After a barrage of negative press due to weak PC sales, and Intel's latest flat quarterly figures, the PC landscape is looking pretty barren. Both parts of the Wintel alliance are making their own moves to try and improve the situation.
Making Windows 8 More Like Windows Of Old
Windows 8 launched in a flurry of Metro-fied advertising that rampages on today, but the unfortunate truth is that many users still flip straight to the desktop where they suffer from an inferior customer experience. Cramming the desktop with shortcuts, or using Windows Key+R to launch programs is no substitute for the absent Start Menu.
So, it seems no surprise that Windows 8.1 (code-named Blue) is now predicted to come with a restored Start button, and also allows users to boot directly to the desktop. Metro will still be there for those who use Windows Phones (like the upcoming Nokia Lumia 928) and tablet devices, but for the desktop-bound majority, normal service seems likely to be restored.
That ".1" update is usually the trigger for enterprises to start updating their systems, and you can't see any business doing so unless these features aren't added. With Windows XP having less than a year until it reaches end-of-life, those who have been hanging on, will be looking for an upgrade soon.
Flexing Their Hardware Muscles
With Intel producing a flat revenue quarter and a 25% drop in profits due to weak PC processor sales, the company is also pushing the hardware side of the equation. CEO Paul Otellini predicted during his company's earnings call that Windows 8 tablets will be shipping for around $200, with PC prices not far behind.
These systems will be based on Intel's upcoming Bay Trail chips, redesigned Atom processors that have nowhere to go since the bottom is falling out of the netbook market. With Microsoft having recently hinted at 7" tablets, a full-on assault on the touchscreen market could see Windows RT and Windows 8 gaining traction and interest which Surface and other devices have failed to generate.
However, these devices will be very late to the market, possibly shipping in time for the holiday season. With tablet sales currently dominated by iPads, Google's Nexus, Amazon Kindle Fire HDs and a raft of cheap Android devices. How many existing PC users will be keen to switch for an all-Windows family?
Fortunately, both Microsoft and Intel have the dependent enterprise market to fall back on while it waits for consumer interest to rise, but just how long will it be before the PC becomes less than essential even in offices and other workplaces? Just one example, my area garage has thrown out their old PCs for a shiny bunch of iPads (in armor cases), who else will be following soon?