The death of Windows? of Microsoft? of the PC? Not yet

The PC is dead

All the stories that keep appearing about the “death” of Windows, Microsoft, and the PC itself are a lot of excessive Sturm und Drang. The stories are mostly link-bait, blinkered thinking, tech journalists looking for something to write about, or vested interests trying to boost their product.

Of course, it is the very big increase in the use of mobile devices like tablets and smartphones that causes all the speculation about the end of the old dominance. There have been plenty of posts on this blog about the explosion in mobile platforms. But PCs and Microsoft are not going away any time soon.

All the statistics about the decline of the market share of PCs that you keep seeing are certainly true. The fraction of computing devices made up of PCs has been shrinking. But the total number of computing devices keeps growing. That means that the absolute number of conventional PCs is still very large. Shipments of new PCs may be down slightly but the number of PCs is not falling off a cliff, The worldwide number of PCs may even be growing since no one knows how many older units are still in service.

The PC may no longer be the sole platform but it certainly remains a major one. As Steve Jobs once put it, the PC is a truck and mobile platforms are cars. Why can’t the industry accept that the model of one platform to serve all purposes is absurd in a world with billions of technology users with a vast multitude of needs and technical skills. All this wailing about the death of the PC is silly. The tech world just can’t seem to get untied to mama Microsoft’s apron strings. Note that all the tears are about devices with Windows 8 not selling well. The fact that tablets and smartphones without Windows are doing fine is not considered good news.

Although sales of PCs in conventional form factors are down, computing devices are more popular than ever. A big factor is price. The Wintel ecosystem clings to monopolistic pricing practices but we have finally reached the point where consumers have some choices. Non-Windows tablets in the several hundred dollar range are appearing. Given options and prices not dictated by the Wintel monopoly, consumers are turning to new platforms.

Nonetheless, Microsoft, Windows, and PCs remain a very large presence. As bad as Microsoft and Windows have been for the consumer, we are still stuck with their out-sized, often baleful influence.

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Comments

But PCs and Microsoft are not going away any time soon.

Well yes, I agree. In the corporate/university environments, where people are doing “real” work, that’s definitely true. And I wish software companies would figure out that not everybody’s software should work as if it’s running on a tablet.

But you’re the one that helped me understand, the average “normal” person at home really doesn’t need all the horsepower of a Wintel box. So now I wonder, is the Wintel box actually going extinct soon for the typical home user?

Serious gamers still need the high end boxes and always will. I suspect they are a profitable market segment, but also small.

Point being that today, even if a home user did still need or want a desk top machine, I don’t think very much more software has to get ported over to linux, before that becomes a perfectly viable option. What’s still missing, decent picture/audio/video editing software?

Some of the latest linux releases I’ve seen look and feel a whole lotta-lot like WinXP and Win7 (some even let you choose which type of interface you want to run).

Linux boxes (and software) are generally cheaper per unit hp than wintel boxes, and these days I think the software barrier isn’t all that big. Linux hardware drivers are increasingly available. Email, web browsing, pdf readers, audio and video players, office substitutes (now legion), all that is out there for linux and most of it’s free. No activation hassels either, thank you very much.

My opinion, MS better be making its money on the corporate customers, because I don’t see why home users will need them for much longer. And MS sure isn’t giving the home user a reason to want them.

A point to note is that big applications like office suites are now available in the cloud with Google Docs and many others. That reduces the need for a platform that runs specific software. If a browser can become a universal way to run applications the actual OS becomes much less important. It’s another way to break out of the grip of Windows.

I’m no expert on the enterprise but from what little I know, Windows has a very firm grip there. The problem for Microsoft is that it is Windows 7 (or even XP) that we’re talking about. Hence the move by Microsoft to make money from services rather than software. For example, Microsoft Office looks to be heading to a subscription and cloud service.

If the home computer user was informed and had a choice, Windows would not have the market share that it does. But normal people are not knowledgeable enough to overcome the brainwashing about Windows that goes on. The Windows ecosystem is huge. Vast numbers of people owe their living directly or indirectly to Windows. Intel, HP, Dell, BestBuy, Staples, PC dealers, component manufacturers, and many others have a vested financial interest in Windows.

There is also the matter of consumer choices. Thanks to the iPad and Android, there is now more choice but when an average person goes to buy a computer, they see a very large assortment of Windows machines. If the tablet can take over from the laptop, then Microsoft has big trouble on the consumer front.However, I think the enterprise, government, and other institutions is where Microsoft makes its money anyway.

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