Microsoft has always worked hard to make Windows as flexible as possible, hardware wise, functionality, etc. Some consider this a credit, some a detriment, but no matter what I consider it to be a huge technical challenge. Several people seem to be taking this from the perspective of an iPad attack which is a very narrow minded view of the possibilities here.
What MS is doing here (and very wisely I think... IF they can pull it off) is to produce one OS that works cross hardware environment. Win 8 it seems to me CAN run like classic Win 7 (and earlier) supporting the plethora of existing Windows apps. This is a MUST for MS. But originally MS tried to make the old Windows UI touch friendly, which is a very bad approach. The existing Windows UI grew up around a mouse and keyboard and MS has finally realized it. You can't make it work for touch effectively, and so they are wisely separating the two.
To solve the problem they are wrapping Windows in an OPTIONAL alternate touch designed UI for systems where that is the preferred interaction method. They have developed a new class of touch apps and a new way to manage the overall UI. But most importantly they have blended the two forms of personal computer interaction. This is BRILLIANT to me. You can now have one device, let's say a tablet, that you can use like a touch device. But you can ALSO sit it in a dock, with a keyboard and mouse and use it to replace your desktop PC including all those legacy apps and Office programs that are the standard. When done you undock and flip back to the touch UI to take it with you, but you still have access to all your documents. Microsoft has for the first time realized that the ultimate device will function in BOTH modes and to be efficient the OS on that device also needs two distinct methods of interaction. And this I think is what is brilliant.
You'll never see an iPad as the primary device on an office desk in its current form and UI. Your accountant or DB admin or whatever will always be more productive with a keyboard and mouse when it comes to heavy "business" style applications. This is what the existing touch UI's can't provide. But a device that can run no compromise Office style apps, business apps, the millions of existing Windows apps in general... and then pick up and go with a nice touchscreen keyboard, touch UI, web browsing, etc... I know I've used the word a couple times but it's brilliant. I just hope their execution is up to their vision.
Edit... my mind is running with the further possibilities... they will definitely cross up development between Win Phone and Win 8... so now Windows developers can target the mobile market and the largest desktop market with one app. I still don't see the future of Win Phone turning around but who knows, this could be a very smart move on MS's part to leverage their Windows developer base and established market.
Apple themselves only just recently got iTunes from out of their Carbon compatibility layer, so calling Microsoft out for not getting a 10+ million line code base wrapped in a new UI in time for Windows 8 is pretty rich. That said, getting some form of Office Reader or something into the new UI would be nice.
I am so, so, so glad that Microsoft has double-downed on Metro. Many other companies would have walked away, given the sales and the guffaws from their competitors. It honestly makes me respect them a whole lot.
I also like the idea of the multifunctional machine, that can be the workhorse during the day and the bedroom tablet at night. I would not be surprised if we see something similar from Apple next year, but it depends on how far the iOS and Mac OS X codebases/kernels have drifted.
One of the things that really impressed me with the demo video was the access to the file system from touch apps (and the use of open app resources as an extension of it). One of the things that I feel has been pretty detrimental to iOS is the removal of any direct access to the file system, meaning that apps can't share access to a file but have to have their own copies.
I wasn't too thrilled to see traditional Windows apps sitting next door though. Yes it's taken Apple some time to get rid of some of their legacy support, but this looks like MS is unwilling to really try and move forward. Despite the backlash they would no doubt suffer for it, at some point soon they really need to put their foot down and say "No, you cannot run 1990s software on this operating system".
Also MS's decision to maintain legacy support is their biggest asset. If MS suddenly cut off a huge portion of their past compatibility, and hence established application base, then there is a MUCH bigger risk people will jump ship to Linux or Mac since they need to change up their apps anyhow. Familiarity breeds loyalty, even if sometimes begrudgingly.
They key is will the performance be reasonable on "mobile" hardware. The performance of portable hardware is advancing at a rapid pace but I'm not quite sure it's ready yet (even in a year from now) to run a desktop/touch merged Windows code base. That is where MS is taking a big gamble to me.
