It has been an interesting week. On the one hand Windows 10 has surpassed 200 million in terms of installed base. On the flip side at this years Consumer Electronics(CES) show in Las Vegas the reports are there is next to zero presence by hardware vendors and next generation PC’s. Microsoft has scaled back. Dell has scaled back. HP has scaled back. It’s as if no one cares anymore. There has been discussion of the demise of the PC for years now and many times I think it is misunderstood. It is not like the PC is going away, it has just become a commodity. I need it like I need tires for my car. This does not however mean there is no future for the PC, it just means the sex appeal of the PC is kind of dead, actually it is really dead. Is the future, one of death for the PC? Can it be resurrected? Is technology transforming so fast that the PC will fade into memory? All valid questions, but maybe a bit to doom and gloom for me. There is a place for the PC, it just may not be as central as it once was.
There are still a lot of companies out in the world who rely on PC’s to drive growth – still a lot of the big names out there that includes Acer, Toshiba, Lenovo, HP Consumer, Dell etc..All good companies with good products, but in an age defined by Apple and Google in the consumer space they have all found it hard to stay relevant. This does not mean the PC is dead, we just need to reassess where it fits into our lives. Is it cutting edge or has it become more like my refrigerator? Maybe a better question is my household appliance becoming more like my PC? If we look at some of the big announcements at CES a fair amount were around old household appliances like the Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator which has three camera inside and you can connect via a Mobile app so when you are at the store you can check if you may have forgotten anything. It also has a screen on it with the possibility of streaming video content to the fridge. It was cool this year but I think it will be even bigger next year. For hardware manufacturers they need to figure how they co-exist in this new world. More importantly how do they offer value to anew tech consumer market that will be much larger than their traditional market .
What does this have to do with PC sales? The way to look at with each new IoT device a piece of functionality of the PC is being distributed so I do not need to stop and sit down on the couch and boot to perform a task or view content. When I stream content to my TV I use Google Chromecast and my iPhone as I can get all content via the iPhone almost immediately. Where time is spent then over time it is usually monetized. With the rules changing minute by minute and the traditional tech experience being transported across every item ever created by mankind our reliance of a confined experience is dissipating. Samsung and Google are leading the way. Samsung does everything from phones to PC’s to kitchen appliances. Showing and understanding that these are all in some way connected. Google via its acquisition if NeST is connecting the home and allowing you to control your home environment anywhere at anytime.
A question is where does this leave Microsoft? Where does the Windows experience go from here? A company that laid the ground work for where we are today needs to recreate its identity or more importantly recreate the user experiences. We are continually being given new ways of interacting with technology. New home heating systems we tap into via an app and wi-fi connection. Home security systems we can view from our mobile device our laptop.. The challenge for many of these new Internet of Things scenarios is that they don’t need all the functionality and overhead that Windows provides but a very specialized subset, more suited for a OS like Linux. That being said it makes sense for Microsoft, given its history, to be a major player in this space. It will have to make significant changes in how it thinks about an operating system.
For all the strides we have made I still find at times the PC an extremely frustrating piece of technology. It still can lock up on me. Provide me the blue-wheel of death. The mouse touch=pads at times can be way to sensitive this causing mysterious things to happen. Boot times have improved but are no where close to what I have on my tablet. These distributed tasks to new devices and form factors are welcome, as they are simplified and available immediately upon request. My technology horizons are expanding as every day technology touches something new in my life, down to the clothes I wear. As is so often the case with gadgets they always seem to get smaller and brighter.
Where does this then leave the PC? The PC had been around for over thirty years now and has lost its glamorous sex appeal. It is not the center of the technology world anymore, nor has it been for a long time. Will we not need them? Absolutely not as certain task are still best designed for a PC. The need to have a keyboard. But as noted earlier the big change is the need to actually sit down and use a PC is not as great and more scenarios will crop up that further distribute our use of technology beyond the PC. The PC has become more of a commodity for the general user. I believe that I will have a PC until I leave this earth, however my time spent with it will continue to diminish, never to zero, but even less than it is today. I do not foresee the PC ever gaining its former glamour and luster, at least not in the current from factors. However the offspring to the PC shall lead us into a brighter future.
Good Night and Good Luck
Hans Henrik Hoffmann January 12, 2016