Asus' Computex lineup highlights post PC era conundrum

Asus' Computex lineup highlights post PC era conundrum

Summary: Asus is playing a Windows 8.1 high margin game with an Android commodity device strategy for volume on the other side. If Microsoft can't kick-start PC growth, Asus has a strategy that won't deliver decent profits.


Asus' barrage of products from Computex 2013 is notable. An ultrabook, the Zenbook Infinity, is covered with Gorilla Glass and features the latest Intel processors.

To round out its lineup, Asus included Android tablets, the Memo Pad HD7, FonePad Note and Transformer Pad Infinity. There's also a device that can run both Windows 8.1 and Android. These tablets will push the commodity computing equation even more since the HD7 will run you $129.

If you zoom out on Asus' product line you see the conundrum for PC makers of all stripes. Clearly, the Asus Zenbook Infinity, a potential PC market savior due in the third quarter, will be a front-runner for Windows 8.1, which aims to correct for a mixed Windows 8 launch. In fact, the Zenbook Infinity may have been the hardware that should have been available with the Windows 8 launch last year.

The Zenbook Infinity is sleek, but it's unclear whether it can juice the PC market. A lot will depend on the undisclosed price.


The catch here is that PC sales are dismal. PCs are struggling against tablets and more mobile hardware. Keep in mind that there's only so much wallet share available for computing. The choice for many people is between a tablet and a laptop. Apple is seeing Mac cannibalization, but at least most of it is going to the iPad. PC makers aren't so lucky.

Related: Intel bets on better battery life as the killer next-gen Core feature | Computex, Windows 8.1, Intel's Haswell: The next PC Hail Mary | Acer announces $379 8-inch Iconia W3 Windows 8 tablet | Computex 2013: ARM announces mid-range A12, 'sets record straight' on Intel's Silvermont

And that reality highlights the Asus big hedge strategy. Note the tablets are Android-powered. Asus is playing a Windows 8.1 high margin game with an Android commodity device strategy on the other side for volume. Should the PC market not recover, Asus has a strategy that won't deliver decent profits.

Asus isn't alone. HP has a similar model. HP will be all about the Windows 8.1 PCs, but it also is hitting the low end of the market with Android tablets. Most PC makers, excluding Dell, are pursuing this Windows 8.1-Android approach.

But the ugly truth is that PC makers are still tethered to Windows 8.1 and Microsoft's ability to grow the market with Intel's latest hardware. If Windows 8.1 doesn't deliver, PC makers are going to be scrapping for the profit morsels left over from a too-crowded Android ecosystem.

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Processors, Tablets

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  • Android devices aren't replacing PCs.

    Most people who own tablets also own a fully functional PC.

    In most cases, the tablet will act as an compliment, not a replacement device.

    When their PC dies, they're not going to switch it out with another tablet, but rather, another PC.
    • Fine, but .....

      since they are using their PCs a lot less, they keep the HW a lot longer. There is little need to upgrade the PC, hence sales are tanking. There is a fair chance that when they finally do upgrade, they will buy an Android based notebook or desktop including LibreOffice, or they will buy a Chrome device. By then, Android/Chrome will feel so familiar and comfortable, even on a "PC", just like Windows does now.

      And that old PC running Windows? Yes, they may STILL keep it, but it will slowly "die" as far as usefulness goes, and Windows PC sales will continue to drop.

      This is what gives Ballmer nightmares.
      • And perhaps I should add that ...

        many consumers upgrade their PCs, not because they need a new and better PC, but because the old one is so slow, full of dust and crapware/adware/spyware that it requires a complete reinstall and internal cleaning. Making it work like new again will cost the better part of the price of a new PC, so they would buy a new one instead.

        Trust me, I have seen my share of those neglected and then abandoned PCs. Now, that old' slow and dusty PC is good enough, because it is rarely being used.

