"When I compare Windows 8 to Apple's approach with OS X for desktops and iOS for smaller devices, the Apple method makes a lot more sense to me."
IMO you can see computing portability as a spectrum, at one end you have the desktop (highly capable, not portable at all), at the other you have the smartphone (highly portable but very restricted capabilities). In between you have a whole plethora of devices of different prices, capabilites and levels of portability.
Apples soloution is to draw the line between tablets and laptops. Tablets get treated like smartphones, laptops get treated like desktops. Google also puts their smartphone OS on tablets (and doesn't really play significantly in the desktop or laptop space). Treating tablets like smartphones certainly has it's merits but it means you often end up carrying two devices, a tablet for media consumption and use on the go and a laptop for when you need to sit down somewhere and work. MS is weak in the smartphone market and by making a smartphone-like tablet they would be setting themselves up to be equally weak in the tablet market but by making a tablet system that can turn into a laptop by plugging in a keyboard unit they have a unique selling point that the other tablet OS vendors don't.
I think they are realising that throwing desktop/laptop users under the bus to support their tablet vision was a bad idea and I hope they can come up with a soloution that satisfies both. The general impression I get is that 8.1 is not as bad for desktop use as 8 but it's still widely considered to be inferior to earlier versions in that environment.