It's not an unanswerable question, but it's an important one. Which came first: Did Microsoft decide to make Windows 8 a tablet-optimized operating system before or after PC makers decided the next big thing would be PC/tablet hybrids?
Why does this matter? Along with a number of other Microsoft watchers, I've wondered aloud many times why Microsoft didn't introduce two different "Windows 8" operating systems. Why not make the touch-centric, Metrofied Windows Phone operating system the OS for tablets and phones, but some kind of a less touch-centric non-Metrofied version of Windows the OS for PCs?
In the past week or so, I've been seeing more pundits questioning Microsoft's decision to make a non-mouse-friendly operating system like Windows 8 the default for not just tablets but PCs. And I don't mean the pundits looking for page views; I'm not linking to those rants here. I mean folks who liked Windows 8 when Microsoft loaned them tablets with the operating system preinstalled by Microsoft, but who now have downloaded and are trying the near-final Release Preview on current PCs and finding themselves struggling. They're confused, paralyzed, angry and more.
If Microsoft knew that OEMs were going to focus on tablet/PC hybrids as their form factors of choice, then you can make some kind of a plausible case for Redmond's decision to make a touch-centric operating system the default its next Windows client release. But I'm pretty sure that what happened was OEMs learned of Microsoft's decision to go touch-centric the first time the Windows client team deigned to share early pre-release information with them. Then it was scramble time.
The result? It's looking like almost every one of the new Windows 8 PCs -- not just tablets -- in the pipeline will come with a touch screen, whether users want that or not.
Like my ZDNet colleagues Larry Dignan and James Kendrick, I am not sold on the hybrid laptop/tablet convertible concept. Maybe I will be once I can finally test drive one of these machines. But for now, it seems, as Kendrick said recently, a case where hybrids represent the less-than-best of both worlds.
As Gizmodo so delicately put it: "If these things bomb, they're going to bomb." I'm taking cover in a bomb shelter until I get to see, hold and play with a Windows 8 PC that is a great PC or a Windows 8 tablet that is better than an iPad.
What about you? What's your ideal Windows 8 form factor and have you seen anything out there resembling it yet?