The next major version of Windows may sport features aimed at desktop and notebook users who have been reluctant to leave Windows 7 behind. That includes the return of a Windows Start Menu, and 2-in-1 devices will be able to automatically switch from a desktop mode to a tablet user interface depending on how you’re using the device

But two different reports suggest that Microsoft will also be doing away with desktop mode altogether on smaller tablets.

dell venue 8 pro

Windows 9 (or whatever it’s eventually called) will reportedly run on a wide range of devices including desktop, notebook, and tablet PCs. There will also be a version of Windows that runs on both smartphones and ARM-based tablets. This will consolidate today’s Windows RT and Windows Phone software.

There’s no desktop mode on Windows Phone devices, but Windows RT tablets like the Microsoft Surface 2 do have a desktop… there’s just not much you can do with it since you can’t install third-party desktop apps. What you can do is run Microsoft Office — which makes sense because Office is one of the key things that differentiates a Windows tablet from the competition (or at least it did until Office hit the iPad).

But Office can be tough to use on a small device, especially if you don’t have a keyboard, mouse, or touchpad handy. Microsoft is working on a touch-centric, tablet-friendly version of Office for Windows and it’ll probably be released before Windows 9 hits the streets.

So it’s not a big surprise that Microsoft is thinking about removing desktop functionality from small tablets in the next version of Windows — you’ll still be able to use Office, but you won’t feel as much like you’re running a stripped down version of a “real” Windows tablet because you won’t see a useless Windows desktop. Instead these next-gen Windows tablets will be to a full-fledged Windows laptop what an iPad is to a MacBook: a complimentary device running a related operating system.

But the rumor is that Microsoft isn’t just killing desktop mode for ARM-based tablets. It could also be missing from upcoming tablets with Intel Atom processors.

Hopefully that only applies to small Windows tablets with Intel chips. In my experience, desktop mode really is virtually useless on an 8 inch tablet unless you plug in not only an external mouse and keyboard but also an external display. It can be tough to see text and tough to tap small points on the screen in desktop mode on a small Windows tablet.

But 10 inch and larger tablets like the Acer Aspire Switch 10, Asus Transformer Book T100, and Dell Venue 11 Pro are also powered by Intel Atom processors — and they all work with keyboard docks that let you use the tablets like notebooks. It’d be a shame to see desktop mode removed from devices like these since they’re actually quite usable as compact notebooks with an optional tablet mode.

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39 replies on “Reports: Say goodbye to the desktop on small Windows tablets”

  1. I wouldn’t be replying from any windows device right now if I hadn’t been able to buy this Wacom- enabled, desktop legacy program running 8″ Asus. No desktop, no sale, MS.

  2. I’ve used XP on a 7 inch dual core netbook….Microsoft would be insane to discontinue the desktop….It’s the new social networking interface I have no use for….I need to do work….not waste my day connecting and playing games. And I’d like to do it on a mobile device.

  3. Removing the desktop from ARM? Win. removing it from ATOM? Fail. Thats kind of the only reason I can think of for getting an ATOM tablet over ARM.

  4. No Desktop on tablets is a big loss. I was actually warming up to Windows 8.1, but having no Desktop would render Win8 tablets useless.

    1. I agree. I don’t see MS getting people to jump from Windows XP/7, iOS and Android by doing this. As a current Windows 8 user of an 8″ tablet, I may not be jumping to Windows 9 either.

    2. Agreed so long as the windows store pails in comparison to iOS and Android. The desktop and its legacy apps is what gives windows its strength

      1. To be clear, Windows will still have desktop mode. Tablets with the non-RT version of Windows will not have desktop removed, just the RT version, which makes sense because you are unable to install third party apps anyways. Also, there are 8 inch tablets which I believe will still have desktop mode, since they have full windows. Most Windows tablets are actually full Windows

        1. I hope u r right

          Subject: Re: New comment posted on Reports: Say goodbye to the desktop on small Windows tablets

          1. I haven’t heard about RT but otherwise he is right… look at the previous news on the certain desktops having MUI disabled by default… It still says it can be enabled for those who want it, they’re just setting defaults for the UI behavior for a given form factor device… and this news involves the same series of “threshold” updates that was being referred for the desktop news…

            It’s just a lot of sites that just repeat the news don’t read the source that well and thus leave out important details like that…

          2. Good. Choice is always better after all.

            Subject: Re: New comment posted on Reports: Say goodbye to the desktop on small Windows tablets

        2. What’s your source on 8″ x86 Windows tablets still having a desktop mode? This article and the source link are saying the opposite. I certainly hope Windows 9 or whatever it’s called will keep the desktop mode on small x86 tablets.

