8-inch and larger Windows 10 tablets only will have the desktop [updated]

Update: Belfiore took to Twitter once again to clarify that existing 7-inch devices will still be able to keep the desktop and take advantage of Continuum (thanks to everyone who tipped us on this).

Even after the recent Windows 10 event and the quantity of new information we received, there are still questions to be asked. Microsoft's Joe Belfiore has clarified in a Twitter conversation which devices will see the desktop with Windows 10.

"@marypcbuk @jackschofield @ExNokian @sbisson @dinabass 8" & up = "desktop" w/ win32 apps. < 8" = phones, phablets, sm tablets. No dsktp."

A little clarity, certainly. So it looks like there will be plenty of tablets able to act as a mini-desktop machine. While we weren't exactly expecting phones to have it, it clears up this particular question concerning the 7-inch tablet form factor.

Sources: @joebelfiore 1, 2

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

293 Comments
  • Bummer....guess my Stream 7 is out.
  • My guess is that despite this size differentiation, 7" tablets that are already on the market will be upgraded to the 'full' version of Windows 10 including the desktop.  I'm pretty sure that Belfiore is referring to eventual new products with Windows 10 when he's talking about those.  I asked that specific question in response to the Twitter thread quoted in this article, but didn't get a response.  Still, until I see otherwards, that's my assumption.
  • I don't understand why they don't make the desktop a universal app that can be added if I wanted it. That way, I could have a desktop if I connected my 930 up to a monitor/TV with an MHL keyboard and mouse... Make it my choice Microsoft!
  • People are already forcing tablet mode on desktop machines. I doubt you won't be able to, if you really want to.
  • Forcing Tablet Mode? It's a simple button...
  • Hopefully they will makr the tablet mode persist a reboot.
  • Tablet Mode is a limp joke.  It only BARELY attempts to imitate how nicely Windows 8 works.  Anyone who thinks Tablet Mode and the full screen Start Menu are anything close to Windows 8 should be smacked.  There's no universe where this is made right. 
  • one word: preview
  • Calm down speedy it's still a preview... There's still a long road ahead for changes to happen.
  • Agree: the taskbar in tablet mode doesn't seem a good idea to me.   My suggestion: integrate the taskbar in the full screen start menu with more modern style icons that are easy to touch.  Everybody will understand that pressing the Windows key gives the screen for both: open new apps and switching between open apps. No taskbar needed when apps are displayed (waste of screen real estate and it ruins the clean design of modern apps). Another suggestion: pressing windows key twice opens up the new 'alt tab'  screen.  Everybody is used to that thanks to the competition.
  • Brilliant idea, WPJanssen.   Excellent.  I'm going to suggest that in feedback app and on forums  
  • Thanks ;-)
  • I'm 100% with you.  Let's not forget the abomination of using Win32 OpenFIleDialog instead of Modern "Pickers".  
  • I'm running in tablet mode myself on my PC. Although I do wish the full screen start menu was more like the start screen. Seems pretty awful at the moment.
  • To be honest and not 100% what you are looking for but, you can easily disable the desktop and just run the modern interface as there are settings that are available to do just that. From there you can just have a shortcut tile to enable it when you wanted it but as far as the desktop being a modern app, not possible.
  • What are these settings you speak of to disable desktop on Windows 10? I'm using it on an HTPC and would love to get rid of it. And not just tablet mode.
  • Well, I guess you mean that you can easily HIDE the desktop and just run the modern interface because it is not possible to actually boot without the legacy components running in the background... Otherwise I wouldn't have suggested this: https://windows.uservoice.com/forums/265757-windows-feature-suggestions/...  
  • There are no desktop apps or exposed APIs for non-Intel machines, so a desktop on your phone would have no actual use.
  • Untrue
  • On Windows for ARM (aka Windows RT) all desktop APIs are exposed.
