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Sunday
Jul282013

Time for a Plan B at Intel?

It is time for Intel to begin placing bigger bets on Windows alternatives.

Let me assure you that I’m not schizophrenic, although I do understand why you might be wondering about that right now. Yes, I do remember the advice I gave to Intel CEO Brian Krzanich in my last column, Don’t Give Up on the PC. And now I’m suggesting he invest more heavily in Windows competitors. I know it sounds contradictory. But it’s not.

As Intel’s new top executive continues to evaluate the company’s strategic priorities, he’d be foolhardy not to give Windows every shot at success. The company’s PC Client Group, or PCG, generates far more sales and profit than any other business unit – and the lion’s share of those spoils comes from Intel chips inside Windows machines. Hence the don’t-give-up message.

The flipside is that, on an annual basis, PCG’s revenue and operating income have been declining every quarter since Microsoft released Windows 8 to manufacturing. Coincidence? Unless you’re the kind of person who needs those pre-flight seat-belt fastening instructions, you don’t need me to answer that.

OK, so don’t put all your eggs in the Windows basket. Check. Now for the tough part: where to incubate the rest of those eggs?

Read the entire column HERE.

Tuesday
Jul232013

Don't Give Up On The PC Just Yet

 

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich kicked off the first tech earnings call of the quarter by emphasizing that he’s putting a “much, much stronger effort on Atom,” the family of processors designed to power smartphones and tablets.

That’s a sensible direction to take things, in light of the PC market’s malaise. But how to re-distribute priorities? We don’t really have a basis for an answer yet because we haven’t yet gotten to see how compelling the PC can be amidst the tablet invasion because the ecosystem has yet to put its best foot forward.

To be sure, today’s PCs are far better than the state of the art three years ago, when Apple launched the original iPad. Due in large part to Intel’s Ultrabook initiative, today’s systems are far more responsive. They’re also far more attractive. And they last far longer on a charge. These are all things that make today’s PCs far more attractive than circa 2010 models.

Compelling as they are, though, these new PCs are still hobbling up to the starting gate  - just as they did last season. I’ve covered the Windows handicap in previous columns, so I won’t re-launch that rant (even though I REALLY WANT TO). If I were Krzanich, I’d tackle a few more industry-wide shortcomings as quickly as possible. Because until they’re resolved, we really won’t have any indication of how the PC will fare in the tablet era – which means Krzanich can’t know how much investment the traditional PC market deserves going forward.

Here’s what I’d tackle first:

 

Wednesday
Jun262013

Microsoft: Yes, We Know Win8's Difficult!

On the tables inside the press room at the Microsoft Build Conference -- a room full of computer-savvy tech press and industry analysts -- lay printed instructions for how to complete a Wi-Fi connection in Windows 8.

Just Windows 8.

"Enter Desktop Mode by pressing (Windows Key) + D," the 8.5 x 11 Wi-Fi lesson began. In contrast, the clerk at my hotel handed me -- and anyone else with a reservation -- a fortune cookie-sized slip of paper that provided nothing more than a SSID and network security key.

The photocopied tutorial serves as a comical exclamation point to what CEO Steve Ballmer tried to drive home during his opening keynote address: that Microsoft gets it. And it's trying to do something about it.

Read the entire column HERE.


Monday
Jun032013

Haswell's Here: Time to Go Shopping

Since Computex in early June, PC makers have been rolling out  the next generation of ultrabook PCs. These systems are more than just another turn of the screw. They are game-changers with the potential to disrupt the way we interact with our personal electronics.

I've written plenty about how Microsoft's missteps with Windows 8 have hampered OEMs' ability to sell new PCs for the past year. And about how the timing of the Windows 8.1 release is going to clip the sales potential of this new crop of systems. That's all still true. The PC OEMs are facing yet another daunting selling season.

Let's be clear, though: the challenging market climate in no way undermines what this new spate of ultrabooks brings to the table. They sport a host of improvements over the last wave of ultrabooks, impressive as they were from a pure hardware perspective. Instant on, for example, is now becoming a reality. As well, the fourth-generation Intel Core processors inside afford OEMs the opportunity to build sleek, sexy systems that boast up to twice the battery life of last year's models -- without sacrificing performance. If you are in the market for a new laptop, it means you should be able to find an ultrabook that lasts all day on a single charge.

Read the entire column HERE.

Thursday
May232013

Poor Timing Will Handcuff Windows 8.1

It is going to be very difficult for Microsoft to succeed with Windows 8.1, and that has little to do with whether the official build will include a Start button or boot-to-desktop option. Rather, it's because Microsoft picked a terrible time to release the upcoming follow-on to Windows 8.

When it comes to weaving the saga of Windows 8.1, the media has pretty well vetted three of the Five W's. Most of the analysis goes like this: Microsoft (Who) must improve on Windows 8 by doing X (What) to bring more computer users into the Modern UI era (Why). The other two W's, though, have been largely ignored. One of them, Where, isn't really relevant to the story. But it's curious that the question of When has barely been touched, because it's tremendously important to the prospects for Windows 8.1 success.

Microsoft hasn't come out and said when Windows 8.1, code-named Windows Blue, will be commercially available, although Digitimes is reporting that the official release will come in late October. Judging from the state of development activity, the timing sounds about right. This much is certain: Windows 8.1 will not be available in the next six weeks, as it needs to be to make it into the first batch of next-generation PCs.

Those cool new systems are being released in June and early July for a reason: to intercept the critical back-to-school selling season. An October launch for Windows 8.1 means that back-to-school PCs will be saddled with a lame-duck version of Windows. (I've written before about how important it is for the PC OEMs to update in lockstep their entire product: hardware, OS, and aesthetics.) That means we'll see fewer PC sales than we would if PC makers were able to pair their latest hardware with the latest operating system.

Targeting the holiday season with a new version of Windows used to make perfect sense because retail copies sell better, and there was little to lose by shortchanging back-to-school systems. Not so anymore. Times have changed.

Read the entire column HERE.