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Microsoft: Windows 10 User Experience Will Vary by Device Size

Microsoft this week gave a few hints about how device size will affect what Windows 10 features users will be able to experience.

For instance, the Windows 10 "desktop mode" will be available only on devices that are 8 inches or larger. Smaller devices won't have this desktop user interface, according to a Tweet on Monday by Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of the Operating Systems Group at Microsoft:

Belfiore also suggested in another Tweet that owners of 7-inch devices wanting to upgrade to Windows 10 will be able to retain the desktop user interface on those devices. They'll also have access to the "Continuum" Windows 10 feature, which lets a user switch between tablet and PC interfaces, depending on whether the user wants a touch-based tablet experience or a keyboard-plus-mouse kind of experience:

Having access to the desktop mode may be an important consideration for some users planning a Windows 10 upgrade. The main reason is that the desktop mode of the OS lets users run Win32 applications. Those Win32 applications are the apps that were capable of running on Windows 7, for example. Based on Belfiore's comments, such backward app compatibility will only be possible when using Windows 10 on devices larger than 8 inches.

Windows 10, planned for release in the second half of this year, actually has a dual user interface that includes a desktop mode alongside a Windows Store Apps mode (formerly called "Metro" or "Modern" by Microsoft).

Windows 10 'Flavors'
Microsoft reportedly is building Windows 10 products for specific device sizes. Veteran Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley described them as "flavors" of Windows 10 in a ZDNet article.

Microsoft's official stance is that it is building one OS for all devices with Windows 10. The company claims that Windows 10 will be capable of running on devices of various sizes, including PCs, tablets and smartphones. Windows 10 will even replace Microsoft's Windows Phone OS someday, company officials have said. However, it seems there may be some nuances to Windows 10, depending on the device size.

Foley described the currently released Windows 10 preview as the "Desktop" version, which is designed for tablets and PCs. Microsoft also plans to release a preview of another Windows 10 release that's designed for small devices next month. This mobile version of Windows 10 will be designed for ARM-based devices and Intel-based devices under eight inches.

Foley added that there also will be Windows 10 products for embedded devices and "Internet of things" devices. In addition, there will be a Windows 10 product for the new 84-inch Surface Hub conferencing device that Microsoft showed off last week, she stated. Such details, though, seem to be beyond what Microsoft has said publicly so far. Product editions and pricing details likely will get publicized by the company closer to the Windows 10 product release date.

Microsoft Ends Surface 2 Production
Microsoft is also a hardware product maker with its Surface tablet-PC devices. Possibly, its Windows 10 plans might be affecting its hardware plans.

For instance, the company has already stopped producing its Surface 2 devices, which are the ARM-based tablet-PC devices that run Microsoft's Windows RT 8.1 OS. The demise of the Surface 2 products was confirmed in a recent Business Insider article.

The Surface 2 device wasn't much of a big seller. Microsoft once wrote off $900 million due to unsold Surface RT inventory. However, if Microsoft intends to release a future "Windows 10 RT" OS only for small devices under 8 inches, then perhaps the company doesn't plan to support devices such as the Surface 2 with its 10.81-inch width.

So far, though, Microsoft has remained tight-lipped about its plans for Windows 10 RT running on ARM devices. More details are expected to be announced sometime next month.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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