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How the PC Industry is Killing Itself

April 17th, 2013 - 10:38 am

Via the Bearded One, here’s Roger Kay on what went wrong with PCs:

For example, Samsung has been making notebooks for years, but is now right in the middle of the Google-fed Android revolution in smartphones and tablets. Lenovo, an amalgam of IBM’s old PC company and the first major Chinese PC maker, has been moving into phones in China, India, Philippines, and Vietnam. Lenovo also offers a variety of tablets in developed markets.

Dell and Hewlett-Packard (HP), on the other hand, have nearly non-existent positions in high mobility. Dell, with its emphasis on computing for businesses, has reacted to organizations’ slowness to adopt new technologies by being slow to introduce them. HP bought Palm, intending to use the smaller company’s webOS for both phones and tablets, only to abandon the project and sell off the assets after a relatively short period. Both hardware makers are working to expand their high-mobility portfolios, but Dell is more focused on enterprise solutions, and HP has indicated that these products will not be rushed to market.

However, the real responsibility for the current situation lies with the main suppliers: Microsoft and Intel.

Intel is finally, five years after the iPhone, just starting to “get” mobile. But ARM chips are still ahead of Intel’s Atom on power savings and management — and who wants to recompile their mobile OS for a new CPU, anyway? That ship might have sailed already, unless Intel wants to get into the low-margin business of building expensive fabs for producing somebody else’s chip design.

And Microsoft? I’ve spent months, almost a year, pounding my head against this very desk trying to figure out what their mobile strategy is. There are three steps as near as I can figure it:

• Produce a nice phone OS, but stick it in an ecosystem-free, phone-only ghetto.

• Make a tablet-only OS with no apps.

• Make a semi-tablet OS and shoehorn it into desktops, too.

And — oh yeah, one more:

• Annoy the heck out of everybody doing it.

This isn’t a strategy at all, actually. It’s just a list of bad decisions, without any interlocking or underlying idea behind them. Apple has had a strategy dating back to the original iPad prototypes going back about a decade:

• Leverage OSX and iPod manufacturing skills to produce an industry-defining smartphone.

• Leverage iPhone ecosystem to produce an industry-defining tablet.

• Use giant profits to lock up components and expand ecosystems, leading back to the first step.

And — oh yeah, one more:

• Take Microsoft’s and Dell’s and HP’s and Nokia’s lunch money.

Samsung has followed Apple’s lead (slavishly), and as a result is the only other company making any appreciable money in mobile. Everybody else is standing in line at the cafeteria, wondering how they’re going to pay for the juice box and the spaghetti they just put on their tray.

It’s been an amazing performance by Apple (and Samsung). But just as amazing is the degree to which Microsoft and Intel have simply failed to compete in mobile at all.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Windows 8. The first thing I did when I bought my new all-in-one PC was scour the InterWebs for programs that made the damned thing look like Win 7.

Win 8 isn't even a terrible operating system-- it's clearly tighter and faster than Win 7, but the need to make everything different just sucked the life out of it. When I buy a new PC I already have a million things I was doing on the old one-- I just wanna transfer things over and continue on, not learn where simple programs and icons are ALL OVER AGAIN.

Ugh, sorry, had to get that off my chest.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (9)
All Comments   (9)
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Apple is a victim of their own success. They are still making great products overall. But the delta increase in the wow factor of their latest products has been diminishing a great deal. Hence the $200 drop in their stock price from last year. They'd have to invent a phone with a nuclear reactor that never needs charging or that shoots friggin' laser beams to achieve that same leap in innovation that the first iphone represented.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Start8 seems to be getting pretty popular to put the desktop and the start button on Windows Hate.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Windows 8. The first thing I did when I bought my new all-in-one PC was scour the InterWebs for programs that made the damned thing look like Win 7.

Win 8 isn't even a terrible operating system-- it's clearly tighter and faster than Win 7, but the need to make everything different just sucked the life out of it. When I buy a new PC I already have a million things I was doing on the old one-- I just wanna transfer things over and continue on, not learn where simple programs and icons are ALL OVER AGAIN.

Ugh, sorry, had to get that off my chest.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

I will never, ever, ever forgive HP for killing WebOS. They could've been #2 or at least a solid #3 in the market by now.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
WebOS was great, but it never got the hardware it deserved. Not from Palm, not from HP. In fact, the original Palm Pre was SO bad, I'm not sure WebOS ever had a fighting chance.

A damn shame, too.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

The Palm unit was busy fixing that. The Pre2 was very good, and the Veer was awesome. A tiny, actually useful smartphone. I invariably got "what is THAT!" reactions when I used it.

I think there's an untapped market for a mini-smartphone.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The problem is, you've got to absolutely nail it in smartphones on the first iteration. I don't know why that is, but it's an observable fact of that particular market. Stumble out of the gate, and it's "Game over, man! Game over!"
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

I'm not sure, but I'd say it's because of two things. First, Apple has plenty good enough hardware at any given time. Second, leaving any smartphone ecosystem requires effort. Basically, if you try the phone and don't love it, you get sucked into Apple's web and never leave.

That's why I think the remaining mobile strategy is to somehow satisfy the folks who want a useable device that actually fits in a pocket. Done right, it gives you something that Apple doesn't do and could jump-start a competitive ecosystem.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And that's part of the problem with Microsoft entering the mobile market. They generally take three tries to get it right (but once they do, watch out).

Also, I don't think the PC is going to disappear. There are just too many things you can do on a PC that you can't do on a tablet due to power and input constraints. Playing most games would be difficult (WoW, SW:TOR, DA:O, CoD, SC2, D3, etc) because the interface and the controls would have to be completely scrapped and redesigned for mobile. I think that the two will work in parallel for a long time, myself.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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