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Is the tablet computer a new PC or post-PC?

Steve Ballmer stated and Andy Lees confirmed that Microsoft views iPad and other tablets as “just PCs”. From a market measurement point of view Canalys agrees. IDC and Gartner don’t, calling the new devices “media tablets.”

Before deciding whether tablets belong with PCs in market metrics, it would be interesting to look at what the data shows. When seen as a combined market, the focus should be on platforms. The following chart shows the four main PC+tablet platform volumes since late 2008 [1].

The second chart shows the same data as share of total market:

This comparison allows for some fresh observations:

  1. Excluding iPads, Apple is very close to being 5th largest global PC vendor. Global share likely to be above 5%. Including iPads, Apple would be 2nd.
  2. Platform year-on-year growth was Windows: +1.3%, OS X: +26%, iOS: +170%. Android growth cannot yet be measured since Android tablets have not been on the market for more than 1 year.
  3. In Q2 2011 one million more Windows PCs were sold than in Q2 2010. In same time, 903k more OS X PCs and 5.5 million more iPads.
  4. Excluding tablets, nearly 50% of the global PC growth was due to the Mac. Including iPad, Apple was responsible for ~70% of the growth in the PC market in Q2.

The picture that emerges is that while Windows continues to be dominant with 84% of units sold in the last quarter, the growth belongs to tablets which captured about 90% of it. If Windows remains marginal on tablets, the “PC market” will likely tip away from Microsoft in two years (depending on how quickly Apple can build iPads.)

Microsoft is making the commitment to move Windows to a tablet form factor but they are doing it while retaining the user interaction model of a desktop. This may or may not work but they are also conceding that a separate experience is also necessary. By rejecting the notion that a mobile OS alone can do the job, they are essentially building a “hybrid” tablet/laptop/desktop product which may be challenging to use but preserve their presence in the form factor.

Whether Microsoft succeeds or not will depend on whether the new form factor is disruptive in more than user experience. In other words whether this is just a “new PC” or a “post-PC”. The argument comes down to business model changes. For example the new model comes with different cycle time of product development (deep, integrated, yearly changes), different ecosystem (apps), different cost structures (high R&D in hardware), vast scale (device economics, components, ramps), and potentially new distribution (operators in the channel mix.)

Summed up, the real challenge for Microsoft is whether they can keep their business model (selling OS licenses to hardware vendors) as PCs become more device-like. Not only is iOS setting the benchmark for performance but Android is potentially ready to take share if the market turns slightly more modular. Microsoft’s differentiation looks to be primarily its legacy of PC software.

It may also seem that much remains to be discovered in this market but I think the main bets have already been made. The PC market as we know it is in the end game.

Notes:

  1. I used Gartner data for overall world-wide PC market and merged it with Mac and iPad data from Apple. Android data is estimated.
  • Roger

    Exactly! Microsoft is toast and surprisingly, they don't know it yet.

    • asymco

      They suspect it, but will fight with the weapons they have at hand. What they won't do is disrupt themselves.

      • Kristian

        Complaint… It must be somewhere in these posts, but could you use constantly same colours in the graphs? Take the colours that these companies use and then 'murra niitä' as you do with the colours in this site. ;)

      • sve

        I think you are too negative regarding MSFT. They have faced mortal threats before and survived. They have all the big company problems outlined in Innovator's Dilemma in spades. But they do have people inside that know what is going on. And they have the financial resources to mount a fierce response and place many substantial bets on alternate approaches – even ones that directly compete against each other. They know how to program big things and can go software toe-to-toe with anyone in the world. They know how to build cloud-scale IT. Management, developer's trust, customer's trust, yes they are problems. But the stakes are life and death. Don't count them out.

      • http://twitter.com/davidchu @davidchu

        I don't think anyone doubts Microsoft's ability to code.

        The root problem is that for MS to compete, they will have to start over in a number of places, much like with Windows Phone 7. These are areas where they don't have advantages in scale, experience or recognition.