  • For Windows RT only the APIs of WinRT (Windows Runtime) are available
  • +1 They should really consider that before launch. Or maybe they can start making phones with Intel chips capable of accessing full windows when plugged in to an external display but converts back to the phone UI when unplugged. I hope eventually, their vision extends that far. I think having that kind of power alone could be enough to start gaining significant market share.
  • My Lord! Still with the average thinking, I am so disappointed.
  • I'm pretty sure that's the vision they had with Intel when making the core M processor. If you look at the power consumption heat production vs processing power I think and hope these are in Lamias' soon
  • "lamias"... How dare you!
  • Well for starters you couldn't run anything from your phone. Apps have to be make for the hardware so you can't run any apps anyway which was the tragedy of windows rt on surface and it makes no sense to have a desktop on your phone. It's to cumbersome to use on your phone. Plus, your phone doesn't have the right hardware to use a desktop well. It will be laggy and a terrible experience. Plus it would be a VERY large app for phone. IT MAKES NO SENSE what so ever. This is why apps are specifically made for phones. It's cuz of hardware and software need to work together and to use little memory. A phone also isn't powerful enough to emulate a good desktop experience.
  • to each there own, but why will you need the desktop when you cant install legacy applications on your phone? you will already have office on your phone which you can still project to the tv ot monitor. as for the 7" tablets, honestly, most people use those for games/reading, not so much work unless its urgent and its your only option. no worries, this just confirms to me that the surface mini is coming which i will be purchasing as soon as it hits the market.  
  • Your phone is ARM based. Having a desktop would be as useful as the desktop on surface RT and 2, which is not that useful. You can't run x86 apps on an ARM device. On an intel based 7" tablet on the other hand a desktop might be useful if connected to a monitor. I bet the issue is the limited storage on these mini tablets and they are trying to minimize the OS footprint.
  • Your ARM based Lumia 930 can't have a desktop mode. For the very simple reason ARM based devices cannot run Win32 Apps (legacy software), as they are designed for x86 technology, and running Win32 apps (legacy software) is the whole point of having a desktop environment. As soon as OEMs decide to bring out Intel Atom based smartphones this, 'universal app - desktop' idea starts to make sense. You could use your phone as a mini PC when hooked on a monitor and keyboard. This concept could empower people in developing countries to get a PC when they buy a phone, this fits the Microsoft philosophie perfectly. So maybe they bring feature this in the future. But as long as Windows on smartphones remains a ARM based platform the option for a desktop on your phone is impossible!
  • ARM devices can run anything compiled in .NET 4.0 or over.  There is also a hack available that allows you to install recompiled open source projects.  You can of course also run the standard MS applications such as office, Internet explorer, file explorer, remote desktop etc.  Granted, that's not everything, but still pretty useful.  It would be very handy to be able to hook your phone up to a monitor and keyboard and use even this limited set in the desktop environment.  I wonder will there be a hack out eventually to allow this or are the components simply not installed on the phone.
  • That's recompiling an application, not much of a "hack". That would involve to much work. If you really need the best of both worlds. just get an 8-inch tablet. They're small light & portable. I don't really see why there is so much complaining. It's best to just wait for x86 phones if you feel you need one device.
  • Ubuntu phone does that...
  • ^This. No reason not to allow both modes if the user explicitly enables them.
  • Suggest it. That's what they are asking people to do with this preview.
  • The universal app framework has nowhere near the power needed to create a full desktop in which desktop applications can run. The desktop must be a part of the OS.
  • What you call Universal App framework is Windows Runtime (also know as WinRT) and is impossible to create full desktop application with it, for this kind of application you need of Win32 APIs that can't be used by a Windows Runtime App.
  • Joe just answered. I asked, "@joebelfiore I notice ur words"going forward"Will my 7"Stream KEEP desktop w/upgrade? @marypcbuk @jackschofield @ExNokian @sbisson @dinabass" Joe answered(I'm @JLTechWord)
    @JLTechWord @marypcbuk @jackschofield @ExNokian @sbisson @dinabass Yes, we'll upgrade and keep the experience consistent with what u have Good news!
