Perhaps Microsoft was too quick to sing the Windows 10 unification song, and perhaps we were to quick to buy the spiel. After practically saying that Windows 10 is for everyone, Redmond is now revealing the fine print, slowly and in bits and pieces. After vaguely alluding to the Windows RT’s demise, Microsoft is more clearly and more explicitly revealing one subtle yet important caveat to the Windows 10 promise. Any Window 10 device smaller than 8 inches, whether phone or tablet, will not be getting the desktop mode.
This statement is bound to bring up a lot of emotions and theories, but let’s try to think about it really hard. On one hand, it does make sense. If Microsoft is positioning Windows 10 to be the Windows for every kind of device, it has to draw the line somewhere. After all, one normally doesn’t expect phones to be running full-scale desktop apps. It seems that Microsoft is drawing the line at screen size instead of any other hardware component. Phones, phablets, and tablets under 8 inches will basically be left with the “Modern” experience. Anything larger will get access to the full “Continuum” experience.
To some extent, this setup also practically solves the superficial dichotomy that was created between Windows 8 and Windows RT. The desktop-less Windows 10 practically matches the experience of Windows RT, but without the technical limitation of CPU architecture. There will no longer be a distinction between ARM and Intel Windows devices but only between screens.
Of course, this decision is bound to ruffle a few feathers, particularly those who have been investing in small-sized Window 8 tablets of late. Microsoft has practically removed price barriers when integrating Windows 8 into small tablets and while it doesn’t say what the future will be like in terms of cost, it is, in effect, saying that the future for those devices will be less than what they already have now. Microsoft also has yet to chime in on the growing number of mini and pico PCs and HDMI dongles running Windows 8, a device class that hasn’t been specifically addressed yet. Those will most likely also get the full desktop experience, but given how Microsoft seems to be “clarifying” its position only now, one can’t really tell.
The one ray of hope is that Microsoft won’t be cutting out existing devices. Tablets of the small size that are already running Windows 8 will still get the Continuum factor when they upgrade to Windows 10, but that’s just about it. So if you already have a 7-incher from HP or Dell, for example, there’s no reason to throw them out in frustration. Just don’t go buying a new one just yet before we get the whole and final Windows 10 picture.