Apple has been fighting Google's Android for so long, we'd almost forgotten what a good Microsoft vs. Apple battle felt like. But this one will be a little different as both operating systems aim to tie in their mobile OS features to the desktop.
First Shots in the War
It was probably by coincidence that Apple announced its new version of OS X while Microsoft showed off the official logo for Windows 8. Clearly Microsoft's logo takes its cue from the Metro-style features found in Windows Phone 7 that will form the stylish backbone (or perhaps rib cage) of Windows 8.
Apple, on the other hand, already has its mobile hardware and OS out on the streets in full force and makes no hesitation in citing them as a core element of Mountain Lion, stating, "… with all new features in inspired by iPad." On the hot list are unified messaging, mail, reminders and notes. Plus GameCenter on the desktop, bringing some of the hottest iOS features into OS X.
With iCloud front-and-center on the Mac, notifications on the desktop and even the likes of AirPlay being carried across, there is little distinction between data on one device or another in your Apple universe. What is missing is Siri, the key feature of the iPhone 4S — does Apple think its too early for a desktop OS to be controlled by voice, or will this feature be revealed later on?
The Microsoft Way
Mircosoft has all of this work still to do. It's Windows Phone 7 system, while a critical success has yet to get the user numbers that will see people looking at Windows 8 as a mandatory upgrade. Sure, there's Xbox Live for games, existing Windows Live services like SkyDrive and Hotmail, but the company needs to ensure that all the strings are tied between desktop and mobile.
If Windows Phone 8 does take off then the existing PC consumer market might see Windows 8 as something of a worthwhile upgrade with all those features baked into the front of the Metro interface. Otherwise, those using Windows 7 (or Vista) can continue to use these services as they have for years.
Microsoft will also hope that adoption works the other way, with new Windows 8 users looking to buy Windows 8-powered phones and tablets. Certainly in the enterprise, where despite Apple's inroads, Microsoft still has a massive lead, f the ecosystem evolves how Microsoft hopes, it could rapidly supplant BlackBerry as the communications tool of choice.
The addition of Office 15 for ARM-powered devices will help Microsoft defend its territory, whatever Apple throws into the iPad 3. No amount of magic can beat the entrenchment of good old Office in the minds of most IT departments.
Some seem to think that Windows 8 may be too little, too late. But, there are still vast numbers of PCs out there, and yet to be sold. Sure Windows 8 might be the last big system update for many years (until we hit holographic desktops or some other major leap), but its importance in getting Microsoft back in the mobile game cannot be understated.