My point wasn't so much the advances that 3.1 and 95 were or weren't, it's that each had fairly impressive improvements in the UI, but were still veneers bolted on to the last OS. I can appreciate them wanting legacy support since their cash cow is the business sector, but in doing so they limit their scope for advancement.
the only thing missing for business apps on iPad form factor is quick text entry. we should drop the mouse. for precise detailed work one could use a stylus. touch is the ideal.
iTunes is still a Carbon application, but in fairness, it mostly has to due with retaining Windows compatibility, and Carbon maps more easily to Win32 than Cocoa would.
iTunes 10 was the worst thing Apple have launched recently (IMO). I hope they fix it soon, but I'm not holding my breath.
Everything wrong with Gruber's argument is right there in one sentence: "Microsoft is obviously trying to learn from Apple, but they clearly don’t understand why the iPad runs iOS, and not Mac OS X."
Of course Microsoft understands what Apple is doing — they just disagree
One obvious implication of this is the death of the desktop computer. For the first time, this OS is not designed for desktop-only computers.
I wonder how they plan to integrate applications that need big screens like software development or graphic design into the experience. After all, big screens don't lend themselves for touch. Maybe you would plug in your mobile device and it would show the Metro UI, but a big external monitor would only show classic UI. (Maybe with some touch-stuff in a sidebar)
It will also be interesting how they will integrate hardware upgradability. That pretty much exclusively works with desktop towers, wich is at odds with mobility.
GNOME3, Unity, Lion, Windows 8... There is a lot of UI innovation going on! Interesting times, I must say!
I hardly think this is the first time they or anyone else has realized this. A swiss army knife would be in principle the ultimate tool if it were as good at each of its functions as a dedicated device, but in practice it turns out not to be. Anything great is built to meet constraints, perhaps even transcend them, but not to try to be all things to all people. Much of what you say is compelling, but here I think you're drinking Kool-aid.
"You'll never see an iPad as the primary device on an office desk in its current form and UI. Your accountant or DB admin or whatever will always be more productive with a keyboard and mouse when it comes to heavy "business" style applications. This is what the existing touch UI's can't provide."
This immediately reminds me of people who said EXACTLY the same things about the Mac UI relative to the command line. In a sense they were right, because the Mac UI evolved. But they were wrong in a much more important sense, because the UI they considered indispensable simply became a tiny little-used relic tucked in the corner of its successor.
In the end, a computer is a device that provides information to a user and allows that user to make and express decisions. There are fundamental bandwidth arguments we can make about UI "paradigms" -- e.g. mice are spectacularly more precise at pointing than fingers, and keyboards allow a user to input textual information far more quickly than other devices.
Imagine when displays become cheap and flexible enough that your entire laptop is a display, so keys can change their appearance and so can your trackpad. Which UI paradigm will adapt better to this situation?
Or imagine if your display could subtly change its tactile properties to eliminate most or all of the text entry advantage of keyboards.
Anyway, you've made good points.
I view this as an antiquated approach to having access to your documents between your "desktop" and "tablet". As much as I hate the word, the future of sharing and accessing documents between devices is in the "cloud". Music and video are already headed in that direction. Services like Dropbox and Evernote have made huge strides. Web apps are also taking us there. And Google's Chromebook intends for everything to be in the cloud.
For sure, right now, it's not a purely seamless task if I say, create a Powerpoint presentation on my Mac and want to share it with someone on my iPad later at a lunch meeting. But, it's not rocket science either. I just throw it into my Dropbox folder. Then I open it from my Dropbox folder on my iPad. But I see these types of tasks becoming automated in the future until it becomes the norm. I don't think local storage will ever go away completely, but I do think it will be used for niche or archaic reasons.
If the people time with a tablet will be spend mainly on the browser (thinking html5)/mail applications there is not reason to spend a lot of time developing complex controls to use Excel perfectly on a touch device, just switch it to desktop mode and attach a keyboard and a mouse.
The question for mobile/tablet users is: are you using a complex spreadsheet on your mobile/tablet?