  • I'm confused.. So what exactly does this mean? What did Belfiore say?
  • He said that anything under 8" will run an ARM version of Windows 10, and that anything 8+ will run a desktop version of Windows 10.
    Of course if you have one of the numerous Atom based 7" tablet with Windows 8/8.1, then that will get the desktop Windows 10. He's talking about the future plans for Windows 10.
  • Not exactly. He specified size, not CPU family. There will probably be Intel based < 8 inch devices. I think this is sensible. I'm not sure my Surface 2 is really a good place for Desktop. When they have a touch based Office, Desktop becomes uneccessary at < 8 inch for sure. Its too small. The new Surface Pro 3 size is about as small as you really wanna go for Desktop. Having almost all device sizes in my possession I really dont wanna do Desktop in those tiny sizes.
  • I use desktop all the time on my Dell. Venue 8 Pro, so lets not go making wild assumptions as to what people will want based on personal preferences. I find it perfectly usable at 8 inches, especially with a pen for input, though that is not even always needed.
  • Agree 100%.....i use it all the time on my DV8Pro...... In fact, I could see a use case for a phone that is docked to a monitor..... They shouldn't limit themselves, open it up MS, let us run desktop on atom based phones
  • I use both modes all the time on my Asus Vivotab M81 (the newer one, without a stylus). Desktop mode is quite usable with on its 8" display. Windows 10 should be all about works best, so why not let the user decide which mode is best for each task at hand?
  • Well you could be happy, you will have Windows 10 as specified many times by Joe!
  • Except the devices are running intel based CPUs that are x86 based which are already running a desktop and are already out could still get the desktop because of the hardware its running. Future devices def won't get a desktop
  • Of course a Desktop is too small for 8-inch talets, but many ppl use these 8-inch tablets connected to an external display, keyboard & mouse --- which in that case it makes perfect sense to have a Desktop.
  • Where did he say that if you already have a 7" tablet then you will get the Windows 10 desktop?
  • I think he's saying x86 window apps will run on 8" and higher, while modern apps only will run on smaller.
  • Not even close. Modern apps will run on any Win 8 or higher machine. And as far as ARM (which is Win RT), it's dead as far as Windows on tablets and laptops/desktops is concerned. MS isn't even providing an upgrade path for people on Win RT devices. For Win RT devices, MS is saying that they will work to provide as many of Win 10's features as they can...but no new Win 10 OS. Really.
  • Windows phone is also ARM, so there is a path for ARM tablets in the future.
  • Only for device with display under 8 inch as said by Belfiore and othet Micrsoft guys many times
  • It makes no sense to base the update for Windows RT on the old 8.1 code baseline. I am very sure, that Windows RT 10 will be exactly this sans few features.
  • I guess I'll just leave this here then :) https://windows.uservoice.com/forums/265757-windows-feature-suggestions/...
  • Modern Apps will run on every devices with Windows 10, PC, notebook, 2-1, tablet, smartphone, XBox, etc...
  • Basically if I'm correct, all CURRENT devices that are 7" and up will be upgradeable to the desktop version of Windows 10, meaning Start Menu and all. But with the NEW devices that are coming out, anything that's 8" or more will get the desktop version of Windows 10, and anything LESS than 8" will get the phone version of Windows 10. So new 7" or smaller devices will look like Windows Phone, and anything 8" or more will look like Windows 10. But current 7"+ devices will be upgradeable to look like Windows 10.
  • Your Stream 7 is probably gaining a considerable amount of storage space.
  • RIght. I just bought a Stream 7 for my son since it has better specs than the 8" tablet we were considering. Had we known that it wouldn't get the full Win10 experience it would have stayed in the store! It's been less than 30 days, maybe we'll take it back now...
  • @hysonmb Joe just answered on Twitter, we keep desktop!
  • Joe Belfiore just tweeted saying existing 7" devices will keep their current setup with desktop.
  • Gotta stop reading into people's assumptions and only believing official reports.
