We know that a lot of enterprises have not yet adopted this new technology and are not planning to adopt it in the next 12 months. But with these many benefits, you might ask yourself, “Why is this not taking off yet?”
Tim Mangan, the Founder of TMurgent Technologies LLC and a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for “Remote Desktop Services,” “Application Virtualization,” and “Windows IT Professional” for over 12 years, published a community survey on the topic. Although the sample size was small (94 responses from the IT pros and 23 from developers), and the survey is almost a year old, we can still learn a lot from its results.
One of the first things the study confirmed is that the definition of MSIX is very murky to many people. For example, two out of three developers think of MSIX as a replacement for MSI, while only 44% of IT pros share this opinion, and 25% of developers believe that MSIX replaces AppV, with 40% of IT pros thinking the same. Furthermore, in the fall of 2019, 83% of developers said they had already investigated the potential of releasing in MSIX form. Still, only 24% had repackaged an application into an MSIX, and 48% planned to repackage an app into an MSIX soon.
Limitations To Adoption Of MSIX
To gain adoption, a packaging format must cross a relatively significant threshold of criteria to justify the effort and budget involved in converting hundreds if not thousands of applications to the new design, investing in new tooling to manage these applications, and managing all other related consequences. The three biggest roadblocks are compatibility with the new format, ISV support, and tools for packaging and testing.
Similar to conversion to AppV and other formats, MSIX will not be suitable for every application. This compatibility issue gives IT Pros a problem: “Which of my applications will work on the new format and deliver successfully via my different software distribution management tools?”. Finding the answer to this compatibility challenge will be critical in facilitating the move to the new format.
Additionally, without reaching a critical mass of Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) adopting the new packaging format and releasing their applications as MSIX, it won’t be easy to go back to re-packaging standard vendor applications. Nowadays, many packaging tools have a catalog of applications ready for distribution and need no repackaging. Taking a step backward will be hard for many organizations to swallow. But software vendors won’t embrace MSIX unless their potential customer base is large enough, e.g., they have updated their OS to a version of Windows 10 that allows them to run MSIX without running into the limitations of running MSIX Core on older versions, etc. As a footnote, even Microsoft hasn’t released more than a handful of apps in MSIX format.
On the other hand, Microsoft’s MSIX partner ecosystem is just evolving and will probably undergo a few more significant changes before maturing. As of November 2020, Microsoft has onboarded 11 MSIX partners (e.g., Flexera and Access IT Automation) who, as early adopters, have demonstrated to the Microsoft MSIX product team that their application packaging solution can package MSIX packages.
App packaging and testing tool providers are approaching MSIX (including Juriba with its new automated AppM Platform) as the market is still in its infancy, and none of the vendors has emerged as a clear leader. Also, since the customer demand for MSIX hasn’t been as strong as initially expected, vendors will likely slow down investment until the market catches up. The same goes somewhat for testing tools. While the tooling has improved, enterprises still have to use multiple devices to test typical applications thoroughly.
In summary, MSIX is still undoubtedly the future of application packaging. However, despite the tremendous benefits for large organizations, enterprise adoption will be slow until compatibility tools, ISV support, and adequate packaging tooling gain critical mass. That said, MSIX is coming, and I highly recommend that you evaluate and familiarize yourself with the new format as soon as possible to be ready when the time comes.