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Gruber responds to a Windows 8 fan boy, Paul Thurrott, who twittered ‘Hello, Windows 8? This is iPad. You win.’ after seeing a demo on a Samsung-produced tablet:

John Gruber via Daring Fireball

What did Microsoft show, though? They showed a Metro-style touchscreen tablet user interface that is, without argument, original. No accusations of ripping off the iPad here. Microsoft is admirably blazing its own trail.

But the OS reportedly isn’t coming out for at least a year. The demo tablet hardware from Samsung they’re showing it on (and giving to Build attendees) is a Core i5 Intel-based PC replete with a fan. Spec-wise these units are much more like MacBook Airs than iPads. Presumably actual shipping iPad-competing Windows 8 tablets will use low-power mobile CPUs — be they ARM, Atom, whatever, just so long as they get iPad-caliber long battery life and low temperatures.

How will Windows 8 run on such hardware? When will they actually ship? How many as-yet-unannounced iPad 3s will Apple have sold by the time the first Windows 8 tablet hits stores? (Not to mention the many tens of millions of iPad 2s Apple will sell in just the next quarter alone.)

It’s all in the future. All potential, nothing actual. Think about how different Apple’s and Microsoft’s approaches are. Apple unveiled the iPad to the public only when it was a completely finished product, two months before it hit stores. The demo units we in the press had access to that day were exactly like the mass-produced iPads that shipped to customers two months later. Can you imagine Apple doing with the iPad what Microsoft is doing with Windows 8? Say, showing a prototype iPad at WWDC in June 2009, running on MacBook Pro-caliber Intel hardware? Letting the public and the press play with the OS in half-finished alpha state on prototype hardware? Impossible even to imagine. (There were no hands-on demos, let alone take-home prototypes or developer downloads, when Apple showed a “sneak preview” of Mac OS X Lion at last year’s “Back to the Mac” event.)

I’m not passing judgment here — at least not yet — regarding which strategy is superior. I simply wish to direct your attention at how utterly different the two companies are.

Gruber seems to be making a corporate culture argument, but I think this is also a case of Microsoft playing catch-up, from way back in the pack.They hope to stall some buyers from buying an iPad, thinking that some razzamatazz might hypnotize them.

But iPad is clearly dominating the tablet space, and I don’t think Microsoft has a chance.

I am still betting on a Microsoft/Facebook social OS alliance. I wonder how closely integrated Facebook will be in Windows 8, when it launches.

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  1. stoweboyd posted this