Is Microsoft’s Radical Windows Makeover Actually Still Timid?

Seventeen months after CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled a Windows slate that never made it to market, Microsoft, the king of the desktop, is taking another stab at tablets.

But the company still isn’t going all in, and some experts say this could prove to be a major mistake.

Microsoft took the wraps off of Windows 8, the company’s first attempt to re-imagine its computer operating system for tablets, at the All Things Digital D9 conference on Wednesday. There’s a lot riding on the radical makeover of Microsoft’s Windows software, a major moneymaker that has attracted more than a billion users, earns Microsoft over $17 billion a year and runs on 90 percent of PCs.

Lately, however, Microsoft’s success in the PC market has been overshadowed by its failure to deliver a tablet offering, while rivals Apple and Google both have their own slates available, or to challenge the dominance of Apple’s iPad, which claims approximately 74 percent of the tablet market.

But while many had expected Microsoft to finally unveil a software specifically for slates, Windows 8 isn’t just for tablets. Instead, the operating system, which has undergone its most radical reinvention in over a decade, is meant to power both tablets and PCs.

Windows 8 will work “with or without a keyboard and mouse on a broad range of screen sizes and pixel densities, from small slates to laptops, desktops, all-in-ones, and even classroom-sized displays,” Microsoft said in a press release.

With Windows 8, Microsoft looks like it’s hedging its bets, delivering a product that can work on both a touchscreen tablet and laptop operating system. Whereas Apple and Google have each developed platforms made especially for tablets, Microsoft bets that one operating system can do it all, an assumption many are calling into question.

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