For the first time in the history of the PC, Microsoft is rolling out a new Windows ecosystem for which they will be the sole software distributor. If you buy Windows 8, the only place you will be able to download software that integrates with its new user interface will be the official Windows Store. Microsoft will have complete control over what software will be allowed there.
Microsoft has stated that applications for the older desktop interface will remain unaffected by these policies. As long as they only use applications that run on the old desktop, users will still be able to buy, sell, develop, and distribute software without interference from Microsoft. Many Windows users have taken this as an assurance that the open distribution model that they enjoy today will still be available in future versions of Windows, and as a result, there has been far less public concern about Windows 8 than there might have otherwise been.
But how realistic is the assumption that the Windows desktop will still be a usable computing platform in the future? And what would be the consequences were it to disappear, leaving Windows users with only the closed software ecosystem introduced in Windows 8? To answer these questions, this volume of Critical Detail examines the immediate and future effects of Microsoft’s current certification requirements, explores in depth what history predicts for the lifespan of the classic Windows desktop, and takes a pragmatic look at whether an open or closed ecosystem would be better for Microsoft as a company.