No, the Pi isn’t a full Windows PC, but yes, it will have a GUI

By | February 2, 2015

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Earlier today, Microsoft announced that it will be releasing a free version of Windows 10 for the new Raspberry Pi 2. This is definitely an exciting opportunity for makers building all sort of cool stuff, it’s an interesting move by Microsoft, it’s a lot of things, but it certainly isn’t a cheap PC.

“It’s not clear exactly what version of Windows 10 will be available,

(…)

With the pricing of the Raspberry Pi 2 and Microsoft’s free copy of Windows 10, you could have a full PC for just $35 later this year.”

Tom Warren – The Verge

No.

It’s obvious that the Pi will run the Internet of Things (IoT) version of Windows 10, right now that version doesn’t have a GUI. The version for the Raspberry Pi will be different from the current version targeted at Intel’s Galileo boards, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will have a full Windows Shell, no desktop, no start menu!

“But it will run Universal Apps!” That’s right, it will run universal apps and it will even support a graphical interface according to Raspberry Pi founder and CEO Eben Upton:

Cross-device compatibility will be there thanks to Microsoft’s “Universal App” strategy, based on the Windows Runtime platform (once known as Metro). Although the desktop might not be available, the Windows build will support visual applications.

“So it’ll run full Windows 10, no?” Not really, it won’t run Windows in the traditional sense, there will be no familiar Windows UI, no desktop, no start menu (or start screen for that matter). Again according to Upton, the Pi won’t be a full Windows PC:

…they [Microsoft] have the mindset of Raspberry Pi as a device that you deploy to, rather than Raspberry Pi as a standalone computer.

You will build a universal app in Visual Studio and then deploy it onto your Pi, When you power on your Pi it will essentially boot straight into your app. Perhaps it’s best compared to Windows 8.1’s Assigned Access, which allows you to lock down a user account to a single app, only instead of a locked down user account you get an entirely ‘locked down’ PC.

The Pi 2 with Windows 10 won’t be the $35 PC some are claiming/hoping it would be, but it will definitely have many other exciting applications. All those ATMs still running XP could be replaced with a Pi running an ATM app, for example.

We’ll probably get all the details we need at WinHEC