Microsoft's Windows 8 or hybrid PC/tablets: Which came first?

Are the new crop of hybrid PC/tablets debuting at Computex this week enough to convince Windows 8 skeptics that touch is the inevitable future? Not this one.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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?

The answer seemingly is A -- especially if you believe Microsoft's claim that it was already laying the plans for Windows 8 before the iPad debuted back in April 2010.

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?

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