          1. Same as the source that states the desktops that will have MUI disabled by default can also still have it enabled if user wants…

            These are just new optimizations being set up by the “threshold” updates that will recognize what form factor device you are using and thus optimize the UI behavior defaults to best fit what most people want in that given form factor…

            So, same version of Windows will have different UI behavior on a given device form factor but since it is still the same version of the OS then it means you can customize and change/override those defaults…

            Really, this is something MS has been discussing almost as long as Windows 8 has been out… Windows was always suppose to eventually be able to self adapt itself to a given form factor and even eventually change automatically for devices that change form factors…

            This is no different than what Google has mostly already done with Android, being able to switch UI modes between phone and tablet for dockable devices like the Asus Padfone…

          2. This is what concerns me:
            “The combined Phone/Tablet SKU of Threshold won’t have a Desktop environment at all … This “Threshold Mobile” SKU will work on ARM-based Windows Phones (not
            just Lumias), ARM-based Windows tablets and, I believe, Intel-Atom-based

            The SKU that has both the Modern and desktop UIs are labled the desktop/laptop SKU (ie. may be excluding all tablets, not just small ones). The other article says the same thing. Are you saying they are not understanding their own insider sources?

          3. It just means the default… just like the one that states certain desktops won’t have MUI enabled at all but also state users can choose to optionally enable it if they choose…

            It’s kinda like the last update that put up the power button on the Start Screen… but for tablets it defaults to not showing it but you can still force enable it…

          4. It’s right there in the sources… Look at examples like it stating for the desktops with MUI disabled that it can be enabled!

            And anyone following this for more than one article would know MS has been working on a way for Windows to adjust itself to the device form factor… The default hybrid mode of Windows 8 was always suppose to be a temporary solution…

            People just keep assuming things if it isn’t always spelled out… Like the same was thought about the desktop eliminating MUI but it’s only offering to disable it by default, not eliminate it altogether… Much like other optional features in Windows that don’t necessarily enable or install themselves by default…

            Here’s an example…


            Threshold will be a further move away from the Modern UI environment for
            desktop users. In some builds of Threshold, the Modern UI is disabled
            by default. You have to manually turn it back on but this is situation
            dependent, if you wish to access the live tile environment.

            Mind, MS is working on making Windows more ideal for 2 in 1 devices and other form factor changing options… So they’re not focusing on one size fits all anymore but an adaptable system…

        3. weeyoo…ya had me worried there for a second. i use the desktop a lot on my dell venue 8 pro, connected with a plugable, to my tv 🙂
          like the op says, finally starting to like win 8

    3. I agree. Some of these teased cheap tablets with hdmi and other ports would have been quite powerful swiss-army-knife devices. If they are going to lock them down to ‘modern UI’ then they can keep them.
      I agree full desktop mode isn’t too useful when used as a tablet. But if it has the right ports then indeed I can use it with mouse/keyboard/screen or even remote into it. There is a lot of utility there in different scenarios. I’m sure MS would like me to pay more for a better or bigger device for those scenarios. But the truth is I won’t pay more. I just won’t buy Windows at all.
      ChromeOS and Linux both get better every day. Same for Android really. At a very good price for a small very flexible Windows device – I’m interested maybe. Higher price points? I don’t need them any more.

      1. You are the reason they are removing the desktop. Remember, Windows is now ‘free’ (Free as in strings attached, not just display size) for small devices. But if it is equally functional except for the display and people like you plug in a larger screen and negate that limitation, well Microsoft doesn’t make coin. Microsoft likes to make serious coin. Microsoft MUST make serious coin to maintain their stock valuation. You threaten that. So they fixed ya.

        They could have simply mandated that devices that qualify for a ‘free’ license not have an HDMI port but that would kinda give the game away.

        1. I don’t think that would be the reason at all, rather it is that the RT version simply isn’t doing well, so by merging it with WP they will save on resources, and they have already made WP free for EOMs, so it would only be logical for the merged RT-WP to be as well

        2. MS would have to make more restrictions. If the slate/tablet has
          a USB 3.0 port, one can attach a USB 3.0 dock (most USB 3.0
          docks have a VGA or other monitor port), many older USB 2
          docks also have a VGA port). Removing the HDMI port won’t
          be enough, host mode on the USB port will also need to be

          So there are workarounds, but to offer acceptable performance
          using the dock, the slate will need to have a quad core Bay Trail
          CPU or faster.

        3. Microsoft lowering their prices (even to the floor) in an attempt to gain market share is not my concern though – it’s theirs. I know my planned usage would subvert some part of their business model but I’m a daredevil, just like my old man.
          In the end they need to decide what to give away and what not to in order to try to win that market approval. I’m just saying that if their plan is that people like me will just swallow hard and pay out more to get Windows as a fuller desktop experience then they should perhaps rethink that.
          Give it away and figure out how to make money on services. Or don’t give it away and take a much smaller price for the software per device. But I’m through tacking $75 or $100 onto the cost of a desktop type machine for Windows.

