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The company that finally cracked the tablet code in 2010 was Apple, not Microsoft. Apple made the iPad a success by scaling up a phone rather than scaling down a PC, which is what Microsoft had been trying to do with the Tablet PC and Origami. Phone chips are cheap and last much longer on batteries, which meant that the iPad was both light, inexpensive and had good battery life. In addition, the iPhone software it used was designed from the ground up for touch input.

Microsoft’s new strategy is similar. For Windows 8, it’s borrowing design features from Windows Phone, its new smartphone system. Most importantly, one version of the software is designed to run on phone-style chips, rather than the PC-style chips that have been the mainstay of Windows since it was created in the 1980s. It remains to be seen whether Microsoft can make its tablet vision a reality, or if it will stay a mirage.