Is Microsoft's post-PC story starting to look any better?

Is Microsoft's post-PC story starting to look any better?

Summary: Now that we know more about what's coming in Windows 8.1, and companies like Acer are pitching new waves of products, are Windows-based post-PC products starting to look more likeable...?

TOPICS: Tablets

Here is a picture of the Acer Iconia W3. It's the first 8" Windows 8 tablet.

Acer Iconia W3

Join me in a brief thought experiment. Imagine that you are the individual tasked with the final decision as to whether this product makes it onto the market. The meeting where you see the final production prototype is about to begin. You're sitting in a quiet meeting room ready for the product team to come in and show you their new baby.

There is a hush. The door opens and in quietly files the leader of the development team and a small gaggle of his preferred lieutenants. He places the device in front of you with a flourish. Around you, the team's faces are each glazed with a childlike mix of pride and expectation. This is the work that will define their careers. This, for them, is their finest hour.

You look at the device. You're aware of all the eyes on you in the room. They wait your Cowell-esque decision hoping to go home to their wives and husbands able to share of their good news because you said "yes." You don't look up. You just focus on the thing sitting in front of you and think "what now?"

You could turn to them and say, "Ladies and gentlemen — the Era of Ive is dead. This is the finest computing product that has ever been created. The future of the computer industry is now yours. I am not worthy to witness a moment of such greatness."

Or you could fire the lot of them, put your head in your hands, and sob.

Because, honestly, look at it. What happened? Did someone feed the word "compromise" into a 3D printer and just decide to ship whatever came out the other end?

To me, that device is everything that is wrong with Microsoft's reinvention of itself into a "devices and services" company. There is no evidence anywhere in that product that anyone involved in it actually understands what a post-PC device is or, more importantly, why people love and enjoy their iPads, Android phones, and even their BlackBerry's and Kindles.


Ignoring for a moment whether Windows 8 is selling well compared to previous versions or not, it certainly can't be described as a "popular, must have product." There is no sense out there in the market of a clamour, no baseline need for people to go out and rip and replace what PCs they do have with shiny new ones running Windows 8.

But we do know that they are going out there and buying smartphones and tablets — i.e. post-PC devices — in astonishing quantities.

We can umm and ahh and cogitate as much as we like as to why this is, but regardless of the relative attributes or merits of each product, it all reduces down to this one, basic point: products that sell, regardless of the market, are likeable.

If PCs are not selling and Windows 8 is not forcefully injecting energy into a reversal of that trend, we can surely conclude that those products are not liked. This seems self-evident, but the point I'm trying to get to is not just saying "no one likes it — yah boo sucks," but rather that we need collectively as an industry to get to a point of understanding as to why they are not liked.

We know that post-PC devices in both tablet and smartphone variants are selling extremely well. Therefore we can assume that these products are likeable within the market in the way that the PC is not.

Post-PC devices are likeable because they address needs related to the fact that people within society generally are now starting to take computer-based devices and apply them as tools to varying aspects that exist across the entire spectrum of their lives. Post-PC devices are simple devices that appeal and are liked because they are available all of the time and allow people to connect into their network of people and things that are important to them. That's the value proposition.

If it's true to say that Windows 8 is not liked now, what we can see in Microsoft's promise for Windows 8.1 or the behaviour of the OEMs like Acer is evidence that over the next six months the "trajectory of likeableness" is going to stop trending towards "unlikeable" and trend towards "likeable."

What can we see in the products that are being discussed — in this case in particular by the ugly duckling that is the Acer Iconia W3 — that shows a change in that trend? Will we end up at the year's end with products that continue to be unliked and, by extension, won't sell?

In the case of the W3, I can't see anything. All I see is the output of a group of people working on pure guesswork without nuanced understanding. What about that product says to you that it is a device designed for social networking, for enjoying photos and movies together, for playing games with the kids, reading books, or any one of a million things that people like doing with their smartphones and tablets?

All that's happened is someone has gone "people seem to like smaller tablets," and they've taken the design specs for a 10" tablet — which was already not selling — and dragged the mouse across the screen and scaled it down. 

The way to fix this is obvious. Microsoft and their OEM partners actually need to understand why people like their smartphones and tablets before they start presenting products to the market.

That doesn't sound that difficult to me.

What do you think? Post a comment, or talk to me on Twitter: @mbrit.

