How the PC Industry is Killing Itself

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.