Connecting the death of the legacy PC with the death of Windows, Matt Baxter-Reynolds wrote, “The issue for Microsoft is whether the PC can be disconnected from the idea of Windows, and by extension whether the death of one leads to the death of the other.”
see Did we all just witness Windows start to die?.
Of course the answer to his question is “Yes, we are witnessing the death of Windows.”. It’s obvious. In the life of Windows M$ did
- tell OEMs what they had to do if they wanted to sell personal computers,
- drive competitors from the market not by producing a better product but by inducing OEMs and retailers to shun competitors,
- ship hugely buggy products simply because people needed PCs and the only PCs they could find had Windows on them, and
- maintain high prices for a licence for an OS despite $0 alternatives being available to computer-geeks.
That didn’t end just in the last year. It has taken several years to eliminate M$’s tentacles. Around 2007 ASUS felt comfortable enough to dip its toe in the pool by shipping eeePC with GNU/Linux. Dell did too. Today most OEMs of legacy PCs will ship GNU/Linux. Totally new-to-the-market OEMs are shipping Android/Linux on small cheap personal computers like smartphones and tablets. M$ is in control of nothing in the market these days. They are having to compete on residual lock-in with business, and habits with consumers and retailers. They cannot compete at all on price/performance.
Obviously, M$ does not need to charge itself a price for its own OS and it could not compete on price/performance with RT… It had to drop prices and write off $900million of unsold inventory. It remains to be seen whether they will have to completely write off their RT inventory if they can’t sell any of it. Who is going to rush out to buy a product that doesn’t sell? Not retailers. Not consumers. Not businesses.
That leaves price as M$’s only lever from now on. To compete on price, M$ has to take a severe cut in OEM-revenue. No doubt these drops in share of PCs sold will hit their bottom line for client division but, eventually, all those other products that sell because of the large installed base of PCs will also drop off as the installed base shrinks. The longer some hang onto XP, the longer they will have to find an alternative to Windows. That’s deadly to a monopolist like M$.
The one bright light for M$ is that Intel can now make an x86 CPU that uses very little power and can work in mobile devices. That’s only a partial cure. M$ cannot erase the memories of the billion or so humans who have now used a non-M$ OS and know it. The good old days of monopoly when everyone’s first experience with a personal computer was M$’s software are gone. Windows is dying. At this rate, Windows will be a stagnant back-water waiting to rot in a year or two. I haven’t bought a PC with M$’s software on it for my personal use in more than a decade. These days I am being joined by 70 million humans every year who are not going to have Windows as their first OS and hundreds of millions who are choosing to stop.
This did not come out the way I expected years ago. I thought GNU/Linux would be the Windows-killer but it seems to be Android/Linux that will do the job. Still, there will continue to be roles for legacy PCs and GNU/Linux will thrive there, scrubbing out Windows from the last crevices of M$’s cave.