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Microsoft responds to Epic co-founder, says it's not locking down Windows 10

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Tim Sweeney remains unconvinced, but is open to hearing more

Microsoft has responded to a blistering op-ed from Epic Games co-founder Tim Sweeney, refuting his accusations that Microsoft is seeking to monopolize software development and distribution on Windows 10.

In the opinion piece, which The Guardian published today, Sweeney focused on the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) initiative that is part of Windows 10. He lambasted UWP as a "closed platform-within-a-platform," calling it Microsoft's "first apparent step towards locking down the consumer PC ecosystem and monopolising app distribution and commerce."

Microsoft's UWP is designed to allow software developers to write a single application that can run on a wide variety of Windows 10 devices, from smartphones and tablets all the way up to computers and the Xbox One. Sweeney supports the idea of UWP, but vehemently disagrees with what he sees as Microsoft's efforts to unfairly prioritize UWP and the Windows Store in favor of competing marketplaces such as Steam and GOG.com. The concern, Sweeney said, is that Microsoft will eventually make UWP the required standard, forcing developers to distribute their software in the store rather than directly to customers through the web or through other marketplaces.

Microsoft denied Sweeney's accusations in a statement to The Guardian.

"The Universal Windows Platform is a fully open ecosystem, available to every developer, that can be supported by any store," said Kevin Gallo, corporate vice president of Windows at Microsoft. Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox — with whom Sweeney discussed UWP over the past 18 months — echoed those comments on Twitter.

Gallo also refuted Sweeney's claim that Microsoft makes it difficult to "sideload" UWP apps — that is, to download and install UWP apps outside of the Windows Store. That had been the case at the launch of Windows 10 in July 2015, when users had to dig down into the system settings to enable sideloading. But Gallo said that the November update to Windows 10 "enabled people to easily side-load apps by default, with no [user experience] required."

Spencer's tweet linked to a blog post from Gallo published last week, in which Gallo provided further details on Microsoft's efforts to facilitate porting apps from other programming languages and platforms to UWP. The company recently acquired Xamarin, which will give UWP developers the ability to build apps with native experience for Windows, Android and iOS. Sweeney characterized Microsoft's response as promising, but he still has concerns.

"I like the sound of this, and look forward to thorough technical details on UWP's planned openness at //build," said Sweeney on Twitter, referring to Microsoft's annual developer conference. Build 2016 will take place from March 30 through April 1 in San Francisco. In additional tweets, Sweeney discussed his remaining reservations about UWP, such as whether Microsoft will provide "sensible means" for Windows 10 users to download and install UWP apps from the web.

For more thoughts from Sweeney, be sure to check out our interview with him on the Newsworthy podcast.