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is the PC on life support?

With the ever changing face of technology these days, consumers are now caught between computers, phones and all sorts of tablets in between. There was a day when Microsoft led the way and over time accomplished Bill Gates simple mission statement of “a personal computer on every desk and in every home”.

While the PC isn’t “dead” yet it is on life support and losing ground to more mobile platforms such as the iPad and Android.  In fact, tablet sales accounted for 1/3 of the global computer sales during the 4th quarter of 2012. 

In fact, sales of PC’s across the globe has fallen 14% in the first 2 months of this year, hitting its biggest fall since the IDC started tracking the industry in 1994. Adding that leading processor manufacturer foresees a Q2 sales decline as much as 8%, they’re trimming their own spending plans because of the drop in PC sales due to the growing popularity of tablets and smartphones.

So where does this leave the average consumer of PCs versus smartphones/tablets? While many enjoy the mobility of these devices and the ability to reach out to their own social networks, does the “mobile generation” even need a traditional PC anymore? With the ability to create a virtual wallet on your phone and take credit cards easily with a swipe through an add on, it does make the selling of services more mobile and easier to connect to your accounts. You can download an application for just about anything but while you’re consuming technology and information, are you creating it?

Would you want to write War & Peace on a smartphone? Do complex spreadsheets?

So how has Microsoft responded to the shift? Not very well, it would seem.

Since the release of Surface, despite the high energy, everyone dancing on the tables commercials and more clicking than a mariachi band on acid, sales have fallen very short of expectations. To date, Microsoft has sold little more than 1 million of the Surface RT’s and 400,000 of the Surface Pro’s. By contrast, Apple has sold 22.9 million iPads in the quarter that ended in Dec of 2012, and worldwide shipments of the iPad reached 128.3 million units in 2012. 

With both notebooks and PCs slowing in sales, Microsoft is forced to shift to the mobile platform to not only conduct business, but to be “social” as most IT companies now must allow their employees to combine online social activities to exist on their smartphone devices.

Enter Windows 8. Will their new UI help regain a market they’ve been losing for years during this shift? How will the traditional IT, Microsoft’s bread and butter, react to not only a new UI, but having to upgrade their hardware to fully take advantage of Microsoft finally getting into the “touch screen” era? In short, they have a HUGE uphill battle and seem to be getting lost in the transition from yesterday to tomorrow.

7 Reasons for this challenge:

  1. Most IT shops are still moving from XP to Windows 7
  2. Windows 8 makes updates in security, but Windows 7 is rock solid
  3. The new UI is a major change that carries added risk for I%O.
  4. Window 8, or RT?
  5. Limited Applications (275k apps for Apple, approx. 10k for Windows)
  6. High resource requirements for Tablets
  7. Fragmented ecosystem 

Added to this the cost for the proper touch screen hardware many Enterprises may simply bypass Windows 8, or actively start seeking solutions from Apple and Google.

So today we have a phone OS that’s trying to grow into the Enterprise and an Enterprise OS that’s trying to become a phone. The trick is going to be how well Microsoft can ride the tide and create a “cooler” image and here is the challenge. IDC looked at smartphone stats in Q2 of 2012 and Windows was a whopping 3.5% of the OS’s on such devices with Gartner giving the Microsoft phone only a 2.7% market share. (reference removed by site)

Now lost somewhere between the Enterprise and the next generation, what will Microsoft do? Listen to their customers for traditional enterprises and put the “start” button back? There are rumors that are heating up that will come with Windows 8.1 (that was quick) to allow bypassing the Metro UI. This should allow more adoption among enterprises but still leaves them out in the dark on the smartphone/tablet market that is dominating current and predicted sales.

There is likely to be a need for traditional keyboard/mouse type inputs for a computer “device” but if that comes from a tablet device or not is hard to say at this point. It’s even harder to say what will power such a device but the market is wide open today and Microsoft is day by day becoming the IBM they openly challenged long ago. Their relevance is slipping, adoption among newer technology users slow and they seem to be stumbling over their own feet trying to figure it out.

Todays’ choices seem to be Microsoft, Apple or Google with Apple the one that can guide the direction better than the other 2. Microsoft doesn’t know what to do, Google just wants to sell you something and Apple, they’re be the one to watch at this point