  • You should probably ask your son because he might have a better reading comprehension than you.
  • Time to hack the registery for me.
  • Looks like an attempt by the platform to better define the hardware segments. Not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Agreed, I think this makes sense.
  • As long as we get usb otg and all the windows usb drivers. MS lost opportunity in this field last few years.
  • Is usb otg necessary when we have the cloid/OneDrive?
  • Yes. Is needed.
  • It's just not mainstream enough to warrant the support. Useful, yes. Required? No.
  • Why not for phablet ? At least some extra feature for phablet phone ...
  • What, you want to run desktop Windows 10 on a 6-inch screen. Are you insane?!
  • No, but maybe it would be nice to have the option to plug one's phablet into a dock.
  • And do what? Have really big Windows Phone apps?
  • I understand that you are trying to be witty and clever, but think...think with your brain. If the OP alluded to wanting the desktop and I mentioned a dock, then clearly it would be to run desktop applications. If you can have 7" tablets with desktop functionality, it's not a stretch to say that you can have a phablet with the same. The practicality will be questionable, but it's still possible.
  • Why not just get a desktop?
  • Since that's what universal apps are on a desktop, yes.
  • There has been plenty of attempts with this on Android but I've never actually seen anyone use it. Its properly not convenient in the end.
  • Yes, not with Android..... But an Atom based windows phone with a docking station would be the best thing ever...... Universal apps, phone is for phone.... Docked desktop. I'd never need a laptop or tablet....it worked be the phone that replaced my desktop.
  • It's hardware restrictions. That can come in a future date but we dont have the hardware to do that. We can do it with tablets now but not small phones yet.
  • Then you can use the RDP Client and remote to your full desktop computer.  
  • Well we used to have windows mobile 6.0 that had full windows features including the start menu and it was done with 3" screens so yea it would be nice to have the option.
  • Have you used a 7-8 inch tablet with the desktop? It's nice to have but I promise you is not the most useable thing in the world and as far as docking, btt you invest in options like that you could have just invested in a small tablet\laptop or whatever that you keep docked to mirror your phone with. I know it's not the same solution you're looking for but there are tons of ways to accomplish what you are looking for without too much clutter or many steps.
  • Yes, just use an HDMI cable and plug it into a big screen, this size limitation is stupid.
  • No, Windows Mobile is not a "full windows features" at all. It has a start menu, yes, but it is all what it has from "full windows".
  • Remote from my 1520 into my win10 device is really good
  • Small devices with the ability to connect or stream to a monitor can run desktop mode just fine.
  • And why not, when a phone could interface with a full size display?
  • Sure it's not the greatest experience, but playing Half Life 2 and Portal on my return Xmas flight on my HP stream 7 off microsd card with Xone controller connected via OTG cable was AMAZING.  Couldn't believe how well it runs!  And using surface arc mouse (bluetooth) with HP7 (and desktop) is great.  I also have a mini bluetooth keyboard, but that keeps dropping connection.  Playing original Max Payne was fun while the keyboard lasted.  I wanted to really push it and see if it could run some advanced DCC programs, but sadly it's a 64bit atom running 32bit windows.   I'd prefer a 6" version that would fit easier in the pocket.  With full desktop! 
  • That would suck.
  • A extra could be a double screen option for phablets
  • Current and near future gen phone and phablet hardware is running on ARM processors.  Porting the desktop environment, all of it's subsystems, and all of the first and third party desktop software to ARM is not really feasible.  Therefore, even if they gave you a desktop for your ARM device, it wouldn't be able to run much of anything.  Also, ARM based phone hardware is not yet powerful enough to provide a "workstation" experience.  So there is really no point in having a desktop on these devices to allow someone to plug them into an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse.  Maybe in a few more years when x86 is scaled down and efficient in devices that currently use ARM, but until then, your phone is not going to function as a desktop.
  • Desktop environment including all subsystems is already already available for ARM. It is called Windows RT. Microsoft just needs to remove the certificate lock-down to enable third parties to target ARM desktop.
