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Why Windows Blue heralds the death of the desktop

Brad Chacos | March 27, 2013
Brace yourselves, faithful PC enthusiasts. You aren't going to like what I'm about to say. Heck, I don't really like what I'm about to say. In fact, I'm almost terrified to lay out my case in black and white. But that doesn't change the fact that it needs to be said.

Brace yourselves, faithful PC enthusiasts. You aren't going to like what I'm about to say. Heck, I don't really like what I'm about to say. In fact, I'm almost terrified to lay out my case in black and white. But that doesn't change the fact that it needs to be said.

There's a very good chance that Microsoft will kill the desktop in Windows 9. No more Task Manager. No more File Explorer. No more legacy compatibility. It'll be 100 percent Live Tiles, 100 percent of the time.

That day is still on the distant horizon, but it is coming. Indeed, if Windows Blue, the just-leaked update to Windows 8, shows us anything, it's that Microsoft is willing to de-emphasize desktop functionality in deference to the modern UI.

A finger-friendly Windows

By now, everyone knows that Windows 8 (and its dumbed-down cousin, Windows RT) is Microsoft's answer to the massive success of smartphones and tablets. A touch-friendly interface! An app store! Bing Maps! Even an airplane mode! How mobile.

The very introduction of the modern-style Start screen was a bad omen for desktop diehards, but the clouds truly darken when you consider how much of Windows core functionality is already being leeched away from the traditional desktop interface.

Windows Media Player aside, not a single vital first-party Windows program resides on the desktop. (And even Windows Media Player has been somewhat superseded by the Music and Video apps.) Calendar, Internet Explorer, Mail, Messaging, People,  and even the system's PDF reader all reside on the modern Start screen, where they're joined by auxiliary apps such as Finance, News, Travel, Weather, and the aforementioned Music, and Video. Windows 8 was designed so that you never actually need to drop into desktop mode unless you want to run a specific legacy program or fiddle with the deeper settings available in the Control Panel.

But even this level of desktop engagement looks to be on the chopping block. While Windows 8 requires a desktop deep-dive to perform basic functions like changing the system time or fiddling with display resolutions, the long-rumored Windows Blue update overhauls the OS's modern-style PC Settings, transplanting many traditional Control Panel functions to the touch-friendly UI.

And let's not forget how the beloved Start button was given the boot in Windows 8, only to be replaced by the largely identical (and kind of better) modernized All Apps screen. Nor should we forget how it's impossible to boot directly to the desktop in Windows 8 without resorting to third-party apps or technical trickery.

Can't you read the writing on the wall?

But why?

Microsoft isn't being fickle. The company has a lot to gain by shifting to a purely modern-style Windows.

 

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