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Opinion: Can Windows 8 Save the PC?

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 216 comments

This is the Microsoft I thought was locked up in history: The company sparked broad interest in the user model that will be introduced with Windows 8 and will largely rely on the new Metro GUI environment. Is it innovative enough to save the PC?

A few days ago, I wrote a column on the PC crash and several readers made criticizing comments for having called the latest 2011 shipment forecast a "crash." Crash, of course, always implies a sharp decline, while the PC market is still expected to grow, even if it is just by 3.8 percent (which most certainly will change within three months again). I still believe that "crash" is the correct way to describe the current dilemma PC makers are facing with virtually no growth left. Let's just say that the growth has crashed.

If you have read my previous column, you may remember that I argued against the notion that the economy and the iPad are responsible for the current problem. I would claim there is a lack of innovation that has become a homegrown problem over a time span of as much as two decades. For much too long, PC users have been served the basic bread-and-butter PC that is tough to get excited about and  tough to be proud of, at least if you are not willing to go to the length of obtaining an enthusiast box.

Windows 8 introduces a significant departure from the way we use a PC if we consider the Metro touch interface as the future, primary way to enter data into PCs, as Microsoft said. There is a noticeable excitement that has been sparked by Microsoft that has resulted in more than half a million Windows 8 Developer Preview downloads, according to Steve Ballmer. If you haven't tried the interface yourself and have a touchscreen PC available, I highly recommend installing the preview via a virtual environment, such as Oracle's VirtualBox, and running Windows 8 from there. It won't affect your PC and you can get rid of it easily again. If you are interested in PCs, this is a great opportunity to see how Windows will look a year from now.

Windows 8 and its strong focus on touch is a brave move that delivers a new platform opportunity for innovation in software and hardware. It will be critical for Microsoft to stimulate the current interest in the operating system to see whether we are heading into a "Post PC" or "PC Plus" era. Post PC would imply that the PC is dead and may just go away if even a progressive operating system such as Windows 8 can't help the good old PC anymore. However, the indication appears to be that Windows 8 would promote more than just one or two form factors than the traditional Windows desktop/notebook, extending the operating system to a variety of devices. These would include: tablets, ultrabooks, ARM devices, and traditional desktops and notebooks; all of which may go through several innovation stages as hardware vendors learn what form factors work for touch and which do not.

Microsoft is behaving about as aggressively as it can with the introduction of Windows 8. On the hardware side, Intel is also helping hardware vendors to come up with new ideas (well, as much as a Macbook Air copy can be called a new idea) for the ultrabook. If you have seen the first ultrabooks, including an Asus device that closely resembled the idea of the Macbook Air, there is a chance that you were slightly disappointed, in which case I would suggest waiting a few more months as Intel is encouraging vendors to experiment and make the notebook exciting again.

We should see a wave of innovative devices in 2012. In that view, I believe that Windows 8 absolutely can reignite PC sales and help the industry recover from the current minimal growth range. There is a certain symbiotic effect between hardware and software, as well as an overlap of complementary technologies, that combine to deliver a great foundation for much more passionate and useful personal computers. Heterogeneous processing cores, a new drop in power consumption, greater graphics capabilities, new screen technologies and a big shift in the way we interact with computers via touch is, at the very least, a reason to be hopeful that the PC industry is waking up and can innovate again.

However, this innovation will also blur the lines between devices that we consider PCs today, and those we do not. Smartphones, tablets, ultrabooks, notebooks and desktop systems are being combined into one personal computing ecosystem with their capabilities all very much in the range of what we consider to be a "personal computer". If Microsoft is finding a way to reimagine (the most favorite word these days at Microsoft) itself and construct such an ecosystem, it has every opportunity to give life to the PC 2.0. It will look different than the PC of the past 30 years, but will still be a PC. My personal opinion? The PC is not going to die anytime soon.

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Top Comments
  • 85 Hide
    alhanelem , September 18, 2011 9:40 AM
    save the pc from what exactly... its still the best technology available
  • 40 Hide
    amigafan , September 18, 2011 9:55 AM
    The question in the article is: Is it innovative enough to save the PC?
    The PC doesn't need any "innovations" of THAT kind otherwise it won't be a PC anymore but merely appliance for the casual consumers (who don't really need a PC, just give them the tablet for Facebook, multimedia and shopping online).

    PC itself needs to be continuously enhanced (more speed, less noise, less heat, and lower power consumption all at the same time, and of course it will always need a no-nonsense operating system without user "friendly" bloat which can't be disabled - imagine giant toolbars on the browsers are mandatory that would suck).