        Not a pretty picture for the traditional PC sector.
        • PCs

          DT Long, if somebody says "trust me" I run a mile! :-)

          BTW, PCs have a lot of life left. I am unable to see business switching to other systems in the near future, nor move into the cloud wholesale. LibreOffice is no replacement for MS Office...
        • Um

          You can clean the dust from inside your computer yourself. Ive just done mine; or rather my husband did. But he does have a compressor. Maybe that makes the difference. As for the rest (a complete reinstall of all the software) that just takes time. You shouldn't have to spend money to get it done.
          Laraine Anne Barker
          • Just time?

            If it's my own PC, I might find something to do around the PC while it's reinstalling Windows, etc.
            If I owned a business, paying an employee or three to babysit dozens or hundreds of PCs while Windows reinstalls, then customizing them for for my business use... Now we're talking hundreds of hours' wages & benefits, while other routine IT calls get postponed, and "just time" starts looking expensive.
      • You mean almost NO chance

        People like to still be able to use the software they already own. Only in your fantasies do they replace their current machines with machines that cannot do this.
        • Delusions and denials

          It is already happening, whether you like it or not. Besides, SW you "already own" needs to be upgraded occasionally and that costs money.

          Most consumers' SW needs are simple and can be met with free (installed or cloud) versions. LibreOffice for Android will bust the gates WIDE open. Google's offerings on Chrome are also an alternative for many.

          You ain't seen nothing yet.
          • Libre Office is as effective as Open Office

            i.e. it ain't gonna get much market share. I have been hearing for more than a decade how Open Office, which is the prior version of Libre Office, is gonna replace MS Office. It hasn't, probably has no more market share now than 10 years ago. Google programs are good enough for almost anything a consumer needs (not a big business). I use google stuff a lot, but as an old relic, I still use WordPerfect Office X6 because I love reveal codes and its ability with legal documents. I will use WP until some other program starts using reveal codes as there is nothing anywhere near as good at editing documents and understanding why a document doesn't look like you want it to.
            Old fart.
          • Android to replace Windows.... maybe not

            I have used Android for some time now in many different versions and its just not robust enough to take up the Slack needed to cross over into the Operating System arena, and chrome is very limited in its capabilities.
            If I were tossing in a coin of the future of OS’s, I would bet upon either Ubuntu or Mint as a viable replacement for Windows. Both are full bore operating systems based upon some very robust technology, they just need marketing polish and a business plan in order to be supplied worldwide. Linux has volumes of testing and its used back office as a server product by many companies and education systems. Up until a few years ago, Linux did not have a stable GUI, now it does. I use it daily and would not consider moving back to Windows.
        • In the non-enterprise context, this matters much less than you may admit

          Humble opinion - if you talk to non-technical home users, they just aren't using that much software, beyond their browser. When they do, it's mostly an app on a mobile device. That's a firm impression I have from numerous discussions and encounters - but I would love to see an objective, rigorous study of the usage patterns.
      • What have you been smoking?

        Android on laptop and desktop computers? Not in this lifetime. Microsoft is trying to bridge the gap between tablets and PCs with Windows RT, with limited success, by bolting a gesture driven interface onto a keyboard centric OS. All they've managed to achieve so far is confusion. The notion that Android, an operating system that was born on the smartphone, will scale to support PC style applications is ignorance personified. Android will undoubtedly continue to improve and grow more powerful as mobile chips become ever more capable. But laptop and desktop technologies are improving at a similar rate. As a result, the distance between tablets and computers remains substantial. Is there functional overlap and synergy between the two? Undoubtedly. But synergy is not convergence, something many people don't seem to understand.

        Perhaps, someday, a tablet will be comparable to a PC, but it won't run Windows, OS X, Linux or Android. The question is and will remain, will the benefits of convergence justify the effort and expense necessary to develop an operating system that works equally well with gestures and a keyboard? If so, will developers find the incentive to port their applications to this new OS? Windows RT illustrates the problem. The hardware that can support a full-featured OS on a mobile device does not yet exist. Rather than wait for it to do so, Microsoft decided to create Windows Lite (RT), for which few developers - or consumers - have found any enthusiasm.

