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Microsoft Leads Into Post-PC Era

January 5, 2013

The Post-PC era is upon us. It’s not something that is coming. It’s not something that may happen. It’s here! Guess what? Microsoft is leading the way. I know, I know. If you have been reading other blogs, you might say, “What are you talking about? Microsoft is getting killed! Windows Phone is a failure and Windows 8 is doing worse than Vista”.

To get things started, let’s look at the install base for PC’s, tablets and mobile phones. In the post-pc era we are saying that the PC market which has been running between 400-450M sales per year will be dwindling and the tablet market which is expected to be around 100M will grow significantly. At the same time, smartphone sales will also continue exponential growth in coming years. Over the past three years the recent Garner report shows the trends clearly.

If we look at the numbers for Apple devices, we see that the install base, over the past 3 years, has increased from 123M devices to 535M devices. There has been an increase of 400 million devices. What you might not have expected is that over the same 3 year period, Microsoft has seen similar growth to Apple. The install base has increased by a nearly identical 400M devices. The juggernaut of the group has clearly been Android powered phones and tablets which has seen a growth of the install base nearing 1B devices.

With that analysis, you might say, Russell, doesn’t the data clearly show Android is the wave of the future? After all, if the trend holds true next year, Android will have a larger install base than Microsoft. To that point I wouldn’t entirely disagree. However, as we talk about the post PC era and what it looks like, we said there is a convergence of technologies. While some might be tempted to suggest that a smart phone is a PC replacement, I will just say that I don’t agree with that assessment. Is it true that a phone may replace a PC for some tasks? Sure. A smartphone is a fantastic device. If you want to quickly see what is playing at the movie theater, or if you want to quickly find a nearby restaurant, or perhaps if you want to go online and check the trending news, a smartphone is a great device and potentially, in some cases a smartphone does replace a PC. However, for most people in the world, the smaller form factor is conducive to a particular type of usage which is much different than a PC or a tablet. The line is going to continue blurring as even tablets are going to come with cellular capabilities. Further, tablets running technologies like Skype mean that you can have unlimited nationwide calling for about $50 per year (I will definitely write more about this experience soon).

Microsoft has recognized the change in the industry and as a result, pretty much all future PC’s will be touchscreen devices. Luckily for Microsoft, they recognized the industry shift while they are still the market leader. Microsoft is now changing the PC industry to aggressively join the tablet market. In other words, the PC market with annual sales of about 450M PC’s will merge with the tablet market of about 100M tablets. This is a brilliant move from Microsoft, albeit one that had to happen. In this convergence, as PC’s and tablets become indistinguishable, Microsoft is likely to be the leader in touchscreen computer devices by the time 2014 roles around (assuming somewhere between 30-60% PC’s will be touchscreen devices). Even if Windows 8 is a total bomb in the market, twice as bad as Vista, Microsoft will still be the leader in the combined PC/tablet marketplace.

In this world, neither Apple, nor Android are prepared for this convergence from the PC front. Instead, they are stuck in the old style PC’s. This difference really makes the idea of using the Mac OSX flavor painful. The Chromebook experience is equally archaic. Luckily for both Apple and Google, their desktop/PC offerings are pretty insignificant in terms of market share, so their situation isn’t nearly as tenuous as the predicament Microsoft is in.

I know there are a bunch of people cheerleading for Google to take over. When it comes to smartphones, it’s done. They are the dominant force and it will be that way for the foreseeable future. However, when it comes to the Post-PC era, Microsoft is sitting in a particularly strong position, along with Apple. The annual sales of PC’s and tablets are the future of computing. It’s a future Bill Gates saw coming nearly 20 years ago and it’s a future that Microsoft is now leading.

Windows 8 is the starting point. Touch based computing which is every bit as finger friendly as the best “tablet” experience on the market (the market leader – iPad). For people that need to run some legacy apps, you can select a device running the Intel based processor. If you don’t need legacy apps, you can choose either ARM or Intel. For the most part, Intel provides more processing power and ARM offers better battery life. The true future of computing is that legacy applications that needed the old “desktop” will largely disappear. In this way, there is a complete convergence between tablets/computers running on ARM processors and tablets/computers running on Intel. Regardless, there is only one software company that is positioned to move in either direction. There is only one company that has a real Post-PC era play. There is only one company that is leading the convergence of the tablet and the PC market. The company that is best positioned for the Post-PC era is the leader in the PC era, Microsoft.

There will be continued convergence between the Smartphone and the PC also, but that is for another conversation and that convergence isn’t happening today.


From → Technology

  1. edgar permalink

    I agree with you in almost everything except the post PC era, if exist must be called post Mac era.

  2. Reblogged this on RGH Post-PC News and commented:

    This is a really important subject as we head into 2013. I had several blog posts around the same time and this kind of got covered with other topics, so I am re-blogging it.

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