re: Windows Blue: Demise Of The Desktop?
Thanks for the comment, Erik W. The Haswell processors, to hear Intel tell it, should maintain i7 processing power while also bringing ARM-like battery life and enabling OEMs to produce thinner form factors. So in that regard, Microsoft and the OEMs are already in motion.
But you bring up a good point about what a tablet is good for and what a desktop is good for. At this point, iOS doesn't have a great tool for processing RAW images files and lacks support for high-end creative support such as After Effects or Photoshop. There are fun consumer-grade apps but nothing that offers professional tools. This example from the image-making industries is but one of many-- so as you suggest, there are some big holes to be filled if the desktop UI is going to be wholly replaced by Metro tiles.
That said, if Microsoft ends up killing the desktop UI and making Modern the only Windows interface, that move is still years away. Windows Blue is supposed to open a new era in which Microsoft continually improves products through frequent updates-- more like what Apple does with iOS and OS X than the monolithic Windows updates of years past. This means that users should receive improvements pretty regularly-- and indeed, after launching Windows 8 in October, Microsoft has already deployed a major set of app updates. Redmond probably should have had the apps in better shape at launch, but with Windows Blue due this summer, Windows 8 will have received a lot of enhancements within its first nine months on the market.
But these regular updates aren't just about improving the UI. They could also be about slowly killing off users' reasons for jumping from Metro to the desktop environment. Blue is evidently moving system controls in the Modern side. Later releases could incrementally advance this shift-- moving more features over to Modern; translating x86 apps, probably starting with Office, to a native Modern format; etc. There's a lot to be figured out if such a plan is to run smoothly. Not all legacy apps are going to be simple ports, for starters. But there's nonetheless mounting evidence that each set of Modern UI upgrades will coincide with reductions to our collective reliance on the desktop.
Microsoft could still surprise us with some desktop enhancements, or at least some features that make the two UIs get along better. With two big conferences in June and lots of buzz around Haswell, which should be shipping in new Ultrabooks and tablets around that time, Microsoft is going to have to clarify its plan in the next few months. If it doesn't, it could be hard to keep developers motivated and consumers interested.
Michael Endler, IW Associate Editor