        For the time being, at least, ultrabooks running Windows and OS X are where it's at. Some, like Microsoft's Surface, endeavor to provide both gesture and keyboard support. It works, after a fashion, but the question remains, is it worth the complexity involved in using both on the same device? No matter what the pundits say, the market will determine the answer to that.

        But Android on a PC? Google's answer to the PC operating system has not been to build out Android, but to develop the Chromebook, with the OS, applications and documents in the cloud. That strategy has its own set of issues and problems that have nothing to do with Android. Android is a mobile OS and is likely to remain so.
      • Nightmares?

        A bit off topic, but Ballmer really doesn't look like the sort to have nightmare... more like the kind of person that could give someone a nightmare.

        The whole post-PC thing is why MS is making Windows work on tablets and phones as well. They'll probably get it right by the time it hits Windows 9 or 10. I don't know if that'll makes Windows a big success again, but I dare say that their chances are "not bad".
    • Re: Android devices aren't replacing PCs.

      PC sales are falling, Android device sales are rising.

      How much more "replacing" do you want?
  • Asus' Computex lineup highlights post PC era conundrum

    Its not up to Microsoft to kick start some type of slow down in PC growth. They already produced the software. Its up to the OEMs to make some great hardware to run that software. This whole thing about tablets replacing the laptop and PC is only temporary. I'm not sure why ZDNet keeps thinking this is going to be long term. Most people are leaving their tablets at home and taking the laptops for their business needs.
    • Your kind of contradicting yourself

      Those tablets ARE the great hardware that the OEMs are making. They're light, they've got excellent battery life, and they are powerful enough for all but the most power hungry user applications. In 3 or 4 years they'll even be powerful enough for those applications as well. And MS has its operating system ready whether you want to develop a new touch screen capable version of your old app or you are happy with the legacy app. iOS and Android may be able to run all kinds of new apps, but they can't run your legacy desktop apps like Windows 8 can. That is a distinct advantage that iOS and Android can't touch.

      I'll give you an example. Last year I went on a liveaboard dive trip and had to decide between bringing my Android tablet and a Windows 7 netbook. The tablet had much better battery life and I could use it all day if needed and would have been much more convenient to read books in between dives, but it did not have the software to download and analyze data from my dive compute, nor could I photoshop my pictures in any meaningful way. I'd need Windows for that, so I took the netbook. Well now when I go on my liveaboard trip this year, I can take my Samsung ATIV Smart PC which is a Windows 8 tablet but also has a dock to turn it into a netbook. So now I have a tablet that can hook up to my dive computer (which I can hold while syncing my dive computer, which I have to do on a wet deck) but also a netbook that I can sit with inside at a table so I can go over my dive and shop the pics I just took. Also I can read an e-book on the sundeck, and I can do all that on one charge per day.

      That's the power of mobile hardware, but also the power of backward compatibility.
      Michael Kelly
    • The idiot speaks again

      "Its not up to Microsoft to kick start ........"

      Wow, LD/MS blames the OEMs/ODMs and they blame MS.

      I can see where this is heading.

      LD is a fool.
  • What conundrum?

    As a newcomer to photography I searched around for recommendations on lenses and found ...
    ... the NIKON 'Dream Team' of 3 lenses.
    The straightforward style of the article made me realise how poor ZDNET is when it comes to plain advice.

    I am fed up with one biased ZDNET blogger and vendor after another recommending this that or whatever. There are smartphones, tablets and workstations. They are all PC's. They work best in differing usage scenarios. Big screens are better. My fingers are not going to shrink.

    Please desist from your confusing crap and give it me straight. For goodness sake.
    Steve Jobs drew the proper usage boundaries. His company has more money than the US Government. I detest his company (all global corporations) but he came up with the right answer.

    What chuffin conundrum?
    • Different world

      Lenses are compared on price and performance, and perhaps weight at the higher end. It is dead simple.

      The personal computing world is VERY different. Personal needs and preferences play a HUGE role.

      And NO, they are NOT all PCs. They may be personal computers, but the meaning of "PC" has a LONG history behind it.
  • Gotta admit

    That Zenbook Infinity is a fine looking piece of hardware.