The desktop PC is not dead; it's in the midst of a five- to ten-year-long makeover.
So says Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie, who presented on February 26 to attendees of the Goldman Sachs Tech Investment Symposium.
(At an investor conference, attendees typically look for tips on what a company has in the pipeline for the next few weeks or months. So Mundie's talk, which focused on his mission of looking three to 20 years out, was rather atypical.)
Mundie told symposium attendees that he believes there is a gap between the laptop and the mobile phone that will be fulfilled by any number of application-specific devices, such as e-book readers and educational Tablet PCs.
But there's also a place in the future for desktop PCs, although they won't look anything like the desktop PCs of today, Mundie predicted.
This is where future iterations of Microsoft's Surface multi-touch technology will come into play, Mundie said. Microsoft isn't looking at multi-touch as a technology only for tabletops, PCs and cellphones. It expects Surface-like computing systems to find their ways into desks, kitchen counters, and walls, too, over the next five to ten years.
(If you've ever been to Microsoft's Home of the Future exhibit on the Redmond campus, you've seen some of these form factors in mock-up form.)
Mundie said that Microsoft already knows how to make the Surface cheaper. (The first Surface devices, tabletops aimed at the hospitality and retail industries, cost tens of thousands of dollars per unit.) It was unclear from Mundie's remarks whether Windows will be what powers the future Surface devices; Surface 1.0 units are Windows-Vista-based.
"Our view is all surfaces will be Surfaces," Mundie said on Tuesday, during his 45-minute Goldman Sachs presentation.
Mundie joked that Microsoft's "anytime, anywhere and on any device" mission statement needed to be expanded to include "on anything."