Daring Fireball's John Gruber is as avid an Apple fan, enthusiast, zealot, freak, etc. as you will find on the Internet. Saying anything complimentary about Microsoft or Windows is akin to a Red Sox fan giving the Yankees a compliment. So it was a bit of a surprise when he amended his initial anti-Windows 8 operating system with the Metro touch UI and later stated he sees Metro / Windows 8 as a potential strong rival to the Apple iPad tablet.
Initially he wrote an article titled 'Windows 8 Fundamentally Flawed' where he wasn't too keen on Windows 8 competing with the iPad:
But I think it’s a fundamentally flawed idea for Microsoft to build their next-generation OS and interface on top of the existing Windows. The idea is that you get the new stuff right alongside Windows as we know it. Microsoft is obviously trying to learn from Apple, but they clearly don’t understand why the iPad runs iOS, and not Mac OS X.
He explains how the iPad battery last forever and he just doesn't see how Windows 8 with all its baggage and apps running in the background could possibly have good battery life, which gives the iPad its huge appeal. His big "ah ha" moment came here when he explained:
But it occurred to me while watching Jensen Harris’s Metro overview at Build that Microsoft might be sandbagging us on this. It’s so obvious that you can’t have your cake and eat it too on iPad-caliber devices. So my big what-if realization is this: I think Metro will only run alongside the traditional Windows desktop on Intel PCs. On ARM devices, there will only be Metro. Microsoft might call it “Windows” but they call everything “Windows”. To put it in Apple-centric terms, it’s going to be as if Mac OS X could run iPad apps, but iPads could still only run iPad apps. Metro everywhere, not Windows everywhere.
He's right that ARM processors are power-optimized - much better than Intel chips. John seems to think Microsoft will release tablets with only the "Metro" UI enabled and no full Windows Desktop, Windows Explorer, etc. and he seems to like that idea. I disagree somewhat. I would rather have the full Windows desktop experience available as an option. That is a huge differentiator between Apple's iOS and Metro/Windows 8. iOS cannot run Mac apps, while Metro/Windows 8 can run any Windows app, of which there are millions, including PC games, Office, etc.
Of course, most Windows apps are compiled for Intel processors and not ARM, so the easiest solution for full compatibility with Windows applications is for any Windows 8 tablet to use Intel chips. But there is a trade-off in battery life vs. ARM chips. I'm willing to make that trade-off. The iPad 2 gets about 10 hours. If an Intel-based Windows 8 tablet can give me 6-8 hours I'd be happy. After all, I can run anything including Adobe Photoshop, 7-ZIP (like WinZIP), Outlook, Remote Desktop app, Windows Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, etc. John is a Mac fan and even he admits that if you want to run Mac software, you still have to carry two devices (iPad + Mac laptop). Why can't Windows users have their cake and eat it too? I want one tablet device that can run a slick tablet touch user interface that can also run full Windows apps. It becomes my single "unified" device I carry to replace my laptop.
Apple split iOS from the Mac OS and is making a killing (financially) in their App Store. But with Microsoft's model, why the need to pay for apps via an App Store? Consumers can save money using software they already need for their "unified" tablet device that replaces the need for a laptop. Apple is often seen as the visionary and forward thinking, but I think Microsoft is the visionary here.