Windows 10: Desktop or No Desktop?

Posted on January 27, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 0 Comments

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Rumors of a desktop-less version of Windows have been making the rounds for years, and of course Windows RT was originally designed as the version that would evolve into such a product. But with RT replaced by a new Windows 10 mobile SKU aimed at small screen devices, Microsoft’s strategy has come into focus. And we now know exactly which devices will be able to access the traditional Windows desktop and which will not.

So why write about this now? After all, Microsoft clearly stated how this would work at last week’s Windows 10 event last week. But with some blogs misreporting the availability of the desktop and its applications, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore took to Twitter to set the record straight. To be clear, what he said just confirmed what we already knew.

It breaks down as follows.

Windows 10 devices with 8-inch or bigger screens will provide the desktop. And this why Joe showed what appeared to be a Dell Venue 8 Pro during the event last week. Even on certain mini-tablets, you will be able to access the Windows desktop and, as important, be able to run traditional desktop (Win32) applications like iTunes, Chrome and Photoshop. And you will be able to access the Continuum feature, of course.

Windows 10 devices with smaller screens (under 8 inches) will not provide the desktop. Instead, these devices will look and work like a newer version of Windows Phone, and all apps will be run full-screen only. You will not be able to run desktop (Win32) applications on these devices.

Update: There is one caveat. If you have a Windows 8.x device with a small screen and upgrade to Windows 10, Joe Belfiore claims you’ll still have the desktop. We’ll see. –Paul

So, no new “news” per se, but just a clarification for those who are wondering.

There are, of course, other questions. For example, will smaller-screen devices without the desktop be able to use a keyboard and mouse? Today’s equivalent—Windows Phone 8.1—does not allow this, and Microsoft specifically leaves out this support for whatever reason. It’s not clear if they will continue preventing this with Windows 10. But if I were betting, they will not. That version of Windows 10 is aimed at phones, phablets and very small tablets. And those machines do not require a keyboard or mouse.

Maybe Joe B. could clear that one up. After all, that’s something they actually didn’t communicate last week.