"I do think it's very high risk," McGrath says. "If you look at the psychology of adoption, a large part of Microsoft's stickiness with its customers has been, 'OK, maybe we're not raving fans, and there's things we don't like about this software, and it's buggy and whatnot, but I just spent 18 months learning to use it and I don't want to switch to something else with a heavy duty learning curve.'
"Here's Microsoft's trouble," she continues. "When you start introducing things where a customer is going to say 'Well, I'm still going to have a heavy-duty learning curve whether or not I stick with Microsoft,' you've just nullified one of your major competitive advantages."
Along those lines, Microsoft's cross-platform vision has hit some major bumps early on. Windows Phone 8 still holds less market share than BlackBerry, an operating system that many analysts have on a death watch. Comments from analysts, retailers, and manufacturers alike suggest that Windows 8 PCs aren't selling very well, either, and the NPD research group said that Windows tablets accounted for less than 1% of all Windows 8 device sales after their first month on the market.
Several manufacturers have already put plans for Windows RT tablets on hold. The 'No Plan B' declaration was almost certainly targeted at Microsoft's partners, to allay fears concerning the sea changes inherent in the new all-encompassing Windows vision.
"The primary reason Klein would say that is to provide confidence to everybody involved in Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 that they will keep their commitment to the platforms," says Moorhead. In essence: The road may be bumpy, but Microsoft won't pull the rug out from underneath the feet of its manufacturing partners.
Playing the long game
It remains to be seen whether the great cross-platform Windows experiment pays off more for Microsoft, or for Apple and Android. We won't know where the chips will fall for a long time. We do know, however, that Qualcomm is "near-term cautious" yet "long-term bullish" about Windows 8 and Windows RT, echoing the Microsoft line.