  • That is the best.
  • Ok for me
  • If Windows phones picked up a desktop everyone would say that Microsoft was stuck in the 90s.
  • What about Surface Pro 3/4? They can't be desktop only??
  • Just disable tablet mode.
  • The title of the article is confusing; it would better read 'Only tablets 8" and above get desktop in Windows 10.'
  • Oooh, it says "only will have" I read it as "will only have." I was sooo confused.
  • Title is confusing, it should be something like - The desktop will only be available on 8-inch or larger Windows 10 tablets.
  • So, no tablet mode on 12" tablets? That can't be right.
  • This whole mess is confusing but if I am correct I believe that there will be both options on the larger devices but only the tablet mode available for the smaller devices.
  • No. If your tablet is 12", you will have desktop AND tablet modes available to you. If you tablet is 7", you will only have tablet mode
  • The desktop and tablet mode will still be available on 8" or more devices, meaning 10", 12", 32" etc. Anything less than 8" will just either stick you in tablet mode only, or will run the Windows Phone version of Windows 10. I don't see how that's confusing. It just depends on how it's worded I suppose.
  • Awesome thing
  • I'd be interested to see how they determine the physical screen size. If such a restriction is built in you can be sure somebody will make a tool to stop enforcing it.
  • The info is probably set by the manufacturer when it's made.  
  • Firmware I'm sure.  This probably applies to OEMs and licensing more than anything.  If you have a x86 tablet with a 7" screen I don't see how MS could stop an individual from installing the full desktop version of Windows on it manually.
  • Possibly firmware restrictions?
  • Uhm so we are still not there yet where we can dock a phone and let it function as a full PC? Bummer.
  • That's not necessarily ruled out. If it is detecting the actual current screen size there's nothing to say it couldn't present a desktop when a larger screen is available. But definitely not on its primary screen.
  • How will it present something that's not even there?
  • There's nothing saying it won't be there, just that won't be presented on small screens. Time will tell as to the specifics.
  • ARM processors are the biggest limitation for phones.  When x86 gets scaled down to phone size devices then running a desktop and desktop software from a docked phone will start to make sense.  Until then, a desktop with little or no software wouldn't be very useful.
  • The easiest solution is RDP + Bluetooth peripherals connected to phone + Miracast or usb streaming via MHL. That gets around the lack of software as the host computer is doing the bulk of heavy lifting and you could use even photoshop, lightroom etc etc. Plus sensitive documents aren't stored on the phone so it is a win-win situation (providing the user doesn't use rdp over a open Wi Fi connection :p).
  • Garbage
  • Because you can't use desktop apps on a small screen that has a processor incapable of running such apps?
  • A Stream 7 is perfectly capable of running such apps and issues with screen size are dependant upon the user. There's also the option, used by many, to output the video from that small screen to a large monitor. My son's Stream 7 Slate with Windows 8.1 works perfectly well with desktop apps and if desired we could send the video to an extermal monitor. Taking options that already exist away sucks for people who use them.
  • Was it an ARM device?
  • That makes sense. Desktop gets a little weird and less useful in smaller devices.
  • Agreed
  • Agree 100%
  • What about current 7" tablets that have Windows 8.1?
  • You can be sure this is only for new hardware that will be coming after the release of Windows 10. One would expect anything current running full Windows 8.1 will be able to upgrade to full Windows 10.
  • I wouldn't be sure of anything with the team running Windows now. I have never heard anyone from the Windows team promise what you just claimed.
  • Now that I have my Surface, I was actually hoping for my Venue Pro 8 to get the update for phones and small tablets. Hope it at least gets the flow keyboard.
  • The Venue 8 Pro is safe, you'll get the desktop. Anything smaller is what's being excluded.
  • You missed his point. He actually wants the phone/small tablet version without the desktop on his DV8.
  • That I did...
  • Why you want a less-features version? If you don't need the desktop, you can use it only in Tablet Mode, and take advantage of an interface that fits best to larger screens, snap view, multi-account
  • But what about multi-monitor support for tablets smaller than 8"?
