Since Microsoft's confirmation about a unified code base for Windows 10, there's been considerable discussion about how that new UI would play out on devices with smaller screens.
If you've played with Windows 10 Build 9926 at all, you're probably already aware of how Windows 10's new Start Menu/Screen can function in two modes. The first mode, let's call it desktop mode, is a reimagined Start button from the Windows 7 days. Essentially, Microsoft has merged the Windows 8.1 Start Screen with some of the functionality of the Windows 7 Start Button.
The second mode is Tablet Mode, which I talked about HERE. Tablet Mode is part of Continuum, which is Microsoft's effort to make the working environment more intelligent so Windows 10 can sense the device you are using and try to select your preferred operating environment (desktop or tablet).
Of course, in Windows 10, you can manually select the mode you need or want, and can even choose to maximize the Start Screen/button at any time. There's obviously a lot more to it, but that's the essentials. And, while things should change dramatically before Windows 10 is a final product, this is the framework for what to expect.
But, many are wondering, based on a combined code base, how this will work on smaller devices, such as handheld tablets or smartphones.
So far, Microsoft is stating it this way:
- Devices with screens that are larger than 8-inches will come with Desktop/Tablet mode.
- Devices with screens that are 8-inches or smaller will not come with Desktop mode.
This communication comes just as Microsoft is set to release the first build meant for Windows Phones, which should be available sometime next month (February). So, if you read into the message a bit, smaller tablets will function more like Windows Phone does – a tiled UI that can only run a single app onscreen. Once you understand that, I'm sure there's an even bigger question for those that already own tablets with screens that are 8-inches and under. Thankfully, you're not alone on that, and has become popular enough that Joe Belfiore took to Twitter to ease customer fears.
Folks asking about updating 7" *existing* devices to Win10 -- you keep your desktop, you get continuum. Go try it yourself now! :)— joebelfiore (@joebelfiore) January 27, 2015
So, some thanks should be lofted toward Joe for responding to the query. Because, when you think about it, those that already own smaller Windows 8.1 devices surely don't want their investment to work differently after a Windows 10 upgrade.
Meandering further down this logical trail, it's safe to assume seem that only new devices, with Windows 10 pre-installed, will follow this new policy. Devices upgraded to Windows 10 will retain their old settings and functionality.
OK, so all that said, and considering that the Windows 10 code base is unified, I'm positive there will be some hacks available (probably registry modifications) that will allow users to bring back Desktop mode even to the smaller devices.
One additional bit of clarification. Windows 10 today (Build 9926), installed on a small screen device, does not offer the ability to maximize or restore the Start Screen, showing that eliminating the desktop is already happening in some cases. Thanks to Mike Hole for bringing this to my attention. Mike uses a Dell Venue Pro 8, and the maximize/restore button is already absent. Mike also notes that Desktop Switching is not available and the File Explorer button has been removed from the taskbar.