Spit-polishing Windows isn't the only thing Microsoft needs to do prior to killing off the desktop, however. Since the modern UI revolves around Live Tiles, which revolve around Windows 8 apps, the Windows Store needs to step up its game before the modern UI can truly conquer Windows. While the Windows Store has several standouts (including, finally, a Twitter app), it still lags behind Android and iOS in both quality and quantity, and the growth rate for the Windows Store has slowed precipitously in recent months.
Microsoft is tackling the issue head-on with a new developer incentive program of questionable design, but beyond that, developers are sure to come as more and more people migrate to Windows 8. Even if PC sales have stalled, 350 million PC sales per year is nothing to sneeze at, and virtually all of those shiny new boxes will come with Windows 8 preloaded.
And as people upgrade to Windows 8, they'll encounter the aforementioned series of updates--doled out by the Windows Store, naturally--that increase the utility of the modern Start screen while decreasing the need for a dedicated desktop. You, geek that you are, may cling to your precious desktop programs, but does Average Joe really care if he double-clicks an icon or taps a Live Tile--especially if crucial system functions and the Mail app have already taught him the modern-style way? I'd wager not.
And as all those people spend an increasing amount of time in modern-style Windows 8 apps, developers will likely respond by making even more Windows 8 apps. (They can't miss the gravy train!) The Windows 8 app ranks will swell over time, and it doesn't have to happen quickly. Microsoft always plays the long game.
The pieces all tie together--and they foretell the death of the desktop in Windows 9, whenever Windows 9 appears.
Of cockroaches and catalysts
Don't cry for the desktop. (Did you cry when graphical interfaces devastated the command line?) Its demise will herald a new era, an era of ubiquitous computing and touchscreen everything. Haven't you seen Minority Report?
Besides, the desktop won't truly die with Windows 9. Like a cockroach, it will live on in dark corners, in the form of specialized editions or premium tools designed to let enterprise users run the XP-era programs their businesses still rely upon. And when Microsoft finally gets around to pulling the plug, you can rest assured that the companies that haven't released a Windows 8 app will do so in short order. A modern UI-driven Windows will be different, but it won't be devastating.
Nor will it be tomorrow. Enjoy your time with your cherished legacy apps while you can, dear enthusiast. All the tears in the world won't change the fact that we're staring at a dead desktop walking.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.