The desktop PC: Can Microsoft revive it?

Global sales of PCs are in decline. Microsoft hopes a version that's part tablet, part desktop can take advantage of a shift toward mobile devices.

Lucas Jackson/Reuters
Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group, speaks at a Microsoft event in New York City, Wednesday.

Microsoft is expected to introduce its attempt at reimagining the desktop computer on Wednesday, when it unveils its new Surface all-in-one PC at an event in New York.

The tech behemoth’s new product, which will complement the lines of tablets and laptops released under its Surface brand, could feature a new 3D paint app, a stylus, and a hinged display that allows the monitor to become a touch screen by laying it flat on a desk, wrote the Verge this week. If successful, the design could steer PC manufacturers in a new direction.

The move comes as PC sales continue their downward slide, supplanted by the Internet of Things – new, internet-compatible, sometimes interconnected devices. This month, technology research firm Gartner reported that worldwide shipments had declined 5.7 percent in the third quarter of this year, the eighth consecutive quarter of decline.

The trend is not a new one, as Wired wrote in 2015:

“[W]hatever the specifics of any given quarter, the trend line is still clear: it’s going down. Which points to the same consistent truth: mobile devices have become the dominant computing platform." 

Mikako Kitagawa, a principal analyst at Gartner, cited longer lifetimes for existing PCs and weak consumer demand in emerging markets.

“The PC is not a high priority device for the majority of consumers,” he said then, “so they do not feel the need to upgrade their PCs as often as they used to. Some may never decide to upgrade to a PC again.”

"In emerging markets, PC penetration is low, but consumers are not keen to own PCs. Consumers in emerging markets primarily use smartphones or phablets for their computing needs, and they don't find the need to use a PC as much as consumers in mature markets,” he added.

Some companies that have long depended on PCs – like Intel, which supplies the microprocessors that power them – are starting to shift their production in other directions, as The Christian Science Monitor’s Jeff Ward-Bailey reported in January:

During the CES 2016 technology show earlier this month, Intel showed off chips that can power smart skateboards, drones, and even clothes, including a dress that changed shape in response to the wearer’s body temperature.

“We think this an emerging sector that can sells hundreds of millions of these devices – the pieces of silicon,” Intel chief executive officer Brian Krzanich told USA Today’s Elizabeth Weise. "If every kid under the age of 30 … wants that information, over time that’s a lot of devices when you look across the world.”

Microsoft’s Wednesday presentation may also offer details on two software updates to Windows 10, including changes that could allow users to control and customize gestures on a trackpad.

The company’s Surface tablets took a hit to their image this week when the head coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, went on a several-minute rant about the inefficiency of the Surface Pro, which Microsoft pays the NFL $400 million to use. He’s one of several NFL players and coaches filmed doing damage to the devices, according to the Guardian.

“I’m going to stick with pictures as several of our other coaches do as well because there just isn’t enough consistency in the performance of the tablets, so I just can’t take it anymore,” he said.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to The desktop PC: Can Microsoft revive it?
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Technology/2016/1026/The-desktop-PC-Can-Microsoft-revive-it
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe