Microsoft is giving us an early look today at how Windows 10 will run on tablets, and it’s a little surprising. It’s essentially the same as the desktop version of Windows 10. While many had hoped the Windows Phone interface would simply scale up, it seems Microsoft is taking the approach of scaling the Windows 10 desktop down to small tablets. There’s a taskbar, a desktop mode, and all the regular Windows apps you’d expect to see. While we’re only getting a look at small Intel-powered tablets, it’s clear the direction here is to make it identical to the desktop version, but optimized for touch.
That might sound confusing, but the touch features seem to work in a similar way to Windows 8. There wasn’t a lot wrong with Windows 8 on pure tablets, and Windows 10 keeps most of that familiarity around. Task switching for apps has been improved and the awkward Charms bar has been removed and replaced with a Notification Center and quick access to settings. This feels like a work in progress right now, so things don’t always feel as familiar as the Windows 8 experience, but having quicker access to notifications and settings like screen brightness are a lot more useful.
Continuum, Microsoft’s hybrid touch feature, also exists on these small Windows 8 tablets, allowing you to switch between a desktop and tablet mode. This might sound confusing — and for many the existence of a desktop on an 8-inch tablet is an odd choice — but it will enable Intel-based tablets to act as full PCs with traditional desktop apps and modern apps. Whether consumers will ultimately want to use these small tablets that way isn’t clear, but the option is there. It’s likely that most PC makers will ship these small Windows tablets with the touch mode enabled by default, to avoid Windows 10 on a tablet looking like a desktop PC.
When the touch mode is enabled on tablets you get the familiar fullscreen Windows apps from Windows 8, and a fullscreen Start Screen, but a taskbar with access to Cortana and apps is always present at the bottom. That will make it easier to navigate around, but there’s still some work to be done here to blend the tablet experience so it doesn’t feel like a miniature PC version of Windows 10, and we’ll wait to see what the final version brings later this year.