Computex, Windows 8.1, Intel's Haswell: The next PC Hail Mary

Computex, Windows 8.1, Intel's Haswell: The next PC Hail Mary

Summary: Windows 8.1 may be the fastest refresh from Microsoft ever. What's unclear is whether an OS refresh and Intel's latest can save the day.


For the PC industry, the Computex trade show in Taiwan will have a heavy dose of deja vu. New form factors, the latest from Intel and a new version of Microsoft's Windows (sort of) are aligned to drive demand.

Funny how a year makes little to no difference in the Wintel story line.

Last year, Computex highlighted a bevy of Windows 8 devices such as hybrid laptops, touchscreen laptops and tablet convertible devices. None of those devices---excluding touchscreen laptops---generated enough demand to fuel a PC upgrade cycle.

Meanwhile, tablets are poised to pass PC units in just a few years.

So what's different this time? Sterne Agee analyst Vijay Rakesh outlined that the PC supply chain indicates that the system builds are tracking below expectations in the third quarter. Intel's Haswell platform is supposed to be available in June and July, but PC makers are waiting for the Windows 8.1 refresh. Welcome to hurry up and wait 2.0.

The problem: IDC separately said that PC shipments will fall 7.8 percent in 2013 to 321.9 million units. In 2017, IDC projects PC shipments will be 333.4 million units. 

The PC market's latest savior?


Rakesh noted that back-to-school PC sales are likely to be weak. He said:

We believe the PC supply chain OEMs-ODMs are now waiting for Win8.1/Blue, expected to launch in Oct-2013. We believe similar to the Win8 launch last year in October, which held back PC OEMs and ODMs from aggressively pushing PCs at back-to-school, a Win8.1 refresh could be holding the supply chain back. Win8.1 or Win Blue - We believe Microsoft is aggressively rolling out Win8.1; we believe it's the fastest refresh in history post-launch of a new OS Win8. The new Win Blue is expected to resolve some of the drawbacks with Win8, bringing back the "Start" button and provide more user continuity with prior Win OS platforms. We believe 3Q-4Q13 could also potentially see introduction of new 5th-gen iPad, another challenge.

What's unclear is whether Windows 8.1 will drive demand. PC makers have been downshifting their reliance on PCs in many cases. In addition, PC makers are also diversifying operating systems. HP CEO Meg Whitman tells the tale. She said that HP is looking to maintain a profitable PC business and use its channel, distribution and supply chain to its advantage. HP also wants to be about more than Windows.

"Using multiple operating systems, multiple architectures and multiple form factors, we
are moving quickly to produce the devices that customers want," she said on HP's recent earnings conference call.




Topics: PCs, Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Windows 8

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  • I'm on the Edge of My Seat

    Hopefully with Windows 8.1, we will now have Windows 2.0 functionality.
    • That's a good thing.

      Windows 2.0 was a power user's wet dream, then 3.0 came along and brought optimizations for 2.0.

      If you're comparing 8.1 to 2.0, then you must really love Blue.
      • RE:

        How could I possibly love Blue without trying it?
        • Didn't stop you from commenting

          Did it?
          • touche..

          • RE:

            That is why I said "hopefully". Are you not able to read?
        • Re: How could I possibly love Blue without trying it?

          Because Microsoft isn't offering you a choice.
          • Asinine FUD

            Of course you have a choice... Win8.0, Win7, OSx, Linux.

            Or did you mean that MS failed because it isn't offering a custom-coded OS experience tailored to every individual user preferences?

            H8ter: "Win8 sux because they took away the Start button"
            H8ter: "Win8 sux because I can't boot directly to the desktop"

            MS: "We're returning those capabilities in Win8.1"

            H8ter: "Yeah? well...well...8.1 sux because 8.0 didn't have them"

            MS: "..."
      • Blue for the future.

        One of the biggest things that come with Blue is that it will make Windows a more useable platform for smaller Tablet-P.C.'s thus becomming more affordable for the general populance, thus attracting more developers, thus having a growing app store.

        It DOES improve on Windows 8.
        Agosto Nuñez
        • Tablets

          Actually, I had no issue with Windows 8 on tablets. The issue was Windows 8 on *Desktops*, where Metro fails horribly. Desktop environments and a Touch interface just don't mix. The hot corner concept fails with a mouse, and fails more spectacularly when using a remote desktop environment (Server 2102.) It seems MS forgot to do usability testing for that use case (which is quite surprising.)

          Windows 8 on a Surface Pro is quite pleasant really.
          • Desktops are failing

            This article mentions it and we all know it, the desktop PC is quickly being pushed aside as tablets come into favor. Is it any surprise that Microsoft is putting all their efforts into making tablet users happy? After all, even if Microsoft lost 100% of their desktop market share they probably don't expect that to matter much in ten years because that market will have become so small.
          • You caught the part about Windows 2012 Server right?

            We will not see Servers on tablets for decades if ever.

            BTW, I can assure you, there will be a robust desktop market for many years to come (and I write this on a tablet.) If Microsoft will not cater to that user base, rest assured someone will.
          • RE:

            Desktops are not failing. The platform has matured. Read below where I wrote about the reasons why.
          • faddism

            How is 324 milion *new* units a sign of a failing market? Tablet will be fine for (some, most) home users, businesses will need desktops for well more than ten years. Tablet servers will NEVER exist, by definition.
          • Re: How is 324 milion *new* units a sign of a failing market?

            It's not enough to keep alive a bunch of large OEMs on razor-thin margins who were expecting to sell over 360 million.
          • Sure

            But servers will be run remotely with tablets or other remote devices in the future. The desktop UI is dead and the only market now is remote devices to deliver eyeballs to servers.
          • Desktops are not really "failing"

            It's just that people are not buying new ones. About the time of the Core 2 Duo CPU's, desktop PC's were fast enough, had enough storage, enough graphics, enough of everything for the average person. At work, I've got machines from 2009 that are still perfectly good. Everyone can still get their work done just fine on them and they are plenty fast enough running Windows 7. They only reason we are replacing them is that they have hit their end of life and that's only because they were on 4 year warranties.

            For home users, unless they are big time gamers, there really is not anything they could do with a brand new PC that they couldn't do with a machine from 2007 - 2009 and there is just no reason to buy a new one.

            I'm betting that the vast majority of people buying tablets today also have a desktop PC or laptop too. Its just that the PC reached "good enough" status long ago. The market has matured and people just don't have a need to buy a new one every couple of years. Even if Windows 8 were the best thing since quilted northern, it would not be enough to get people to buy a new PC.
    • How to unfail

      Microsoft's next move is to call it "Windows 8.Awesome!" (the marketing department insisted on removing the smiley face)
  • Somehow....

    ....I doubt that the new Intel Haswell chip will spur this waited for PC upgrade cycle.

    That ship has sailed: the PC market, though not going away, isn't the growth engine that it was even a decade ago. Going forward, it's more comparable to the home appliances market---a steady cash generator, but no growth, kinda boring, and not something headlines are made of.
    • The PC Has Matured

      The PC has matured to a point to where we aren't seeing leaps and bounds in CPU speed, storage, and memory increases as we did throughout the 90's to the early 2000's.

      It's kind of like cars. Once the internal combustion engine got coil packs, computers, fuel injection, hemispherical designs, as many valves per cylinder as possible, overhead cams, aluminum blocks and heads, variable valve timing, direct fuel injection, etc, there's not much more to be improved upon.