re: Microsoft's Influence Fading Fast: Gartner
It's a good point. Apple isn't immune to the PC slowdown either. Cupertino's hardware is less commodified than the PCs at most businesses, and the company released several shiny, new Retina-equipped laptops this year-- but it nevertheless lost business, just like almost every other company.
That said, Apple still managed to increase its market share in the U.S., and its rate of decline was close to being flat, much better than the industry-wide average. But even in the U.S., where Apple is strongest, it only accounted for about 1 in 9 computer purchases last year-- which represents a lot of money, but only a fraction of the company's overall revenue. Apple's worried about the mobile market share it's losing to Android (hence the much-rumored "cheap" iPhone for developing markets), but Cupertino is still making money hand over fist in that market (have you seen the margins they get from SSDs alone?!). As a result, the company is better positioned than most Windows partners to endure a PC slide.
Microsoft seems intent to enter the iPad Mini's market, given all the rumors about OEMs being incentivized to make 8-inch tablets. But as you point out, Microsoft is pretty far behind. It would take something pretty compelling to make up all the lost ground but I think Redmond can still make strides if it executes on the next waves of devices.
It's easy to be skeptical about Microsoft's chances, given that the Surface RT, ostensibly an iPad competitor, was priced way too high. At $200, it would be an awesome device with killer build quality for its price point. But at more than $500 for the tablet and the (more or less mandatory) keyboard, the device just doesn't deliver enough, especially given its current app selection. I think RT's native Office apps count for something-- but for its intended market, they don't count for enough. The next wave of RT devices need to be much cheaper while still maintaining reasonable build quality. I'd still like to see Microsoft illustrate some compelling use cases for both Windows and Windows RT. So far, the company's advertising has largely assumed that the "tablet and computer in one device" convenience is persuasive enough-- but customers have already shown that it isn't, at least not with the current UI and price structure. But even if those use cases don't show up until after Windows Blue, some affordable, well-designed RT tablets would be a step in the right direction.
Michael Endler, IW Associate Editor