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Ordinarily, the release of a single ultraportable Mac should not be reason for Redmond to quake in its boots, but yesterday’s announcements by Apple should give the Windows team plenty of reason to fear.

It’s not that the product itself will put that much of a further dent in Microsoft’s still-massive share of the PC market. However, the product demonstrates some capabilities that the Mac now can offer that Microsoft would seem to have a tough time matching.

The biggest is the fact that the Mac, like the iPhone and iPad before it, now boasts the ability to instantly resume with the touch of a button. Although Apple touts this as “instant on,” it’s really instant resume. But because the product can stay asleep for weeks at a time, it is essentially the same thing.

Windows 7, which turned one year old this week, represents a vast improvement in resume time, but even the best Windows PCs can’t match this new Mac feature–at least from my initial use of the new MacBook Air.

Part of the Air’s speed is due simply to the fact that it has flash storage, but perhaps more of it can be attributed to the fact that Apple built the new Air knowing there wouldn’t be a traditional hard drive. As a result, it can design the system accordingly, allowing it to speed up tasks further. And Steve Jobs said a number of times that the design of the Air represents the future of the MacBook, suggesting that flash storage could be the future for all of Cupertino’s portables. In a brief chat after the event, Jobs emphasized that point to me again.

Microsoft, in supporting Windows, has to make sure the operating system works on everything that meets its minimum specifications. In short, it’s the typical challenge for Windows. Because Microsoft works with a variety of hardware partners–as well as supporting years-old machines–Windows often has to sacrifice the ultimate in performance for the sake of compatibility.

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