Microsoft: The desktop PC isn't dead

Microsoft: The desktop PC isn't dead

Summary: 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.

TOPICS: Hardware, Microsoft

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."

Topics: Hardware, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • They never were dead

    I'm using one right now, and everyday, I see more desktops than laptops.
    • Exactly

      The computing-cloud proponents seem to thing all you need is a browser and wifi, like the iPOD Touch, and the servers will do everything else.

      Well... we've had a google mail problem blogged about on here... Undersea cables cut....

      People will *ALWAYS* want to keep critical data handy locally once they get burned with a service outage. Worst case, I can always eject my SD card and plug it into another PDA if my hardware dies. I'm in control.

      Steve Jobs should take note also. He thought slapping safari onto an ipod = productive computer. Well just like in the 1980's when he thought computers didn't need to be able to display colors (contrary to all common sense at the time), he's wrong now as evidenced by the loud cries to get the iPOD Touch SDK available.

      Local computing will never die.
      • Hence SilverLight is Gearing Up in the AIR

        Dozens of Web Battles took place already, where IE vs. Netscape was most visible. With browsers standardizing, technology vendors need a new Internet war strategy to gain market share.

        Ironically, its success lies in the Offline World.

        That's why I think Microsoft developed SilverLight to compete with Adobe. First to tackle Flash, but now with AIR recently launched, the battlezone includes offline (or local computing) territory.

        Their main competitor, both for Adobe but especially for Microsoft is Google of course. And Google's offline strategy is quite cunning and veiled.

        Since how much attention is Google Gears getting? It's hardly mentioned in the AIR/SilverLight discussion, because Gears doesn't focus on the visual interface, but on making online apps available offline.

        Google's first offline stop: Gmail and Reader. What's next?
    • Agree. It never will.

      Sure, laptops and mobile devices are getting more popular these days but doesn't necessarily mean loss for the desktop. I have a smartphone and a laptop right now but I'll never give up my desktop.
  • Tomorrow's cross-platform desktop ...

    ... looks to me an awful lot like <a href="">Opera</a>.
  • ???Our view is all surfaces will be Surfaces,???

    Man, this guy is bowsers! If this is the guy looking in the crystal ball and predicting what Microsoft's future will be, if I were a Microsoft shareholder, I would be very, very afraid!!!
  • MSFT Surface technology...

    was dead the day they disclosed it. This is another loser like
    Xbox, WM, Spot, Zune, etc.

    This company has a reverse-midas touch. Virtually everything it
    develops is junk.

    Yeah, MSFT keep betting on the desktop as it dies further. There
    is a great strategy for growth, just like Vista, WM, Spot, Zune, etc.

    What a crew of misfits from the monkey on down.
    Jeremy W
    • Okaay...

      I'd like to come up with junk like that and work my way up to the embarrassing #1 position of market penetration MS suffers from.

      Xbox: A failure? Uhh... mmmkay.... It has the PS3 beat down to a pulp currently. Wii is popular as well, but caters to a different audience.

      Zune: I'll give you that. The iPod is #1 there. and will be hard to dethrone, at least in the near future.

      WM: It's just a media player, and there are craploads of those available. There are several major players, one of which is WM, so calling it a failure is grossly inaccurate.
    • "What a crew of misfits from the monkey on down."

      Cheers for that quote, it made my morning :-)
  • Translation: We have not been able to kill the desktop PC

    And force the world to be 100% Microsoft
    compliant....... but we're working hard on
    it folks... hang in there.... and keep
    sending Microsoft your money. Victory is in
    the "Cloud"!
    Ole Man
    • Is the "Desktop PC" an MS product?

      I was under the impression that Apple makes some desktop PCs. I also seem to understand people can run other OSs like Linux on desktop PCs. And I'm looking at loads of Unix machines at my work right now.

      But I might be delusional. Who knows
      • It is in Ole man's world.

        Where every day life is just one large delusion.
      • Don't worry..........

        Whatever goes over your head will be caught
        by those higher in the "Cloud".

