Comment The Windows 10 traditional desktop is a no-go zone for new tablets smaller than 8-inches across, according to Microsoft exec Joe Belfiore.
This week he tweeted that only slabs at least 8in in size can run the Windows 10 operating system in desktop mode and use normal 32-bit Windows applications. Smaller slates and smartphones will not get the traditional desktop, and can only run Modern user-interface apps, such as those from the Windows Store.
Folks asking about updating 7" *existing* devices to Win10 -- you keep your desktop, you get continuum. Go try it yourself now! :)— joebelfiore (@joebelfiore) January 27, 2015
There is a twist though. If you want to upgrade your 7-inch fondleslab running desktop Windows 8 to 10, you get to keep the traditional desktop. "You get continuum,” as Windows veep Belfiore put it.
It is a dilemma. The traditional Windows desktop makes no sense on a small tablet. It was designed for mice and keyboards, not fingers on touchscreens, and it was not certainly designed for tiny displays.
A stylus makes it somewhat useable, otherwise you jab away with a fat finger hoping to hit the mark. Why even allow it on 8in devices? Even on larger tablets, the Windows desktop is out of place.
That said, one of the attractions of devices like the cheapo 8-inch Linx 8 tablet – reviewed by El Reg here – is that it can run any of the vast number of existing normal Windows programs out there. There is also an option to connect to a larger screen either via HDMI or wireless. Add a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and a tablet of any decent enough size makes a workable PC.
Such hybrid slabs can work in the market, as recent sales demonstrate.
Windows RT, the ARM build of Windows 8 that had a locked-down desktop, was a failure in part because of the lack of compelling apps in the Windows Store. Small Windows tablets, even x86 ones, could suffer from the same problem if Redmond's app shop doesn't measure up.
Windows 10 comes bundled with universal apps so they can work across small tablets with no desktop to larger slabs with more display space.
This includes the new Start menu, Maps, Photos, and even the new Calculator (the old Calc accessory has been removed from the latest preview.) In addition, Microsoft has promised and demonstrated a version of Office packed with universal apps, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote.
One other thought: if there is a way to upgrade from Windows 8 to 10 on a small tablet and still keep the desktop, the more enthusiastic among us will probably find a way to enable the desktop on new tablets smaller than 8 inches.
If Microsoft has any sense, it will not fight those hackers. Making the desktop, and Win32 app support, a switchable option would help on several levels, giving businesses an option for locked-down devices while individuals would be free to run what they want.
Long term, though, if Windows is to have any future on tablets, the desktop has to go. ®