Typically when I meet with a manufacturer to talk about new products, they're coy about mentioning their competitors. They refer to "our competition," or "other players," or "similar devices." Every company wants me to believe it's the only company on the planet, that any others aren't even worth the lip service.

That's what made my last meeting with Toshiba so odd. While showing me the new Kirabook, the highest-end ultrabook the company has ever made and the first in a new line, the company's product managers and PR reps couldn't stop talking about Apple. They told me "we're lighter than Air," and compared "apples to apples — our apples to Apple's apples." While other manufacturers have raced to the bottom and to the lowest common laptop denominator, they said, Apple has stolen the high end with an enduring focus on quality. Toshiba thinks it can change that.

The Kirabook is designed to be the Windows equivalent of the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, or the Chromebook Pixel: it's uncompromised hardware, a true flagship device for those willing to pay for it. Windows 8 desperately needs that: every ultrabook I've seen makes some sacrifice in the name of a price tag, and it's led to the perception that Windows 8 machines can't be as good as a MacBook. It takes more than a super-high-resolution display to make a great laptop, though. Can Toshiba zig where other manufacturers have zagged, forget the price tag and just build the best Windows laptop ever?