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Microsoft's Influence Fading Fast: Gartner
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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
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4/9/2013 | 2:00:55 PM
re: Microsoft's Influence Fading Fast: Gartner
Thanks for the comment, Terabyte Net. You're right that PCs aren't dead; as I wrote in the article, even according to Gartner's estimates, the PC industry will still ship more than 270 million units in 2017. I suspect most "dying" industries would envy that kind of volume.

Video work is a fine example of a task for which tablets simply won't do-- you're right about that as well. As someone who's done a lot with Final Cut Pro 7, the Adobe Creative Suite and other such programs, I don't need my editors to "point out" this fact, though. ;) The Black Magic Pocket Cam that was just announced at NAB illustrates your point here. It's going to make waves, assuming BM has its supply chain in order, among ambitious amateurs and indie filmmakers-- and this group is, thanks to the explosion of cheap DSLRS, pretty big. These people are all gonna need i7-powered PCs to deal with the big ProRes files, to say nothing of grade the footage in Resolve/Colorista/whatever. This is just once instance among many others in which a group of users will need good ole PCs for the foreseeable future.

That said, tablets, including Apple's, have legitimate business use cases that belie the "iToy" label. Tablets don't have uses for all businesses. But for some - marketing, sales, customer service - the new mobility-oriented business workflows present greater upside than the PC-oriented models they've replaced.

Ultimately, though, I don't think we're that far apart on the big point: the traditional PC isn't dead.

The PC is, however, ceding some of the tasks it used to own. This process changes the way PCs fit into the average user's life and gradually erodes the PC's influence in the personal electronics arena. It would be hyperbole to say the PC is dead or dying, but it's certainly true that the traditional computer's role is changing, and in some regards contracting.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
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4/5/2013 | 5:40:40 PM
re: Microsoft's Influence Fading Fast: Gartner
One other Apple vs. Windows tidbit of note: It didn't make it into the article, but Carolina Milanesi mentioned that a lot of IT managers would still prefer to keep iPads out of the enterprise, if they can. BYOD forces make doing so difficult in some cases, but some companies are evidently promoting the Surface Pro largely so they have an excuse to simultaneously discourage iPads. Some business vertical also like the Surface Pro because it offers unique uses cases, but the use case motivation is, or so Gartner has found, much less pervasive than the anti-iPad one. Goes to show that Microsoft still has a lot of leverage due to its massive and often loyal customer base-- but I think the point is that this leverage, while still substantial today, is diminishing over time, and that if Redmond doesn't show some signs soon, it might never re-attain its previous, unparalleled influence.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
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4/5/2013 | 5:33:09 PM
re: Microsoft's Influence Fading Fast: Gartner
Agreed. I obviously have no idea what kind of strings Gates might be pulling behind the scenes, and I suppose you can trace the company's culture in some ways to whatever customs Gates originally instituted-- but I don't see any particular reason that current gripes should blow back on Gates.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
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4/5/2013 | 5:30:17 PM
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
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
4/5/2013 | 4:50:07 PM
re: Microsoft's Influence Fading Fast: Gartner
As more people decide they can make do with a tablet or small tablet, Apple will face lower Macbook sales, too. But Apple has the iPad mini to take up the sales slack, whereas Microsoft has nothing in that segment. And as Android tablets rise, time is not on Microsoft's side in this race.

Laurianne McLaughlin
InformationWeek


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