Apple likes to say that its products "change everything." But can Microsoft's Windows 8 be the breakthrough that changes everything at Apple?
Windows 8 is the first operating system to offer integration between mobile devices and whatever few PCs people are still buying these days, sharing data through cloud systems. But it remains to be seen whether businesses, the most important clients for Microsoft, will be ready to give up the time-tested, three-decade enduring mouse attached (by cord or now wirelessly) to their computers in favor of an all-touchscreen experience.
Even after the success of the iPhone and iPad, Apple declined to integrate touchscreens into its computers, like the MacBook Air, because designers and the late visionary CEO Steve Jobs felt it would be too awkward for people to reach horizontally toward the screen while working.
But the Live Tiles on Windows-powered phones and mobile devices, which allow users to keep numerous features active on their home screen with updating information, have proven to be the most popular aspect of the OS.
If it takes off, it could force Apple to react, just as it did this week by releasing a smaller version of the iPad in response to competitor models.
But it's a major gamble by the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant, whose programs power most of the world's PCs.
"Windows 8 looks like a big, bold, very innovative and very different new operating system," said technology analyst Jeff Kagan.
"I believe there are plenty of users who will love it, but there are also plenty who will not. The problem is that Microsoft is not giving users the chance to get used to the new operating system slowly. Instead they are launching this in an all-or-nothing way."
Those who are not ready or not willing to part with their mice or trackpads may just take a pass, he said.
"Microsoft should have introduced two systems, or at least a graduated system letting the user control how much change they will be forced to deal with at one time," Kagan told us.
In Your Face, Cupertino
Consultant Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group told us Windows 8 is "the quintessential 'in your face, Apple' product."
He noted that the Windows 8 Surface tablet, the company's first non-Xbox computer, takes into account many of the iPad's weaknesses.
"It's far better on productivity with Office," he added, referring to the applications suite not yet available for Apple's iOS.