At this year’s CES two unthinkable things happened:
- The abandonment of Windows exclusivity by practically all of Microsoft’s OEM customers.
- The abandonment of Intel exclusivity by Microsoft for the next generation of Windows.
Many of Microsoft’s customers chose to use an OS product from Microsoft’s arch enemy. Some chose to roll their own. Microsoft, in turn, chose to port its OS to an architecture from Intel’s arch enemy.
These actions confirm the end of the PC era. Although most people would characterize the era as exemplified by a particular form factor or market, for me the definition of that era is the way the value chain was structured and hence how profits were captured.
That era was marked by the condensation of profits around two companies, Intel and Microsoft, with the simultaneous evaporation of profits from all other participants in the value chain.
To achieve this, Microsoft maintained a monopoly on the distribution of operating systems and Intel maintained a monopoly as the single supplier of chip architectures for that operating system.
These monopolies are both over. And they both ended at the same time. And it happened this week.
Who says CES is boring this year?