Windows 10 phones and tiny tablets won't get the desktop

Existing tablets will get full desktop functionality, but new devices under 8-inches will be more like Windows Phone.

Prognostications about Microsoft killing the desktop in Windows 10 are coming true -- but only for the smallest of tablets.

New tablets with screens smaller than 8 inches will not ship with a classic desktop, and won't be able to run legacy Win32 (read: desktop) applications according to Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Operating Systems Group. These devices will instead run something very similar to the phone version of Windows 10 that Microsoft showed off last week.

If you already have a 7-inch Windows tablet like Toshiba's Encore Mini, don't panic; Belfiore clarified on Twitter that existing tablets will retain their desktop functionality. They'll also support the new Continuum feature that switches to a mouse-and-keyboard interface when you dock the tablet with a desktop monitor.

With Windows 10, Microsoft is designing a single operating system to run across phones, "phablets," small and large tablets, laptops, desktops and the Xbox One console. But smaller devices will still have their roots in Windows Phone, and what we've seen so far is not a major departure from the existing interface.

The story behind the story: The death of the Windows desktop has been a popular prediction among tech pundits for years. But after facing a backlash for the drastic redesign of Windows 8, Microsoft backed away from plans to make the desktop a less integral part of the operating system. Instead, it's drawing a firm line --in this case, at 8 inches -- on which devices should have full Windows functionality, and which should behave more like smartphones.

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Jared Newman

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