        The reason why I think WP7 isn't getting ported to the tablet but Windows is, is because MS wants to leverage their existing library of PC applications. Notice I didn't say anything about what is best for the user or the tablet form factor.

      • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo @Marcos_El_Malo

        MS prospered and survived challenges under a brilliant strategist: Bill Gates. Read his company wide memo "Internet Tidal Wave" from 1995. Gates made the vast ship that was MS do a 180° turn to catch that wave. Gates recognized the disruption to his business from the internet and sought ways for MS to benefit rather than languish, and Gates went "all in".

        Balmer is blind and ineffective. He might be competent as a steward of an existing business that continues to make good money, but he hasn't the ability to catch a wave. It's outside of his comfort zone which makes it outside his comprehension zone.

        I think there must have been some internal battle to get to this point, and Balmer conservatively stuck with the side that believes it can continue to milk the cash cows indefinitely, not being able to envision a future where Windows doesn't dominate world computing.

      • dave

        Yes. Gates did recognize the threat and within one year microsoft web enabled their whole product line.

        however a large part of the success of the strategy was the ability to ship ie on every pc and the slowness of the internet which precluded users downloading competing browsers.

      • http://twitter.com/bergie @bergie

        Back then IE wasn't actually too bad when compared to Netscape.

  • http://twitter.com/adamson @adamson

    I think that the key issue is not measurement of the market and where the iPad fits but the mental model of retaining it as a "PC". Peter Drucker said that every business needs to have a positive program of "planned abandonment". In my experience working with successful (public) companies and their executives I've found that the products which made them most successful are the ones which hold them hostage to going over the top of the curve of business re-invention, at great risk.

    Hanging on to the belief, the mental model, that the "whole product" of the iPAD is that of a PC sounds extremely dangerous to me, and I'm disappointed in Microsoft. I mean by the whole product the ecosystem+ – the ecosystem plus the design approach plus the logistics, marketing, sales, and the relationship with the customer and particularly the ongoing relationship with the customer. Just think about this latter point alone. Microsoft's relationship is one of bug fixes, updates to solve problems, and auto-restarting your machine when you least want it to happen – it's an annoying and intrusive maintenance relationship, which they have automated. No need to spell out that Apple's ongoing relationship through the iPad is totally different…

    Despite their several false steps Microsoft has the wherewithal to create a successful tablet ecosystem (notice that I did not say "tablet" – who cares about a "tablet, just another boat anchor!). They don't even need to be creative, in fact I'd recommend that they don't be creative, see my Why Creativity is Bad for Business http://www.walteradamson.com/2010/06/why-creativi

    But they DO need to transform their thinking into a new mental model. Because an iPad is not a PC and that's that!!

    Walter @adamson

  • Kizedek

    "Steve Ballmer stated and Andy Lees confirmed that Microsoft views iPad and other tablets as “just PCs”. From a market measurement point of view Canalys agrees. IDC and Gartner don’t, calling the new devices “media tablets.”

    I'm not sure yet what Balllmer and Co. are saying. Other sites I have just read seem a little confused, too. It seems that Ballmer and Co. want to have it both ways and are engaged in some double-speak somewhere along the line…

    It's possible they view only Windows Tablets as "PC's", being as how they are determined to have them running Windows 8 and upholding their "Windows Everywhere" mantra; firmly entrenched in their view that that has always been the best approach and that that is what consumers and businesses overwhelmingly want.

    At the same time, I think they may still be dismissing iPads and others as "merely Media Tablets" which MS has helped define and convinced the analysts and IDC and Gartner of. That way, MS can go about business as usual and somehow claim the "high road".

    In any case, their hubris is stunning, whether or not anyone thinks the distinctions or cateogorisation of tablets or post-PC devices is relevant or important or not. It's probably just indicative that their creativity and ability to innovate with OS's and platforms is nil, and they still believe they have some caché and brand power with "Windows".

    • dallas

      Apple's success is due in large part to the app ecosystem that they provide. Microsoft sees this and is positioning their legacy desktop PC software apps as part of their mobile strategy. this is MS biggest differentiation for the mobile tablet market. take a hybrid approach (mobile + desktop) to bring along the longtime MS consumers and enterprise users. it may just work -at least in theory. it remains to be seen how the user interface experience ends up. big risk on their part. but quite logical.

