If you appreciate the ability to run full Win32 apps on a tablet form factor smaller than 8 inches, you should pick up any one of the existing 7-inch tablet models before Windows 10 officially launches. According to Microsoft Operating Systems Group corporate vice president Joe Belfiore, new Windows 10 hardware with displays smaller than 8 inches will not ship with the classic desktop environment and cannot run legacy apps.
"8" & up = "desktop" w/ win32 apps. < 8" = phones, phablets, sm tablets. No dsktp," Belfiore shared on Twitter.
Essentially, this means that new Windows 10 slates with displays of 7 inches or less, including phones and phablets, will only be able to run Modern apps downloaded from the Windows Store. Enterprise customers, including IT managers, who require specialized legacy programs will need to purchase tablets and laptops with a screen size of at least 8 inches once Windows 10 officially launches.
The new Windows RT
Though Microsoft is shying away from the Windows RT label, Microsoft's latest restrictions on devices with a 7-inch or less display basically places these devices into the same class as Microsoft's Surface RT, Surface 2, and Lumia 2520 tablets. The difference is that the Windows RT devices available today run on an ARM architecture processor and come with a 10-inch screen.
Lacking the ability to run Win32 programs, new Windows 10 slates with 7-inch or smaller displays will be capable of running apps that we saw as Windows 10 for phones. The platform will allow these devices to run Modern apps, which will also operate on larger computing devices and on the Xbox.
Keeping the old, but in with the new
Though users of new Windows 10 devices requiring legacy app compatibility may be forced to an 8-inch or larger device, current 7-inch slates won't be required to make that change if you're looking to upgrade an existing tablet to Windows 10.
"Folks asking about updating 7" *existing* devices to Win10 -- you keep your desktop, you get continuum. Go try it yourself now," Belfiore wrote on Twitter.
Owners of devices like the HP Stream 7, 7-inch Toshiba Encore Mini, and Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1 can rest assured that when they upgrade to Windows 10, they'll be able to keep the classic desktop and the ability to run legacy Win32 programs.
A better consumer experience
Removing the desktop from smaller devices may lead to a better consumer experience. As the desktop isn't optimized for touch with large on-screen buttons, navigating legacy programs may still require the precision of a keyboard and mouse or active stylus.
However, for IT managers and remote enterprise users who require quick access to legacy Win32 software on the go, the change in strategy requires a less portable 8-inch tablet if you're looking to upgrade to newer hardware once Windows 10 arrives.
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