And now that the underlying hardware has caught up to Windows 8's potential, manufacturers are diversifying their designs to puzzle out how to take the best advantage of the OS's dual nature. Even more exciting stuff could be coming down the pipeline.
"[The modern UI] was designed not only for touch, but for other kinds of sophisticated natural user interfaces," says Moorhead. "For instance, it's better suited for air gestures, voice commands, and very large planar video sources than both iOS and Android."
Is it enough?
The software is here. The hardware is here. Time has healed the wounds created by Microsoft's early/late start. With those puzzle pieces locked in, Windows 8 truly has a second chance to succeed.
Sure, some of the underlying gripes about the OS will remain, but if Microsoft manages to pack everything it's promising into Windows 8.1, both the desktop experience and the tablet experience should get a big shot in the arm. Will that be enough, though?
"This holiday selling season, the planets can finally be aligned for Microsoft," Moorhead says. "There will be numerous, lower-cost touch devices, and many improvements that come with Windows 8.1. But one potential fly in the ointment for Windows 8 is the lack of many top apps, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and even TV apps like Time Warner Cable."
Wes Miller agrees.
"There was, and is, a bit of an 'app gap,' where there may not be killer apps on the platform to help pull consumers into it (which mirrors back into the willingness of developers to write for the platform)," he says. "It's a catch-22."
Can Microsoft fill Windows 8's underwhelming shelves with quality software and transform the Windows Store from an albatross into an adventure? If so, the seeds to that journey start with the company's developer-focused Build conference, which starts Wednesday--the same day, not so coincidentally, that the developer preview of Windows 8.1 becomes available. Stay tuned.
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