        4. Microsoft can make serious coin regardless.

          1) I highly doubt MS is concerned with the masses all beginning to buy 8″ tablets with desktops to replace their laptops or worstations. Its not just about the screen size, Baytrail can’t compete with a core i series chip.

          2) MS is transitioning itself to a services based company. They can make money on windows regardless of the OEM fee via the windows store, Office 365, etc…

          1. I would think they are a little worried about it. If they aren’t then their partner manufacturers certainly would be. Pick up any flyer on Sunday from around the US for Best Buy or Staples. You see desktop entry level systems in the $300+ range.
            It’s true that pc sales are overall in decline and that there is a movement from desktop to laptop to mobile. But there are still huge numbers of people buying those desktops. Just not as many as used to.
            It’s also true that the baytrail chips are weaker than core stuff. But that doesn’t matter so much. What matters is whether the baytrail chips are good enough for most usage by most people – and they are.
            Anyway – if I can buy a cheap Baytrail tablet for $100 to $200 instead of that $300 desktop then it’s a big problem for somebody. MS or maybe just its manufaturing partners but certainly somebody.
            I agree nobody will be replacing a work station with one. Different market entirely.
            As for MS making money on services – yes they’d like to but that doesn’t just happen automatically. I have about 130Gigs of Onedrive space. I use about 200Megs of it. I have paid for none of it. MS is in constant promotions to get uptake on its services in this sector. They have moved their financial reporting around to make it more difficult to see what exactly is making money for them and what isn’t. It’s very doubtful they are making money on any of these consumer OS services though. Office yes – and that is probably it. The rest are probably bleeding cash.

    4. Losing it on RT makes total sense since it was only a stop-gap because metro-office wasn’t done. The neowin article linked suggests that desktop could be removed from the free windows (ie, ‘with Bing’) versions.. which makes some sense (as a way to gain metro users, to make it more competitive with iOS/android) IF they retain desktop ability with the non-free windows as an option for small tablets still.

    5. Don’t worry, these rumors often get blown out of proportion… usually because those repeating the news never really read the original source too carefully or just repeat what another site already repeated…

      So, what they’re actually doing is setting up defaults, both the desktop and the MUI will still be there but for certain desktops the MUI will be disabled by default and for certain tablets the desktop will be disabled by default but in either can the user can override and still enable them!

      They’re basically just setting defaults for how the UI will behave with a given form factor device you are using instead of forcing all users to use a single default hybrid UI behavior but it will all still be the same version of Windows and thus you can change the defaults if you want to…

      1. The linked to articles say they’re based on their own supposed sources. Are you saying their inside sources are incorrect or the authors misunderstood their conversions with these insiders?

        If their sources really are right though, I hope the whole being blowned out of porportion thing will cause MS to not get rid of the desktop on small tablets. Internal decisions can be made at any time like the Surface Mini.

        1. Authors mainly, like not mentioning the threshold updates also means there are desktops with the MUI disabled by default but those previous articles, from the same sources, state the user can choose to enable it…

          And it won’t be the first time they confused what’s happening with RT with regular Windows…

  5. This could be tricky. One of the great attractions of Windows tablets is support for legacy apps. Without the desktop, those 8″ Windows tablet owners will be limited to Modern UI apps. In essence, dumbing down those tablets to essentially what is now Windows RT tablets. That is not going to end well.

    This rumor of intelligent UI switching sounds more like a trial balloon (to gauge public reaction) or FUD to keep those who are holding out for a more Win7-like experience from jumping ship.

  6. At this point they have to work to get me back so I say try what you can, MS.

  7. The bigger news is the “no metro” on desktop computers with the next version of windows.

    1. If only. I think it’s more like “Metro pops up as soon as you try do anything” though. That and a shabby Start Menu replacement.

        1. Instead of a real Start Menu you’ll get a gimped Metro Start Screen thing with tiles on it.

          1. The so called “real” start menu is just a layout style menu system… having tiles on it doesn’t change that…

            Besides, it remains customizable and this means it is even more customizable now… So if you don’t want to deal with Metro apps then just don’t… Threshold allows the MUI to be completely disabled and you don’t need to have MUI apps on the Start Menu if you don’t want them… just like you don’t need to have desktop apps on the Start Screen!

            But having the options means you can use either the Start Screen or the Start Menu for everything and not need to switch between them anymore!

    2. Modern UI will be there, it just won’t be the default. The system will boot to the desktop, file extensions will be programmed to open in desktop apps, not Modern UI apps, etc.. But they won’t flat out remove modern ui for those who still want it IMO.

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