Tony Bradley over at Forbes has a new article out, “Intel Haswell Chips And Windows 8.1 Could Revive Waning PC Market.” I think he’s got it all wrong, but let’s back up a bit. If you’re not familiar, Haswell is Intel’s code name for their new line of processors. Intel designed the Haswell architecture to be more power efficient, which is great, but it’s only marginally more powerful than the previous line. They needed to do this to compete in the mobile market. Most of the mobile devices out in the wild right now don’t have Intel inside, they use a processor called ARM. This is great news for laptop and tablet makers including Microsoft. They introduced their own line of tablet/PC last year called Surface RT and Surface Pro. Sales of the Surface RT tanked. The RT tablet was based on an ARM chip and so it didn’t run regular PC programs. I predict that the Surface RT will quietly go away and Microsoft will pretend like it never happened. The Surface Pro on the other hand has done better in the market; better, but not great. It can run regular PC programs but it has sluggish graphics performance and terrible battery life. The new Haswell chips will make the Surface Pro more attractive and if Microsoft offers up improvements in Windows 8.1, they may sell better.
But the truth for Microsoft is that Windows 8 is not well loved. Microsoft is well entrenched in the enterprise market, but I don’t think they can really compete in the tablet market. People love their iPads and Android tablets (many irrationally so); they merely tolerate Windows. Has anyone ever camped out overnight for a Microsoft product? I think the surface Pro will do fine with business people who want/need to use Microsoft Office. Everyone else has already moved on. Microsoft made their fortune by being the 800 pound gorilla of business, not by being cool and alternative like Apple. I just don’t see Microsoft ever capturing hearts and minds.
Mobile devices like tablets and phones will continue to increase in popularity while laptops and PCs will stagnate or continue to decline. The PC market is fairly well saturated. Most people have a computer that does what they need it to do. I don’t think anything Microsoft does will change that. The market is evolving. Apple, Microsoft and Intel will do just fine for a while. Intel has the resources to continue to be the world’s number one chip manufacturer, of that I have no doubt. As for Microsoft and Apple, I believe Google will eventually crush them both; but that’s a story for another day. Stay tuned.