      • roger

        I contend Apple's success was long before their present ecosystems and is due to their major changes in operating systems – OS 9 to OS X to Intel-OS X. Each one was risky to Apple, painful to the users, but totally necessary to move the platform to a 'modern' state. Apple did provide tools to cushion the transitions (classic and rosetta) but the end result speaks for itself – it's robust, secure, scales and supports different processors and input methods. Microsoft wishes they could blow up Windows with its DOS underpinnings, blue screens of death, driver nightmares, security holes, etc but they can't because it would jeopardize their cash cows. Microsoft is stuck with an OS they can't move from. Apple is not and it's their game to lose.

      • KenC

        Not to mention Carbon and Cocoa to ease the transition for developers.

      • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo @Marcos_El_Malo

        Positioning their legacy desktop PC software apps as part of their mobile strategy is doomed. The problem is that the UI paradigms are totally different between PCs and post PC devices, one being based on touch and responsiveness, and the other on the mouse and keyboard. Putting a touch interface layer over Windows is not going to make legacy applications viable.

        MS has not been able to sell Tablet PCs over the past decade. Why do they think they can now? What are they bringing to the table that is different?

        Clearly, Balmer has to go and MS needs to promote or bring in someone that can exploit WP7's potential as a post PC operating system.

      • dave

        I agree. The big problem is not the distinction of whether a tablet is a pc or not ( it is ), but the UI.

        Microsoft seems to be banking on leveraging their installed base of programmers and applications onto tablets and phones and providing a touch based interface to go along with a keyboard based one.

        I believe it will create a confused user and inteface where sometimes you use a pointer and sometimes a finger. I think this will create a mess.

  • http://twitter.com/davidchu @davidchu

    @Horace

    According to IDC, we've seen two consecutive quarters of negative YOY growth for PCs in the U.S. market. Do you think that the U.S. is a good leading indicator for the rest of the world?

    • http://twitter.com/davidchu @davidchu

      Looked it up and saw that there has been several instances of negative YOY US PC shipment growth in past. Sorry for the poor comment.

    • asymco

      I would not read too much into the US market for PCs since it's saturated whereas some emerging markets are not. While the US has traditionally been a leading indicator, the new era might see a leadership from a different region. For example in digital mobile networks it was Europe that led due to GSM. In tablets we might see disproportionate growth in Asia due to better support for non-Latin character input.

  • jonshf

    A Windows based tablet would be new pc. The ipad is a mobile post-pc device. The difference isn't the hardware form factor (whether it has a touch screen or) but the user experience. It might be a grey area but a Windows machine will never be an instant-on, instant-gratification, no-fuss, long-battery-life, simple-ui, etc. device.
    Windows 8 will try to add some of these qualities (via added features which is not simplification). A wolf in sheeple clothing?

  • http://www.informationworkshop.org Mark Hernandez

    Astute and complete, as always, Horace. DATA VISUALIZATION is essential in these complex times, and asymco's visualizations are always stunning.

    And we can always use more KINDS of visualizations, since we must rely on words too often to paint a picture, which has ALWAYS been problematic discussing complex things (especially in the tech space, sadly). Confusion of terms is at the core of what this is all about.

    For instance, we have at least THREE interacting variables here. 1) physical hardware, 2) What we DO with it, and 3) the ecosystem from which the first two feed.

    Using a new kind of visualization it would be wonderful to track these three things evolving over time. And we would see splintering happening, and watch as what we DO with these devices has migrated from our desks to our laptops, to our tablets and into our pockets (smartphones).

    All of us can stop right now and do an A-B and think about what we did from our pocket just today, and how it's different from even 5 years ago. The "activity" component is a big part of the definition of pc and post-pc is it not?

