In Nature, we believe that diversity of living things allows the survival of the fittest to gradually change the ecosystem as conditions change. This is happening in information technology. Moore’s Law and corollaries which describe the production of every more powerful, compact and inexpensive devices in display, computation, storage, memory and networking are relentlessly allowing smaller and cheaper computers to do amazing things for people. There is no longer
- a need to have a large heavy expensive box nearby for computation,
- a need for cabling to tie computing devices to the network,
- a need to have any single stack of software to do everything, and
- a need to use a particular kind of processor in IT.
In the beginning, Intel was first to market with suitable microprocessors and made a sweet deal with IBM to ride the personal computer train to monopoly. In the beginning, M$ was first to make a similar sweet deal for DOS, a crude OS, for IBM’s personal computers. In the beginning, mobility was out of the question. We needed large heavy boxes and cables to replace the mini-computer and eventually, the mainframe, for almost all computation. Now, processors smaller than a coin do just about everything we needed from the bigger boxes except memory and storage. Those too have been miniaturized by the same processes that drove microprocessors.
The Wintel monopoly kept the lid on change for decades as the money rolled in and “partners” were signed up to the organization. In the last couple of years and for the foreseeable future the power of microprocessors not developed by Intel and running software not developed by M$ have been outflanking Wintel on smart phones, tablets and other intelligent devices not seen primarily as personal computers. However, these small cheap computers have evolved and acquired most of the desirable features of personal computers. For about what we used to pay for a heavy box strung with cables, we now have devices that are small, cool, quiet, free of cables but still able to connect by cable or wirelessly to networks and peripherals. The small microprocessors from ARM designs still don’t have the power of the current Intel parts but they have enough power for what people do and they cost less and use less energy. They can run all day on a small battery.
We can describe the new ecosystem of personal computers with numbers. The Intel-like PCs shipped about 350 million units in the last year. The small cheap computers running ARM shipped more. According to Canalys1,2, in Q2 2011, these numbers follow:
|PC format||Units shipped (million)||Share (%)|
|Android/Linux on ARM||55.84||27.2|
- Wintel share of global PC industry falls to under 82%
- Android takes almost 50% share of worldwide smart phone market
- 82% of desktops, notebooks and netbooks
- 50% of smartphones and 20% of tablets
- desktops+notebooks+netbooks+tablets+smart phones
Canalys considers desktops, notebooks, netbooks and tablets as PCs. I take it a step further and declare smart phones are PCs, too. I have touched one, briefly, before my wife took control…, and it does all the things I need a PC to do.
So, I declare M$’s monopoly over. In 2011, it had its last gasp. It quit growing on x86 and is going nowhere on ARM or smart phones.
UPDATE SJVN has an article out with a similar theme.
“In the long run, the question isnâ€™t going to be â€œWhich desktop operating system is going to be the winner?â€ No, itâ€™s going to be, â€œWhich mobile operating system will be the winner.â€”
I don’t quite agree with that. I see a very diverse ecosystem in the future with many systems working together. There will be a need for “desktop” systems for a long while:
- huge screens just are not mobile…
- there are heavy tasks that just work better with storage and computing power close together…
- thin clients can work with large displays and still be cool, quiet and unobtrusive…
- desktop systems and notebooks can shrink quite a bit if we get rid of huge hard drives, power supplies, and CD drives. I expect a lot of the mobile tech will invade the desktop/notebook space…