Despite Microsoft’s efforts to push new package installer formats into the market, MSI remains the most popular technology in the application packaging community. Why is it so hard to replace, and in which cases might it still become obsolete — find out in our article.
Before the MSI Technology
In 2000, Microsoft released the Microsoft Windows Installer , also known as MSI, to streamline application management and deployment on the MS operating system.
Before the release, things had been going poorly in the app packaging sphere: there was no universal technology that companies could use for their software products. With no technology to create traction toward universalization, enterprises could choose their own package installers with specific installation instructions. Such diversity often caused a lot of difficulties in navigating through a wide variety of installers available at that time, and MSI was the optimal solution that would eliminate the challenge.
The Reasons Behind MSI Popularity
For more than 20 years, MSI has been one of the most widely used Microsoft installer package formats. Such popularity can be explained due to a few sound reasons.
Major Development Environments Support MSI
There are a lot of integrated development environments (IDE) that allow building-in plugins to create package installers. One of such IDEs is Visual Studio, developed by Microsoft. Developers use it to create software applications such as mobile and web apps, web services, and websites. In addition, they can create a Microsoft installer package using its native plugin or extension.
To get such a plugin to create the package, the developer can download Microsoft Visual Studio Installer Projects Extension from the Visual Studio Marketplace and install it on their machine.
Another plugin that can be used in Visual Studio is Windows Installer XML or WiX. The solution provides tools that allow developers to build installers for Windows Installer, the Windows installation engine.
Repackaging and Deployment Tools for MSI
MSI is a time-tested technology. That’s why in addition to IDEs, many standalone solutions on the market help create and repackage non-MSI installers into Microsoft software installers. For example, with PACE Suite for MSI packaging, creating an MSI installer from the ground up takes only a few simple steps as it has all the necessary modules and features that know how to make an installer in the most efficient ways.
What’s more, various deployment tools from Microsoft and other providers support MSI. The most popular ones include Microsoft Intune and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM).
“When an old technology such as MSI allows gaining the same benefits as a new one, it will be tough for the new technology to overcome the old one mainly because the old technology is well familiar, and many tools have been created to support it.” — summarizes Infopulse’s application packaging expert Michael Kalachov.
The Future of MSI
What about the future of MSI? Will it become obsolete or stay here forever?
The key to the answer lies in the hands of Microsoft itself. If we can use our imagination for a brief moment, one possible outcome, no matter how impossible, is that the company will decide to obliterate the technology. The company may cut off features supported by MSI with each new Windows OS update or cut the support of the technology entirely with the release of a new operating system version.
Such a change will also have consequences. For instance, if Microsoft decides to excuse the support of some of MSI features gradually, the company will also have to cut off the support of legacy installers, such as EXE.
However, as we mentioned, this option is implausible. Microsoft has quite a flexible policy by supporting backward compatibility: the software created quite a while ago can still run smoothly on newer versions of MS Windows.
Another option is that Microsoft might create and release truly exceptional package installers with tons of valuable features. Nevertheless, this chance is even more impossible. MSIX has been on the market for many years and has yet to reach the MSI level of popularity.
MSI has proven to be a tried and true technology with various tools and solutions available to support it. And it is highly unlikely that it will disappear any time soon.