Three reasons Microsoft wants to kill the Windows Desktop

Microsoft's Windows Blue update to Windows 8 makes it increasingly clear that Microsoft wants to kill the Desktop. That may seem self-defeating, but there's method in Microsoft's madness. Here are three reasons I think it wants to eventually kill the Desktop.

Help Windows Phone and Windows tablets gain market share

It's no secret that Microsoft's mobile platforms have been struggling, and the company still hasn't figured out a way to get traction for them. Mobile is the future and represents growth; traditional computers are the past and represent a static market at best, and a falling one at worst. That's why Windows 8 was built more for touch-based tablets than traditional PCs.

Microsoft wants people to get used to its new interface on traditional computers, in the hopes that they'll then want to buy mobile devices with that same interface. If the Desktop remains on Windows, people will continue to bypass the new Windows interface and instead go straight to the Desktop. If Microsoft takes aways the Desktop, it forces people  get used to the new interface, which is Microsoft's goal.

Unify the operating system

Windows 8 is an uncomfortable kludge of two separate operating systems -- a touch-oriented horizontal one that Microsoft originally called Metro has now been starting to call "Modern," and a traditional Desktop-oriented one. Navigation between the two is awkward and confusing at best. Few analysts or reviewers thinks it makes much sense. Getting rid of the Desktop fixes the problem; there's only one interface, the "Modern" one, not duelling ones.

Lock enterprises into future versions of Windows

Many people believe that Microsoft will never kill the Desktop because too many enterprises have built applications built on versions of Windows based on the Desktop. But one analyst argues that Microsoft wants to lock enterprises into Windows by getting them to instead rely on programming new "Modern" apps. Killing the Desktop would further that goal.

Gartner's Michael Silver told Computerworld:

"Remember, it's not just about the desktop, it's getting people and developers to embrace the WinRT API [application programming interface] set to make the new stuff successful."

And in June 2012, he wrote:

"Metro is a new programming model that will lock organizations into the next generation of Windows."

As far back as 2010, Gartner had reported that enterprises were using Windows applications less and less. Silver told Computerworld that "Today, we believe 45% of a typical organization's portfolio is made up of Windows applications. By 2020 it will be half that. And Microsoft reducing the importance of the desktop could speed that up."

Microsoft clearly hopes to get enterprises to rely on the new Windows programming model, instead of the old one, with the benefit of having a single enterprise app run on traditional PCs, Windows 8 tablets, Windows RT tablets, and Windows Phone devices. Killing the Desktop, Microsoft likely believes, will spur that on.

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