that "certain underperforming Ad networks will be shut down between now and June 1, 2020." and that developer payouts prior to this date will happen on schedule. It also recommends developers to "begin initiating a switch over immediately by evaluating alternate options for ad monetization."
While this doesn't mean the end of UWP apps, it's more likely to hurt the Microsoft Store as developers would be forced to either release paid versions of their free apps or switch to another platform altogether.
As of June 1st 2020, the Microsoft Ad Monetization platform for Window #UWP apps will be shut down. This is a disaster for me and many others. It was the only way to make money. Will I ever develop another UWP game again? #fail #ads #xaml @windowsdev https://t.co/9mA20qFlNT pic.twitter.com/TxzpJ2Ukqm— Fons Sonnemans ?? (@fonssonnemans) January 31, 2020
As Windows Central reports, Microsoft's rather short forum post has been subject to criticism by the UWP development community. QuickPad developer, Yair, shared his opinion:
The main issue that bothers me is how this and other recent developments with UWP were communicated. I would reiterate what [others] said, how the lack of proper communication confuses and hurts developers. Revenue from ads themselves are pretty low, and the fill rates have been bad for a long time, many developers just used it to drive in-app purchases, but there needs to be a proper alternative as well as better communication.
Another developer was left disappointed by Microsoft for pulling the plug on ad services as the company runs "one of the biggest ad platforms in the world with Bing!" and therefore should be able to absorb the server costs.
He also notes the company's "weird timing" on this decision, considering the upcoming launch of the Windows 10X-powered Neo and the "millions of new potential customers that are going to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10."