Windows 8 will run on tablets and PCs, it will share the universal 'Metro' UI, it will tackle the challenge of ARM chips and x86 cross compatibility before anyone else and it will unify the App Store across all devices. What's more a sub 10 second boot time, wide variety of hardware partners and exclusive support of Nokia have the potential for Microsoft to take the creative initiative for the first time in far too long. Talk of Xbox gaming support, Kinect cross compatibility and a unified Skype communication core would only further sweeten the offering.
Yet with rewards come risks. Nay sayers will argue Microsoft has jumped into full convergence too early and based too much on a mobile operating system without a significant following. The support of Nokia could be argued as the blind leading the blind and many feel Apple is wise to stand back and learn from the inevitable confusion over ARM and Intel Windows 8 builds and software incompatibilities.
Furthermore at every turn Microsoft is making enemies. The fabled 'WinTel' partnership is the biggest loser with Intel this week cosying up to Android having previously failed with MeeGo to make its own Windows Phone rival. Handset makers have scorned Microsoft's strict Windows Phone specifications and lack of front end customisation while HP, the world's largest PC maker and Microsoft's biggest customer, has effectively thrown in the towel. Having used the Developers' Preview of Windows 8 for the last few days it is also clear that despite being more than a skin, the transition between traditional desktop and finger friendly Metro UI is jarring to say the least.
Ultimately however none of this will matter if Microsoft gets it right between now and the mid 2012 release timeframe. The PC-orientated WinTel partnership had to go and was arguably a factor in both companies' stifled mobile efforts, Nokia remains the biggest phone maker in the world and one of the best at making hardware, the ARM move was necessary for an OS which could be around for 10 years and strict quality control over handset partners was vital to ensure a universally high quality of experience after the dross that surfaced using Windows Mobile.
There is no doubt Windows 8 is a risk, but a risk with game changing rewards the company both wanted and was forced to take. With Microsoft's famously deep pockets it has the resources to get it right and given the innovation that stems from increased competition even the biggest Apple and Google fans should be willing Microsoft to succeed.