Salvation not found Here: Windows 8 and the PC market

Today Bloomberg published a story on Acer and it’s President Jim Wong in which he talked about Windows 8, the PC market, and Chromebooks. In the article Wong talked about how Windows 8 hasn’t been the success Acer hoped it would be (Acer had a poor showing in its earnings) and that the only growth the hardware maker has seen has been in netbooks running Google’s Chrome OS aka Chromebooks. The article went live just as news that HP is/maybe planning a Chromebook of their own and Lenovo will be releasing a Chromebook under its ThinkPad line aimed at education and business.

It seems as if the browser as Operating System dream of Mountain View is finally coming true as PC makers waiver with Windows 8. At least that was what the Verge has insinuated.

In light of Microsoft moving into hardware with the Surface line, it seems that OEMs are making public moves to other platforms on which to make devices. Actually the news around the Personal Computing industry seems to revolve around how Windows 8 hasn’t been the savior the PC market has been waiting for and that the fact that people haven’t lined up in droves proves Redmond’s newest OS is Vista revisited.

The fact that OEMs are choosing to push Chrome will likely be read as hardware makers thumbing their collective noses at Microsoft. Plus it allows people to make statements with the words “Microsoft” tax in them. I’m not going to go too deep into Chromebooks, I may do that another time; but I do want to talk about Windows 8 and what it means and doesn’t mean for the PC market right now.

So let me start by writing something provocative; Windows 8 is not the savior of the PC market and it was never meant to be.

Looking at the sudden, gushing praise Acer and others are heaping on Chromebooks and the rebukes that pour in about Windows 8 (especially on desktops) you would think that Microsoft had finally gone mad. You could also assume that the PC market is this dynamic, constantly growing space. The reality is that the PC market at this time isn’t a growth market and that if you look at Chromebooks, especially with recent UI changes, it becomes clear that what PC makers want is to work within the comfortable confines of the desktop paradigm.

At least that is my reading of the situation. From reading what developers, power users, traditional Windows enthusiasts, and the like the biggest issue people have is that Windows 8 was not built to be a Windows 7.5. It’s aim was not to be the next desktop OS; instead what we have is a hybrid OS that is addressing new devices and new usage scenarios. This means tablet PCs of all varieties, multiple inputs, and modular uses of computing.

Windows 8 was never about restarting the PC business, at least not the one that has existed for the last three decades. That PC market is slowly becoming a niche market; the days in which people bought powerful desktops/desktop replacements has been on the wane for awhile. The old PC market is slowing down because PCs as devices don’t have high turnovers. People tend to keep computers well after time they need replacing. The other reason, which I’ve seen first hand, is the fact that tablets are replacing the growth market the PC market has had in laptops.

If you had spent any time near an electronic store over the Holiday period you would understand the shift. I’m not saying people weren’t buying laptops (they were), but they come looking for tablets. And while many a computer user and power user will ask what use do people have with a tablet; plenty of people are looking to find a place in their lives for one. I’ve heard more than one person say that wanted a tablet with no discernable need at all.

The problem with Windows 8 for OEMs as I see it is that for the first month they tried to treat it like Windows 7; a non-touch, desktop OS. Even now most of the machines running Windows 8 are non-touch laptops/desktops. If OEMs thought that something like Windows 8 would resuscitate a market already in a coma then they need to stop smoking whatever they are smoking.

Acer should especially put the pipe down. It seems that Acer has been on a “bash Windows” crusade ever sense Microsoft released the Surface. First it began with Wong and his deputies just talking about the Surface now its about the OS. And while many will eat it up and some will say Amen and put on their robes all will miss the reason for Windows 8.

Now I am not saying Windows 8 is perfect but what I do know is that it is about the future and its about the tablet market. This is why I’ve been flustered with the statements by Wang and others; especially OEMs who are not putting products on show floors. I would agree with Wang’s statements if not for the fact that Acer’s three major Windows 8 devices are not in stores. Yes you can buy them online but having them in a place where people can get hands on with them is important. It is only now that we see the devices promised to be available at launch; the tablet PC hybrids and pure tablets.

The simple fact is Windows 8 is about the return of the Tablet PC and not about the traditional model of computing; so kiss that Start Orb goodbye.

  1. Very good analysis.

    Tracks somewhat with what my own thoughts, for which I hope to post sometime this week.

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