    Of course, it's human nature to fixate on the easiest thing to measure, the physical devices, and stop there. But I think we also have to step up to the plate and find ways to identify, measure, visualize, and discuss the other two interacting variables in concert, because the discussion of what is "pc" and "post-pc" will continue to get easily confused until we do.

    Yeah, Microsoft is trying to shape the conversation (of those people not as informed as we are) to it's benefit, but it's a double-edged sword, eh? For one thing, it seems to make Microsoft look behind the curve.

    And when the 'Tablet PC" that they're talking about finally arrives, we'll see how well "what we DO" with them moves from the desk and laptop onto the tablet in our hand (any differently than what's already happening) and how the marketplace ultimately "takes" to their vision of it.

    (I sure wish we had bold and italic to use in comments! Using ALL CAPS and quotes for emphasis is so 1980. he he. :-)

    • David

      Try *asterisks*.

  • Hamranhansenhansen

    Both iMovie and Final Cut are video editors, just like both iPad and Mac are PC's. iPad runs a UNIX PC kernel and libraries, native C PC apps, and full-size PC HTML5 Web apps. It's a mobile PC, same as iPhone is a mobile phone.

    Microsoft has one OS that is too big for a mobile PC (NT) and one OS that is too small (CE.) That is a fact of life. They have no choice but to go forward with NT because the hardware will get more powerful and CE will get even more ridiculously obsolete as time goes on. But if they were to attempt to grow CE, they would just be rebuilding NT because it is NT that is required now (or another PC operating system.) If you need to run native C apps on a 10-inch 1024×768 screen, you need a PC operating system because that is a PC task.

    Ultimately, the problem for Microsoft is that Apple has set the pace of the PC industry much faster than Microsoft can move, and Microsoft is way, way, way behind. Apple ported OS X to ARM in 2003-2006, and Microsoft is porting NT to ARM in 2010-2013, a full 7 years behind. But even if they do complete their NT/ARM port by 2013, can they release a new version every year like Apple? In 2013, NT will be 20 years old and at version 7.0 (started at 3.1), while iOS will be 6 years old and also at version 7.0 (started at 1.0.)

    Apple also set the quality bar much too high for Microsoft to reach. People go from a Microsoft PC to an iPad and are blown away by their first color-managed images, first good onscreen typography, first stable core, first instant-on, first virus-free system, and so on. Consumers are being spoiled for Microsoft by Apple.

    So I think we are seeing the PC industry get too fast, too mobile, and too consumer-focused for Microsoft to dominate it anymore. But it is still the PC industry. iPad is a PC, not a phone. Just as we saw the Intel Mac dominate high-end PC's, I think we will see iPad dominate low-end PC's. The cost of a new iPad including 3rd party software and user training is much less than upgrading a PC from one version of Windows to another. And you get mobility, which is extremely valuable in a Wi-Fi/3G world. I don't see how Microsoft turns it around when they are running 7 years behind Apple.

    • Andrew

      For all it's first year release faults, no one who has actually used a Windows Phone 7 would be making the arguments you're making when it comes to MS's ability to create a pleasing user experience. It may not have a lot of sales, but by all indications those who have bought one are incredibly pleased with it.

      I'd guess this does have some predictive value for whether Windows 8 will be sucessful or not. The UIs do seem to share significant similarities, after all. I'd guess that user experience is more important to consumers than business models.

      • Eric Hedstrom

        While I have yet to see a Windows Phone 7 phone in the wild, its UI has gotten lots of fairly positive reviews. Everyone but Microsoft thinks they would be better off scaling WP7 up for tablets as Apple and Google have done with iOS and Android. Somehow Microsoft prefers the strategy of adding a touch-based Metro layer to Windows and cramming it into a tablet. Never mind the usability problems of having one OS with multiple UIs or hit to battery life from such a heavy OS.

        What’s the point of it? Backward compatibility? They trot out the example of hooking up a keyboard and mouse to use Excel. I can’t imagine myself or anyone I know doing that, let alone my parents. And given the relative success of iPads or even Xooms compared to existing Windows tablets it seems obvious most tablet buyers just don’t care about running old PC applications on them. Responsiveness and simplicity and battery life are much more important. For tasks suited to a PC people get PCs–and this is especially true for the companies MS is targeting who care about backward compatibility with Windows. What are they supposed to do when even Windows tablets have ARM CPUs? The strategy just doesn’t make sense.

