At BUILD last year, Guggs and I showed how Giorgio Sardo and his team here in DPE have been coding together with great companies — like Khan Academy — to move entire websites into Windows Store apps — more or less effortlessly.

As I showed in the demo, the trick to making this so easy is the new Web control we released in Windows 8.1. The Web control provides an execution environment for Web content that exposes the most essential features of the browser so your Web content largely just works inside the control.

HTML5 + Config = Windows App

We’ve been very excited about this approach and have been doing a lot of joint projects with developers using this approach. Coming out of this we found an even easier way to port website content. 

Rather than requiring developers to recreate the wheel for features such as in-app navigation, charm integration and live tiles, all that functionality is now built into the template and controlled through simple settings in a config file. And with HTML5 as the app platform, there is one seamless development approach across your Web app and your Windows apps, which makes for an easy transition for all Web developers. It really is cool.

Giorgio, Jeff Burtoft, and a handful of other engineers on my team, have packaged these ideas into a nice Web App Template, a tool that makes this approach easy to do for both Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8 apps.

We’ve invested in this project because we think there are a lot of great Web apps out there that will also make great Windows apps.  

We know there has been a lot of debate in the industry about whether it is viable to take a Web app and turn it into a mobile app. What we are seeing is that the combination of deep platform integration, great performance, and a comprehensive set of browser capabilities seems to make a big difference in the quality and appeal of the resulting apps. There is a lot of positive customer response to apps built with this template — like the Lowes 4.9 user rating in the Windows Phone Market or Zoopla Property Search’s 4.8 user rating in the U.K.  

Web App Template LogoTo get a little more of a behind-the-Scenes look at the Web App Template and how it came into being, listen in on the conversation I had with Giorgio and Jeff.

We think this web-based approach can go even further… David Catuhe on our team has been doing some really cool extensions to the template and we’re going to try it out during a hackfest we are doing with Accela in a couple of weeks.  Stay tuned… Build is right around the corner.