The Shift

You know how you have a conversation that  stays with reverberates with you it makes you write?


(Well write until the moment leaves and then you go to sleep, wake up, go back and find the moment has past but you still want to post? No? Must be me then.)

So I was having this conversation on computer hardware and it of course it goes into comparing Macs to PCs and of course you have to give the iDevil its due and lament PC offerings. None of this is new. But the conversation followed a week in which Microsoft was rumored to be showing off new Surface hardware (last week they bought Nokia’s hardware division), and Intel pushed a new initiative to get their chips in Chromebooks (with Google’s permission of course).


As much as technology fans and analyst talk about software or services hardware is just as important. I mean without that shiny device in your hand or the one I’m typing on we wouldn’t be able to use all this software. And yet hardware is often overlooked except during review time.

Now most of this is more applicable to PC side of the fence, Macs have the benefit of being the equivalent of Nike Air Jordan’s. There is no Mac clone market (clone is the old school term for computers running the same OS).  Apple invested a lot of time, effort, and money in turning the Mac along with its mobile devices into devices people invest more than their time into.


This is the opposite of the PC and mobile market; the one in which Windows and Android live.


There has always been a clear benefit to having multiple hardware makers running one OS. It lowered prices. It produced a variety of devices. And it makes platforms appealing to developers. However the downside to this is it creates a race to the bottom. It also has the bad effect of needing to sell in high volumes (This is always good until the well goes dry).

Now when I first started looking at technology, I looked at the PC market and thought what was ultimately good for PC vendors would be to diversify their offerings. That was around 2008 or 2009, flash forward and almost all the vendors have added new operating systems. Primarily this has meant one or both of Google’s systems, Android and Chrome OS. Now over the years PC makers have tried various systems including various Linux distros, but only now have they seen uptick.


However outside of Lenovo, adding Chrome and Android has done little to stem the decline of the PC market.


(Here is the place where I go into the long history of the PC markets rise and slow fall but that’s too long. So the TLSV is most people treat a PC like a car so like a car people keep a PC for a long time.)


So what about Windows? It still on the majority of PCs but its breathing room has somewhat evaporated. First by the iPad and early tablet rush. Now by cost undercutting Chromebook on the low end and a Mac lineup that has moved slowly down to the low high end (You can now buy a MacBook Air for around $750-900). Microsoft’s recent moves into hardware with the Surface and Windows 8 have been said to have both caused the PC slowdown and pushed their partners into the arms of Google.

The truth maybe it was a mix of a lot of things, but the present will see more shifts before this is over.

From the perspective of hardware makers the OS has been somewhat inconsequential to the process. You can see an example of this with Chromebooks; they are being positioned to replace the budget netbooks the PC market pushed for years.


Cheap devices move numbers but they sometimes erode the market as they bring in the numbers (this is place where the price of the thing times the branding equals how its viewed by the public). All of this makes it seem like the PC market is no longer a monolithic thing but a series of smaller ones. There is the “Classic” PC market; the one that has Windows on the box. There is the weird “Android” market; where PC makers try to stuff Android into as many device categories as they can conceive. Last is Android’s twin, Chrome, which is finally the desktop Linux people (who don’t identify as Linux fans) were waiting for.

This new market will bring changes. On one level I see PC makers “swapping out” Windows for a mix of Android/Chrome for consumer devices. Some may even push Valve’s SteamOS as something aimed at PC gamers. All of this will force changes to Microsoft and the various Linux distros. Outside of Canonical, very few distros have pushed toward mobile which is the next big push for the OEMs.


As for Microsoft that is the subject of the next post.




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