    Morphing the PC into a locked-down appliance is not equal to "saving" it. On the contrary, it's turning it into something that is not a PC anymore.

    You know "Post PC" or "PC Plus" era smells like stupidification and system access restriction. At least from the today's standpoint (I'm not saying this is definitely going to happen it just looks like it's heading that way).
  • 39 Hide
    cypeq , September 18, 2011 10:05 AM
    The PC doesn't need saving get that in your head Tom's.
    If you Tom's believe that PC is dead I wander why you keep making articles about PC hardware... according to your claim no one should be reading them.
Other Comments
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  • 28 Hide
    THEfog101 , September 18, 2011 9:30 AM
    If Microsoft continue to follow the trend of releasing something completely new (Windows Vista) and then fix it and release it again (Windows 7) it may not receive a very warm welcome. However that being said if they can pull of all the new features that they are planning for windows 8 and make it a smooth transition from those still clinging to XP for grim death then perhaps it may just be the thing that the PC industry has been needing for a while. Seems that innovation itself is a big problem mainly due to alot of users become complacent with what they have and that they do not relish the idea of something foreign and new despite the added benefits. This is always going to be a problem and manufacturers will simply have to figure out a way to minimize the system shock to new users.
  • 37 Hide
    Anonymous , September 18, 2011 9:37 AM
    Metro UI is probably great for tablets & co., but I somehow can't imagine it on my home PC. It is very inconvenient to use and allows only full-screen windows that can't be overlapped and placed freely where I want them to. In this respect it reminds me very much of Windows 1.0. If MS decides that it cannot be switched off by default in the final version (right now it luckily can be disabled through a registry entry or by renaming one file), I'm definitely skipping this version, no matter what anybody else thinks. :-)
  • 85 Hide
    alhanelem , September 18, 2011 9:40 AM
    save the pc from what exactly... its still the best technology available
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 18, 2011 9:52 AM
    It seems that they finally got it and were able to come up with the best technology without compromises. Look at the usability.
    I currently use my iPad for presentations at clients (and playing games :-) but can't leave the laptop behind because I will have to do real work at the client. Windows 8 will finally solve this issue.
  • 40 Hide
    amigafan , September 18, 2011 9:55 AM
    The question in the article is: Is it innovative enough to save the PC?
    The PC doesn't need any "innovations" of THAT kind otherwise it won't be a PC anymore but merely appliance for the casual consumers (who don't really need a PC, just give them the tablet for Facebook, multimedia and shopping online).

    PC itself needs to be continuously enhanced (more speed, less noise, less heat, and lower power consumption all at the same time, and of course it will always need a no-nonsense operating system without user "friendly" bloat which can't be disabled - imagine giant toolbars on the browsers are mandatory that would suck).

    Morphing the PC into a locked-down appliance is not equal to "saving" it. On the contrary, it's turning it into something that is not a PC anymore.

    You know "Post PC" or "PC Plus" era smells like stupidification and system access restriction. At least from the today's standpoint (I'm not saying this is definitely going to happen it just looks like it's heading that way).
  • 13 Hide
    Anonymous , September 18, 2011 9:57 AM
    Let's also not forget that the PC "crash" is going on against a market that never really got out of the '08 recession and may dip into one again. Less money, less security, means companies holding out on upgrading. I'm still not as sure about tablets (read iPads since other tablets aren't making an impression) being in the end more of a fad than a genuine market shift--once it reaches saturation the bottom may drop out on them. Windows 8 will need to have the Metro UI as something that can be turned off, hardly any desktop PC's use a touchscreen and from what I've seen of it the thing is useful only on tablet or phone. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! The entire PC market will otherwise sit out on Windows 8 rather than upgrade to it.
  • 30 Hide
    joshyboy82 , September 18, 2011 9:58 AM
    Wolfgang, how come I hear so many bad things about of your view on the Windows (dead) scene? We understand how you feel, with your dying and all, but we the users, feel that win7 is amazing and PC gaming is strong. When you add the Live component of Win8, PC will continue to be strong. Have you tried not being wrong in speculation. I'd love to watch you lose all of your money in Vegas 'cause you can't get it right.
  • 39 Hide
    cypeq , September 18, 2011 10:05 AM
    The PC doesn't need saving get that in your head Tom's.
    If you Tom's believe that PC is dead I wander why you keep making articles about PC hardware... according to your claim no one should be reading them.
  • 34 Hide
    mortsmi7 , September 18, 2011 10:05 AM
    I knew who wrote this article before I clicked on the link.
  • 19 Hide
    klavis , September 18, 2011 10:27 AM
    So an operating system, in which the requirements to run the system, are less than Windows seven will somehow spark the sales of PCs? Short answer, no. It will spark the sales of an OS perhaps. The continued growth of +10% in any market is just unrealistic, to say other wise is just a folly. A growth of +3% in a market is healthy and appropriate especially when it is saturated already. PCs aren't going any where, but as it is, there is no need to take a great leap in upgrading them. This OS won't change that.
  • 4 Hide
    cmartin011 , September 18, 2011 10:31 AM
    i am glad linux isn't head that way anytime soon :) 
  • 34 Hide
    amk-aka-Phantom , September 18, 2011 10:47 AM
    I knew it's Gruener once I saw the title. I don't know what the hell is wrong with him, but I'm sick of his brainwashing about how PC is gonna die, "can this save the PC?", "can that save the PC?"... It's just freakin' stupid.
  • 30 Hide
    rantoc , September 18, 2011 10:47 AM
    Can someone please sack this guy from toms hardware and get a real journalist or is the goal of Toms Hardware to be recognized as a harbor of slanderous journalists? Maby time to get one who knows his job and don't let fanboism cloud his judgment and not one who declared some kind of personal war against the most successful platform! PC Don't need rescue and is not dying.