  • BUT! Will they show desktop once connected to an external display?
    Imagine miracasting your phone and using it as a desktop when you're home. Sauceum.
  • Here's hoping!
  • Why would you want that?
  • That way you could use your phone like you'd use a laptop, but no need to bring an extra computer with you. Anywhere where there is a monitor available you could work on Word documents (not using the small phone version but the full tablet version), or use any software, on the big screen, right from you phone. Since the same version of Windows 10 will be installed on every device I don't see why they couldn't make this possible. It would be a great selling point to tell people that their phone is actually a real full computer.
  • With touch office, there is no need for a desktop in your scenario. With regular desktop programs, they wont run on your phones CPU anyways.
  • The desktop isn't only for regular desktop programs. It's just to make it easier to use with a mouse and keyboard with the taskbar, start menu, and the ability to have floating windows that we can rearrange the way we want. We could also use the file explorer, like we can on the current Windows RT.
  • True. Even if full windows is far away from running on phones, accomplishing the desktop as a universal app on phones would be a huge selling point. Exciting. windows has so many possibilities right now and if they play their cards right they could nail their vision of a unified windows. That would be very hard to compete with and could bring OEM's to choose windows as their OS of choice.
  • I believe Microsoft said Windows 10 for phones code would be 100% compliant. You will indeed have full Windows on phone minus desktop. E.g.: Outlook with Word engine, Office functions... Mind blowing! And, they might have a unified Windows when there will be only one Store. Microsoft is moving away from desktop slowly, but takes time. People don't get it. One ecosystem should be already there with W10 and the write once, run everywhere philosophy too. Hence universal apps' reality. They wouldn't be viable without Msoft's tools for devs. That's how I see the whole pic.
  • But the desktop is not an app...
  • It's more about presenting a keyboard-and-mouse friendly workstation when connected to a larger display. Why wouldn't you want that? Furthermore, once x64 processors are efficient enough to be in phones (or we have a revolution in battery technology) you could actually have your full computer in your pocket. Why wouldn't you want that?
  • It still won't make the desktop make sense on such a tiny device.
  • That's why our whole argument is about how the desktop should be available as an option when we project our phone to an external monitor.
  • Clearly they should add bloat to the OS for something a small subset of people will do. Or you could always do what everyone else does and get a real computer.
  • That last statement is exactly what people said when the Surface range was new. Now look at it.
  • There was a reason for the desktop on RT.
  • I clearly said 'larger display' ... :\
  • Mia Culpa So, in this dream scenario... Intel has gotten their chips down to use such little power that they're in phones and Microsoft has bloated up their OS for a niche use case?
  • Technology is all about the dream. Without it we'd have none of the devices or services we have today.
  • Yeah, that would be awesome. I've been hoping for this feature for a long time!!
  • Because people don't like to be realistic and will always want more than you give them.
  • @eddiDOTexe, the best you really can hope for is Bluetooth connectivity + rdp + miracast / mhl. Honestly if they could do enable that it would be best of both worlds as the phone is not running any unnecessary bloat and you get the option to use some serious applications on the go without the need to have an x86 soc. The latter however would be heavily dependent on your internet connection.
  • So ... is it possible that 7 inch Windows tablets will run on ARM? If there is no desktop then why go Intel? Small tablet is basically the same as the phone SKU, no?
  • I wish the cut off point for no desktops included 8" tabs too - a 4:3 Aspect Ratio 8" tab with a pure tablet interface running Universal apps and specific entertainment and productivity tablet/ touch-centric apps would have been very cool. If priced lower than Apple and some of the Droid tabs, they would have been a damn good proposition!!!
  • Yeah, this. I'd prefer to have that pure tablet only interface (similar to what I had with Win 8.1) in my Dell Venue 8 Pro.
  • Why? It's not like there won't be modern apps. Users can just choose not to use the desktop.
  • Why have it there in the first place then?