Windows 8 won’t kill the desktop, but don’t worry – we’re still screwed
By Joel Hruska, Extreme Tech, February 29, 2012 -
Back in early February, the Building Windows 8 blog published an entry on power efficiency in the new operating system. One sentence of it, in particular, caught my eye. “In a world where 75% or more of the PCs sold are battery powered, programmers are, by definition, being asked to rethink how to get work done again.”
Embedded in that sentence is a wealth of information on what Microsoft sees as the future of Windows and the position of the conventional desktop within this new ecosystem. Before we go further, we need to pause and define some terms. The desktop or mouse-and-keyboard (MAK) usage model refers to the conventional method of interacting with an operating system and applies to both desktops and laptops. This is distinctly different from the desktop form factor; the latter refers only to towers and actual desktop computers.
To put it bluntly, the MAK paradigm has stopped evolving. This viewpoint isn’t unique to Redmond by any means. OS 10.5 (Leopard), released in 2007, was the last OS X release to focus on what we’d call “traditional” desktop improvements. 10.6 (Snow Leopard) was a combination of bug fixes and efficiency enhancements; Lion and the upcoming Mountain Lion both put design parity with iOS front and center. Even the penguinistas aren’t immune; Ubuntu’s six-month release cycle has become a referendum on the state of Unity and how much the community hates that UI’s explicitly tablet-friendly layout.
Mouse-andkeyboard-centric layouts are the past, not because the MAK model is inferior to touch, but because touch UIs are the vehicle driving new markets. As a result, there’s not going to be a future OS release where Microsoft swings back and showers love on desktop mode users. Instead, desktop compatibility mode will continue to exist in its current form until Redmond finds a way to create a Metro-style work environment that allows for a greater degree of flexibility. It’s possible that over time, Windows 8′s Desktop mode will evolve into its own type of user account with relaxed restrictions on program installation and allowed functionality.
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