    Sales are up and that even in a economic depression time and with a saturated market where companies dont invest as much.. Rescue LMAO!
  • 24 Hide
    Thunderfox , September 18, 2011 10:48 AM
    Most people see computers as utilitarian objects. The notion of being 'proud' of one is not something the average person thinks about much. They just want it to do what they need, and for most people it does, if they bought it in the last few years.

    The 'death' of the PC is market saturation. Everyone has one already, and most of them are still good enough.
  • 24 Hide
    kancaras , September 18, 2011 10:57 AM
    PCs arent going anywhere, their sales are down because you dont need faster computer novadays. tablet tauchscreens are for leisure, where u can relax and slowly navigate you device while holding it. but imagine if you get stationary with your tablet, sitting behind a table. its better controled with a mouse + keyboard, and its better to have larger screen. BOOM - its a pc. tablets will never kill pc, its like yoghurt killing milk, i know its tastier and some people hate milk, but thats just never going to happen. if holographic computers apear (imagine medalion on your neck) then oldschool interfaces could be forgoten, only then.
  • 6 Hide
    killerclick , September 18, 2011 11:09 AM
    Sooner or later there will be a fusion of PCs, tablets and smartphones into a single system that will take advantage of and adapt to whatever input devices and displays it has available. I'm pretty sure putting smartphone GUI on top of 20+ years of bloatware isn't going to cut it, though.
  • 26 Hide
    Anonymous , September 18, 2011 11:22 AM
    ThunderfoxMost people see computers as utilitarian objects. The notion of being 'proud' of one is not something the average person thinks about much. They just want it to do what they need, and for most people it does, if they bought it in the last few years.The 'death' of the PC is market saturation. Everyone has one already, and most of them are still good enough.


    Dammit Thunderfox, you NAILED IT!

    Most of my customers put the PC in the same category as White Goods, like a fridge or washing machine!. It fulls a role in the house, no more! If it still fills the role it was intended for, they see no need to upgrade, the same if their fridge still keeps the food cold and the washing machine still washes their clothes!

    The average 5 year old dual core PC can fulfill the basic needs of home users, online and offline, bit of e-mail, internet and shopping, with tons of facebook and the like!

    Its only the people who are interested in technology that want the newest OS!

    Windows 7 will be perfectly adept at keeping the XP crowd happy when support ends for them in three years or so!

    Windows 8 METRO UI for desktop will be an ultimate fail if it cannot be switched off! I do not see that much traction in the marketplace on tablets anyways. Just like PC Market, saturation will hit, from my experience with my customers, every one who will use a tablet already has an IPAD 1/2.

    The sad thing is once a user has an iPad, you try pry that away from them!

    Windows 8 has some amazing improvements, I believe in a traditional desktop form, it will be a winner, but trapped in METRO, it will TANK!

    As for the PC market dying HAHA! Yes the Box and Monitor format may be shrinking, but until we have mind and proper voice control, it is still the only way to get real work done and game like it was meant to be!

    I could not give a monkeys toss if it died anyways, I am sure us humans would learn to adapt and i will still find a way to profit out of it!

    Finally, WHY OH WHY would anyone want FINGERPRINTS all over their 24" monitor! I just do not get it!
  • 20 Hide
    rzgibbs , September 18, 2011 11:39 AM
    Quote:
    Finally, WHY OH WHY would anyone want FINGERPRINTS all over their 24" monitor! I just do not get it!


    I know! Who wants another surface to clean?
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