Microsoft's said nothing of such a plan -- not surprising -- but the analysts saw portents in the changes that will boost the functionality of the Control Panel in Modern, which will be able to handle chores previously only doable in the desktop UI. Users will, it appears, be able to do more in Modern than they can currently, an obvious attempt to keep them there and wean them from the desktop.
"Microsoft is ultimately going to move away from the desktop," asserted Frank Gillett, an analyst with Forrester Research. "They want to move away from that programming model."
"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," added Michael Silver of Gartner, in an email.
In fact, last summer Silver said that minimizing the Windows desktop was a key goal of Windows 8. "Gartner expects that the Windows desktop and legacy Windows applications will decline in importance in future Windows client releases," he wrote in June 2012. "Metro is a new programming model that will lock organizations into the next generation of Windows."
The decline of Windows applications isn't new: In 2010 Gartner published research that showed the percentage of Windows applications in organizations had been declining for years. "Today, we believe 45% of a typical organization's portfolio is made up of Windows applications," Silver said today. "By 2020 it will likely be about half that. And Microsoft reducing the importance of the desktop could speed that up."
So if the desktop is destined for the dustbin, when will that happen?
Some saw it as a very-long-term project, akin to the decade that it took for Microsoft to move users from the character-based DOS to the graphical, point-and-click Windows desktop.
"It will take a long time, probably around 10 years or so," said Silver. "They certainly can't discard the desktop until there are Windows Store App versions of Office, and it will take a long time before those versions of the Office products have all the features of the desktop versions."
Moorhead, however, bet that it wouldn't take that long.
"Just as it took 10 years for DOS to get out of everyone's system, only when 'Modern' is completely ready will the desktop disappear. It will take five, six or seven years, to bring all the important desktop apps into the Modern UI," predicted Moorhead.
The parallels between today and 1985, when Microsoft debuted Windows even as the world still ran on DOS, are striking, Moorhead said. "Remember how stunning it was to move from a DOS box to Windows? This is very, very similar," he said. "Most of the people in corporations then were running DOS apps using only the keyboard, but not the keyboard and the mouse."