      • dave

        I agree. People do not care about running old PC applications while Microsoft is betting they will.

        With the success of the cloud and hosted apps I am betting that Microsoft is wrong about their vision and the UI issues you mention will drive users away from their platform.

        However, I do think that Microsoft's best path is to focus on who they are and do it better than anyone else. They seem to be finally doing that with products like office365.

      • Jerome

        "… I'd guess that user experience is more important to consumers than business models"

        The business model is the key factor here. Microsoft has excelled and based all its success in an indirect business model, where the customer is NOT the user. The customers are Dell, HP, HTC. The user experience is no more than an afterthought. And this explains all the sloppiness in Microsofts products: The never needed to convince any user. User experience, from the perspective of an indirect business model, is just a layer of fluff and eye candy.

        All is different when you use a direct model. When user and customer are the same person, you have to convince every single user. Whatever you do, you have to do it with the user in mind – he is going to pay with his own money for it. The user has to enjoy the product, like it, find it useful. The user is the center of attention. That is the reason for the high quality in everything and the attention to detail.

        A company betting on an indirect business model will never "get" it. It will always come down to some new fluff on top of half-baked stuff that's being absorbed by the channel and hardware partners. Therefore, the business model is absolutely vital, all elese just follows.

    • http://twitter.com/realinformatik @realinformatik

      excellent post esp. the tardiness of MS in porting NT to ARM.

      I'm absolutely stunned at how fast the iPads are proliferating. I travel a great deal and they are everywhere on trains and planes (and presumably automobiles :) . I don't see how MSFT or GOOG can ever compete with the iOS ecosystem. At this stage MSFT would be better off thinking of an entirely new product but (cf "Surface") they seem pretty crap at that.

  • Eric D.

    When the PC came along, it mainly served to replace the typewriter and the calculator. It also destroyed the viability of the slide carousel, the record player, the pinball machine and the board game, to name but a few. Look around, do you see any typewriters?

    What is the iPad going to replace? The PC and the TV, to some extent. But the iPad is also poised to do something much bigger. It is going to replace the book.

    Textbooks most obviously. They break the backs of teenagers and school budgets. Even at $500, the iPad is a cheap alternative. When they start coming in at $200, the 30-pound schoolbag will be a thing of the past. Higher education is an even more ripe target. Then there's forty-pound duffels of airplane navigation maps; bags of recyclable newspapers; boxes of paperbacks; manuals; tourist guides; doorstops by Stephen King and company. Add your anecdote here. These things still exist, so we know the PC didn't replace them (although newspapers are fading fast).

    Microsoft's mistake is to assume that the PC has naturally evolved to its present form because of its "efficiency," and that users only want to extend that wonderful experience to tablet. Apple's genius is to understand that so many of the compromises that PC-use requires can be scraped away. By reducing the interface to a touch screen (with mike, camera, GPS and gyroscope), the tablet is truly mobile. Just like the book. Not at all like the PC.

    • ric

      I think your assurance about replacing the book is a bit of a stretch. Text books perhaps, if and ONLY IF publishers find ways to make it more economical for readers, which we know the current paradigm does not! Still, I and many folks I know are not going to pay the kind of money apple or any of the others want to charge for a DRM cripples platform made by some petty corporate dictator by the name jobs.

      I will continue to peruse media in the forms that seem to work best.

      • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo @Marcos_El_Malo

        You and the "many folks you know" are a tiny minority. Nothing wrong with that, but your well worn anti-DRM, anti-Jobs rant are tangential at best to the discussion, irrelevant at worst. DRM is no longer an issue for the mass market, if it ever was. Companies know how to do DRM, or are figuring out how to do it, without alienating the mass market consumer.

