Apple CEO Tim Cook this week again slammed rival Microsoft's Windows 8 and its promise to be an operating system for all devices, whether tablets, desktops, laptops or hybrids that combine elements of all.
"In my view, the tablet and the PC are different," said Cook during an on-stage interview at the All Things D conference on Tuesday. "Products are about trade-offs. And you have to make tough decisions, you have to choose. The fact is, the more you look at a tablet as a PC, the more the baggage from the past affects the product."
Cook, who took the CEO reins last August after Steve Jobs stepped down just weeks before his death, was asked his take on Windows 8 by Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal. Mossberg characterized Microsoft's philosophy with Windows 8 as viewing "a tablet and a PC as a kind of continuum that can run on one operating system."
That has been Microsoft's incessant pitch for Windows 8, which it has called a "no-compromise" operating system suitable for a slew of hardware, including iPad competitors, traditional PCs and everything in between.
Cook did not agree.
"In my view, the tablet and the PC are different. You can do things with the tablet if you are not encumbered by the legacy of the PC," Cook said. "I just think you wind up not building the best product when you try to converge those."
Microsoft's OEM (original equipment manufacturers) partners are working on just such devices, amalgams that can be used as a touch-based tablet but also sport a keyboard for PC-style chores.
Apple has taken a different path, Cook said both this week and previously, such as in April during an earnings call with Wall Street analysts, when he mockingly said companies could blend anything, even a toaster and a refrigerator, but in the end please no one.
The Cupertino, Calif. company will not blend its iPad and Mac hardware platforms, or apparently, its iOS and OS X operating systems, at least any time soon.
"If you force them together, the PC is not as good as it can be, and I think the tablet is not as good as it can be," said Cook. "If you look at [a hybrid] as a notebook, you're not going to come out of the design of the product and have it be a kick-ass product."
Cook also criticized Windows 8 -- though he was careful not to actually speak the name of Microsoft's new operating system -- for "pulling all the leg weight of the PC market" into the tablet space. "You wind up with something that's very similar to what tablets were 10 years ago," Cook said.
Microsoft is expected to ship the final public milestone of Windows 8, dubbed Release Preview, today. The company has not spelled out an on-sale date for the OS, but analysts expect it to debut this fall, most likely in October.
New PCs, tablets and other devices powered by Windows 8 will launch alongside the new operating system, or shortly after, according to reports.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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