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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.

Thursday
May092013

Can Blue Stop PC Users From Seeing Red?

After more than a month of silently watching the blogosphere dissect early builds of Window Blue that were leaked on the internet, Microsoft this week has confirmed that Blue, the code name for Microsoft's follow-on to Windows 8, does in fact exist.

As of yet, Microsoft hasn't acknowledged any of the details that bloggers have uncovered. Representatives say only that Windows Blue is a response to what  their customers have had to say about Windows 8. Hopefully, they have been listening, because an awful lot is riding on Windows Blue.

With all the hype and glitz surrounding smartphones and tablets, it's easy to lose sight of how critical a role the PC still plays in many of our lives. No, it's not the same role it played last year, or the year before. But for many of us -- certainly for most of us in IT -- a Windows PC is still a go-to device in our quiver of electronics tools. And because of the pace of change in the enterprise segment, Windows is guaranteed to play a central role for several more years at least.

In that sense, Microsoft isn't just gambling its own fortunes. It's messing with how many of us get things done every day.

That's why the anger over Windows 8 has been so palpable, and why fixing it has become so important. Forcing us to take longer, more circuitous routes to what we do every day feels like starting breakfast one morning only to find that your roommate has rearranged the kitchen. The more you reach for a fork in what's become the towel drawer, the angrier you get.

Can Windows Blue really stop PC users from seeing red? Read the entire column HERE.