        Do what you want. That's great. Personally, I own a cheap prepaid Samsung that I use more as a clock than anything else. I have internet access and a laptop, but I don't even know if there is 2G coverage, let alone 3G in my area. (I doubt it, mostly because subsistence farmers in developing countries don't yet have an overwhelming need for it or the ability to pay for it.) All of this is to say, I'm not invested in any particular model or ideology. I really don't have time for ideology. I'm interested in ideas, which is what this website is about. Ideas.

        (Although I'm in a rural area of Mexico, I'm not that far from a big town. It's conceivable that we'll get 3 or 4G coverage from Telmex someday.)

  • EWPellegrino

    I think the clue is in the name, the Tablet Computer is the TC. It's not a PC, nor is it a subordinate device, no mere 'Media Tablet' but a computer in its own right.

    The power of the destop PC was that it brought programmable computers out of the machine room and into the office. The TC is taking programmable computers into a new context, and just as with the PC wholly new and still unimaginable applications will open up.

    Ironically there is a case that the android devices with their 16:10 aspect ratios, and undeveloped app eco-systems really are 'media tablets' – but Apple is selling the TC.

    • unhinged

      I think the most interesting point in what you've said is the "programmable" part. The tablet and the smartphone are computers that _you do not write programs on._ You do not automate processes on them, either. I agree, for the most part, that they are devices "purely for consumption" because you are consuming the features on the device – and those features are customisable through software that is written on another device. Your consumption of these features then enables your entertainment or your own creative activities.

      I think this is the cognitive barrier that the mass market teaches us about: the number of people who do not even want to _think_ about programming is very, very large. If you force someone to entertain the possibility of programming themselves, they will look at an alternative to your product. If you show someone how many different app(lication)s and developers there are for your solution, they never have to face that fear and will adopt the product in droves. We saw it with Windows, we're seeing it now with iOS.

      To me, the power of the desktop PC was that businesses with the resources to support all of the users adopted it (the fear of something going wrong was mitigated). The power of the iPad (in particular) is that the fear of something going wrong is a lot closer to non-existent in the first place (simpler product = fewer things to go wrong), and most purchasers know that they can easily get help.

      The tablet as a programmable device? Sure, you can probably do some programming to a limited extent, but the PC is a better device for that by several orders of magnitude.

      Tablets will thrive and prosper because they have removed fear from the buyers' minds and have met the "useful" criteria that each purchaser determines for themselves.

      • http://twitter.com/bergie @bergie

        I'm working on something to make tablets a productive programming environment. We'll see how that goes…
        https://github.com/bergie/noflo

  • Hoagus

    As usual, great insight Horace! That last chart ought to scare the bejeezus out of Steve Ballmer. And the quality of comments here is excellent (excluding "great post" entries like this one). It's been such a long time coming, but it looks like the tide is finally turning.

  • John

    I'm confused as to what's included in these categories. Are you only including tablets in the Android category? For iOS, are you including just iPads or are you also including iPhones or iPods?

    • asymco

      Tablets only.

  • newtonrj

    Having installed thousands of MS tablets and looking at iApple, my customers are clearly wowed by the difference. They don't want to wait 2-4 minutes for the OS to warm up. Don't like single-point touch or stylus-driven excuses for a mouseless entry, have brutally hated every onscreen incarnation of a keyboard MS has ever devised. However, what they are most concerned at right now is why any IT shop would not consider an iApple device to do their tasks at 1/3 the cost and 3x the speed? -RJ

  • D_D

    Microsoft's reliance on software is its saving grace and its downfall. Standalone, expensive monolithic software has been deprecated everywhere by the web and cheaper, more modular 'Apps'. Microsoft's loyalty to software is endearing, and explains their insistence on putting Windows on tablets, but it will also kill them in the end. People are moving to Macs and embracing iOS devices in huge numbers because there are so many ways to get around having to run old-style software. The software switching barrier is basically gone. Sorry Microsoft. You had your day. Time to move on.

  • FalKirk

    Horace, please consider this a case of "Praising with faint damnation." It has been mentioned before that you sometimes change the color coding in your charts. For example, in today's first chart you indicate Windows OS in yellow, but in the second chart you identify the Windows OS using blue.

