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Now Windows 8 goes into the ring to face Apple's iOS

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Analysis Does Windows 8 mean Microsoft can finally close the technology and credibility gap with Apple, putting a touchable mass-market version of Windows on tablets?

Less than 24 hours after Microsoft released an incomplete preview of Windows 8, some say "yes".

Apple ushered in the post-PC era, but Windows 8 is the post-post PC era, they say – according to some, Microsoft has surpassed the iPad's hardware and iOS, which runs it, with Windows 8.

For others, the jury is still out. Technologizer's Harry McCracken has a list of what is still missing in the Windows 8 preview. Windows chief Steven Sinofsky also points out that the Windows 8 preview doesn't include the Windows Store, where users will download apps, Windows Live Metro style apps, and some of user interface features.

Missing bits are to be expected as the preview focuses on developers, giving them the big architectural statement of where Microsoft is headed, plus the tools to start building.

So while bits are absent, the preview is a statement of intent. Essentially, Microsoft is trying to convey that Windows 8's Metro UI is the future, just like .NET was the future back in 2000.

Microsoft is now in classic evangelism mode: this week at its BUILD conference, Redmond started explaining how developers can and should build the apps for the Metro UI. This message and new knowledge will be taken back to the workplace by BUILD attendees.

This is classic Microsoft. Rousing and leading the faithful is what Microsoft does best and this alone should at least help ensure that the apps get built for Windows 8 and for download from the Store. That should at least help make any Windows 8 device a contender along with any Apple device being fed by the App Store.

No ordinary Windows rally

This time, with Metro, Microsoft is seeking a broad app-builder audience. It is not just reaching out to its existing developers, who are working with C, C++, C#, Visual Basic on the PC and server; it is also appealing to the Windows and non-Windows developers who are coding on the web using HTML5 and JavaScript.

The bait Microsoft is offering is the opportunity to get apps on more platforms than ever before, because Windows 8 won't just run on the usual Intel and AMD chips: it will also run on ARM systems-on-a-chip (SoC). There is a caveat, the first of what will likely be many: ARM versions of Windows 8 will only be accessible through the Windows Store, and the Windows Store will require apps to be compiled for Metro.

Software is only half the story; hardware is the other. But the types of OEMs Microsoft might have typically turned to for Windows 8 tablets are in a state of disarray in their response to Apple.

Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Samsung marched off to war with bold "it'll all be over by Christmas"-style boasts of how they'd all build a better tablet than Apple. Also in the mix were Motorola and Research in Motion, not traditionally Windows partners but equally jingoistic in their projections.

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