        Functionality is relevant, and Microsoft's
        aim is to make it as relevant to Microsoft
        as possible.

        In case that went over your head too, it
        means...... Microsoft aims to make
        everything functional only with Microsoft's
        permission..... otherwise it will not
        function..... it will be relevant to
        Microsoft and nothing but Microsoft.... get
        it now?
        Ole Man
    • LOL

      The ultimate goal for them is to release just one line of code that transfers money from your bank account to theirs. They'll give this away for free because they're such a super open and friendly company these days ;-)

      Penelope and Rupert think this a spiffing way to go.

      Trouble will be that all the computer literate are elsewhere, and MS can't even get that one line of code to work without crashing.

      The idea of the end of the PC (ie sitting down to interact with a nice sized screen) is absolute rubbish - unless they think they'll be killing off (cutting of the air supply to) developers not in Redmond, which I'm sure they'd work on with some bio-corporation given half a chance.

      "Suspicious sulphur leaks getting you down? Finding it hard to breathe? Microsoft air - now available in flip top bottles."
  • Nothing new

    Under the Sun,a few years ago on the BBC in the UK on a program called Dragon's Den,a chap had a glass table computer,not touch mind you,but the people who he was trying to get money for it's development and promotion,all 4 off the Dragon's came to the same conclusion,cricked neck, so MS your barking down the wrong table.
  • I would disagree

    I have no figures, but I do know that laptop sales are growing at a much faster rate
    than desktops. I know a lot of people who have a laptop as their main machine.
    They are either professionals who need the mobility and have some sort of docking
    station when working at home, students who need the mobility to lug their laptops
    around campus and even people who do not need the mobility just need one
    computer and end up getting a laptop.

    I think that is because people need the portability over size. The student and
    business user need the mobility offered by a laptop and the business is not
    prepared to get a separate desktop to lower costs and most students can't afford
    both a laptop and a desktop. Other people probably just enjoy its convenience of
    being able to use the computer anyway in the home and the option is there of
    being portable if they need it and most of those users probably aren't big computer
    users so screen size is not a big issue and are not willing to pay for a desktop and a

    Personally, I have both. I like my laptop on the move and my desktop when at
    home. I guess I am in the minority though. I am quite a big computer user so to
    me it is worth it. If I wasn't or I could only afford one computer I would definitely
    buy the laptop over the desktop any day.

    I am making a lot of generalizations here and people here will probably disagree
    with me because they are most likely geeks of some kind (that is not an insult by
    the way). Although, I do believe for the everyday person who is not big on
    technology are increasingly moving towards laptops and that as their main
  • RE: Microsoft: The desktop PC isn't dead

    There are currently at least three groups providing impetus to keep the power desktop alive

    1. Enthusiasts. Going back to the heath kits of the 50's, this group played a big part in developing PCs and will continue to push limits. They want full control; they want to mod; they want to push.

    2. Gamers. We'll probably never see the day when a slim device produces the output desired by this group. Speed, power, heat, size!

    3. Crunchers. There is immense computing power at work for the in-home scientist. If you are not BOINCing now, I must ask why not?
  • Tablet PCS in your desktop?

    I agree with the content of your blog. With these multi gestures iphone??s coming with the new apple macbooks I personally think that Microsoft will rush Surface with cheaper prices and hardware makers will do the effort for a Tablet PC desktop. In this way they will compete with Apple PC desktops and the time off for a keyboard and mouse hardware is running. All future in multitouch surface Tablet Pcs desktops. I mean Tablet for a display monitor with all the hardware you need in the back as thin as they can.
  • Not dead by a long shot

    the web based computing experience is still marred by the web clutter and insecurity phase, no big help from Sun's visions and the laptop scene is still too expensive, for the time being for everybody to uproot their systems, on that side of the dead pc equation.
  • My Thoughts...

    Desktop computing is far from "dead".

    A mobile device is nice of course, but unless it has a REALLY good warranty, accident coverage, ETC., I don't want my computing to be 100% mobile.

    Plus, the prices of mobile devices neeed to come WAY down before mobile computing becames a true reality.