    Perhaps there are practical reasons why you cannot co-ordinate these color codes. However, if possible, please try to add consistency to your charts. Communicating curated market intelligence is already hard enough. Don't let your message get lost due to something as seemingly inconsequential as color coding.

    Respectfully yours,

    FalKirk

    • unhinged

      I believe Horace has mentioned before that the issue is the way Numbers assigns colours to values.

  • FalKirk

    "… while Windows continues to be dominant with 84% of units sold in the last quarter, the growth belongs to tablets which captured about 90% of it."

    Wow. Just wow.

  • http://twitter.com/rurikbradbury @rurikbradbury

    The difference between a PC and a post-PC is exactly the two things MSicrosoft will add in Windows 8: first, a more 'appliance-like' (Ray Ozzie), simple front end; and second a Windows App Store.

    If they can do those well enough, it should halt much of the slippage to Apple. A big 'if' though…

    • Info Dave

      There are a series of ifs:

      IF Microsoft can get Windows to run decently on an ARM processor

      IF Microsoft Office will be useable with a touch interface

      IF Microsoft can guide hardware vendors to not make tablets that are crap

      IF Microsoft can convince developers to develop for a touch UI

      IF Microsoft can convert its user base to their version of the new paradigm

      That's off the top of my head. I'm sure I'm missing something. I will bow in the direction of Redmond if they pull that off.

      • http://twitter.com/rurikbradbury @rurikbradbury

        Agreed, many 'if's… but some mitigation:

        MS will certainly get developer support. The volumes make it inevitable, a self-fulfilling prophecy. All Win 8 installs will support touch, so there will be a target of several hundred million screens.

        Hardware will be 'good enough', just like today's PCs. All the goodness now resides in software anyway; the hardware is just a slab. It may even be really good, if Nokia does a high-end one.

      • Info Dave

        Developers have yet to embrace WPF. Line of business software is still based on the Win32 API, and that won't run on Windows 8 tablets. Microsoft has fractured its user base and the user base is not yet there. Over half their customers still run XP.

        Some of the early PC's were not 'good enough'. Many of the netbooks were not 'good enough'. Microsoft needs to more closely direct and orchestrate early design efforts to keep their reputation from being tarnished. They are not creating the market, they are entering an extremely competitive market.

      • http://twitter.com/rurikbradbury @rurikbradbury

        True what you say… but businesses have no choice — they will finally have to ditch the old LOB software and join the modern era. Developers will have several decent choices to write to the new Windows.

        Consumers will adopt Windows 8 as per usual — perhaps with more enthusiasm than before, with the new cool interface and tablet option. Most won't pay $1000 for a Mac, and it's somehow still not the year of the Linux desktop.

      • Kizedek

        No, they'll just pay 500… plus $250 for antivirus and to bring the included software up to par; plus over $1000 in extra support hours just in the first year alone. Sad, really.

      • unhinged

        As we have seen over the past few years, if a product reaches obsolescence and there is insufficient backwards compatibility then the barriers to switching are removed. Windows maintained its stranglehold for so long because of the enormous effort expended to ensure old software would still run on new machines.

        If you have to "unlearn what you have learned" then why not consider that newly popular Apple stuff? Apparently you can still run all your old Windows software on it and there's no viruses. And with the tablets, even if you have to buy new software it's only a couple of tens of dollars instead of a couple hundred. (NB: this is the perception of the general populace, not the commenter)

        As for Linux… Well, there's so much against Linux it's hard to delineate between the important and unimportant factors. But I would say that Linux, although free, does not lower the initial purchase price of the computer thanks to the "Windows tax" and it is also less popular than Windows so any adopters have to be willing to perform their own tech support. Those are the two deal-killers.

    • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo @Marcos_El_Malo

      Maybe they can slim down the OS behind the simple front end, but I can't help but picture a tank with a sports car nose bolted on. How well do you think Windows 8 will run on less capable (less capable than a desktop or laptop PC) hardware?

      I'd like to be proven wrong in this, but I think Windows 8 will be too heavy for tablets. I don't expect MS to give up, though, and I suspect eventually we'll see a good Windows tablet.

  • OpenMind

    How to classify tablet is not most important. If a sale of tablet is one less sale of PC, or some ratio like 3 tablets to one less PC, then Microsoft and PC OEM would be in deep trouble.

  • Eric D.

    Horace, what if in the second chart you stacked the PC platforms in order of relative cost? This would put Android at the bottom, iOs surging above it, Windows occupying the vast center, and then OS X curling down above it. Ignoring Android for the moment, the pattern you would see would be a classic pincer encirclement movement.

    Is Microsoft building a static Maginot-line defense by simply extending Windows into tablets? And is Apple attacking with mobile iPads in blitzkrieg fashion along an unexpected vector, namely the lower-price range? I'm no fan of the Wehrmacht, but they did know to beat the odds.

    • unhinged

      Assuming you are talking about purchase price, such a comparison would not deal with the overlap between the ultra-cheap PCs and the tablets on one hand and the laptops, high-end PCs and Macs on the other. Perhaps segmenting into sub-$500, sub-$1000 and super-$1000 would show the spread beter?

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  • Roman

    In the D8 video you linked to, Ray Ozzie stays quiet and looks uncomfortable in the beginning. Perhaps he was forming plans to step down. Listening to Ballmer for more than 5 minutes one gets tired of the man's stubbornness and refusal to re-consider his formerly successful (but now failing) strategy. No wonder calls for him to step down as CEO have increased as of late. But he won't. He won't disrupt himself, let alone Microsoft.

    • Info Dave

      I remember watching that last year. Ozzie was trying to present some forward thinking in terms of applications in the cloud. Ballmer made some particularly myopic remarks and Ray didn't dare correct him in public. My guess was Ray was thinking, "This guy doesn't have a clue. What am I going to do now?"

  • AlfieJr

    it's way too soon to talk about a PC "end game." that's years down the road.

    right now we are seeing the birth of an alternative "Post PC." but it is not clear at all how far it will expand. any unbounded extrapolation of growth rates is far too simplistic. that Post PC growth may very well flatten out quickly at some market saturation point. maybe 25% of the market, or 50%, or more. no one knows.

    and the other Post PC branch was not even mentioned – thin clients like Chrome OS. there will always be a need for some kind of desktop device, especially for enterprise. but they could be much simpler, cloud or LAN/WAN based. i think this will be the Post PC that finally does initiate the PC "end game."

    • asymco

      The end game begins when growth stops. Actually sooner, but that's when the pain begins and the incumbent wakes up and realizes there is a game.

  • Michael Anderson

    @Horace

    From eyeballing the graph, it looks like you're estimating Android tablet sales at 20-25% of iPad sales, or nearly 1 million/month. I suspect that's an overly generous estimate, but I realize it's impossible to come up with any hard numbers right now (and perhaps ever).

    If you include devices like the Nook in the Android numbers, then I could easily imagine over 1 million devices/month (though I don't think Nook and iPad are competing in the same market).

  • Kas

    So unlike everyone else, Microsoft are betting on a PC tablet rather than a Post PC tablet.
    The question is which will satisfy the needs of existing and potential market segments better; resulting in more profit, ROI and competitive advantage.

    I see two main segments – Consumers and Business.
    For PCs business was the huge segment. But for tablets, consumers will dwarf it.
    I think it's clear consumers will overwhelmingly choose Post PC Tablets, with the market share breakdown yet to be determined. Does MS believe this as well but ceded it to iOS and Android, or do they think they still have a shot?
    The big questions though are:
    What will Business go with?
    Will there be one dominant platform or several winners?
    Can the iPad be business friendly enough?
    Can a Windows Tablet leverage the Windows PC dominance?

  • http://twitter.com/davidchu @davidchu

    http://www.bgr.com/2011/07/13/rims-inside-story-a

    Interesting article on Mike Lazaridis from BGR.

  • unhinged

    Any data for ChromeOS?

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