Topic: Tablets

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  • Microsoft is doing a good job with some if their "new" strategy

    Their cloud services are good, they made a solid online office suite and they still solid within enterprises.
    I agree Windows 8 was a failed product, and 8.1 is not going to save it. When I see a new/revised calculator application in the list of the new great things, I frown.
    Microsoft has a conflict, old way and the new way, I understand their intentions to melt desktop and mobile devices into one thing - now I can see it was a wrong move, or at least it wasn't done properly.
    Microsoft will keep on being a great company but missing the new computing trend will (already did) cost them the leading position in IT world, they were in the pole position to conquer it but they blew it.
    As someone is saying already - we need "windows red".
    • It is all about touch

      The main problem with Windows 8, is the non-touch devices it is on. Reviews of Windows 8 have been overwhelmingly positive for touch based devices. The sooner the Windows 8 ecosystem moves away from non-touch devices as if they were the plague, the better. Given the fact that the Iconia W3 device is a small touch based device, which allows you to do the same things you can do on similar sized touch based iOS and Android devices, but also allows you to do productivity activities as well (the Iconia W3 device comes with Office 2013 installed) which gives it a distinct edge, I expect the Iconia device will do well. (Also the Windows 8 experience on touch devices is better than the competition.)

      Haswell brings a lot of advantages (including longer battery life) to Windows 8. But I believe the biggest advantage it brings, is Intel's stipulation that devices which use the cpu, be touch based. This should push the Windows 8 ecosystem decidedly over to touch based systems.
      P. Douglas
      • In a few years from now...

        …..we will realise that Windows 8 was not a failure. The market has shifted and any new PC OS released by Windows would have had the same sales figure. Look around you and think about the number of people who really needs a full feature PC considering that most of them probably use their computer to browse the web, send emails and play a few games. The truth is that PCs are simply overpowered and its alternative, the tablet simply makes more economic sense. Apple has simply changed the game. Bill Gates and its Windows Tablet in 2001 should have been refined by Microsoft. They came up with the concept but then, pretty much abandoned it because the market didn’t respond on its original format.

        Windows 8 was too late to come into the market. In that sense, Windows 8 is a marketing failure. Windows version release cycle is to blame. Things have completely shifted between the release of Windows 7 and now and it took too many years for Microsoft the jump in with a tablet OS. The biggest failure of Microsoft was to be too late. On the other hand they made Windows faster, more secure. It boots a lot faster also. I have been using Windows of my Surface RT since November and on my Home PC, Portable computer and Work PC for the past 3 months. My experience is that Windows 8 is a compromised OS. You can’t really use the desktop using only gestures and the “Modern design” Start screen can be disorienting at first. I question Microsoft decision to include both on every version of Windows. Windows 8.1 will fix most of the annoyance. I still think however that Windows 8 is a better overall OS than Windows 7 was.

        Because we have more choice, we are pickier. Because Microsoft is already an old company that pretty much have the same business model that they had in 1985, most of us sees them as dinosaurs with irrelevant products. The truth is that they are reinventing themselves as we speak and some can handle the fact the MS products are just not “Same old, same old” anymore.
        • Windows 8.1 is just as bad

          That's two in a row. And the PC OEMs have no marketable product for Christmas unless they make Android products because 8.1 won't be ready in time. Intel has no go-to OS platform now for their new Atom and Haswell except Android for Christmas. AMD as well.

          Missing Christmas again - the season when half of all client devices is sold, is death for Microsoft now. This is it. By next Christmas they'll be staring down an installed base of 2 billion Android devices, one billion iOS devices, and a global army of developers who don't want to ride their cert-merry-go-round again. Their server app customers are already asking "why doesn't this work with my iPad, my Galaxy phone?" S&T will be the next house to fold.

          I'll bet they didn't think the end could come this fast. They never do.
          • Drama Much?

            C'mon. Big organizations still need to do PC-based work, and most of them do it with MS Windows. Now the issue is how often they need to upgrade. My 100K-worker employer is finally getting all switched over to Win7 - taking about 4-5 years to wean all those custom apps from WinXP-specifics. They have learned to be more generic, and web-based as much as possible, but OutLook/Word/Excel are still core tools, and need x86 power with big screens, keyboards and mice to run.

            Now the only issue is what form factors to match up with which set of group needs. We have a large sales force, that is going all out with iPads, but "back at the office", they still need Wintel for the backend work. We are integrating Andoid and iPhone access for mobile apps, but, again, those are supplements to the Wintel desktop/notebook, not replacements.

            We are spending millions on licenses and support from MS, but it will be Win7-centric for some years to come. MS will survive ONLY if they continue to cover that "base", too.

            The consumer space is similar - most of us have enough PC computing capability already in WinXP and Win7 (Linux in my case ;-} ), and supplementing those with the "interesting/cool" new phone/tablet gadgets. A fair number may be able to do full substitution, but I suspect the majority will do the supplement thing. I am on my 10th or 12th Android tablet (returned most the others - finding a droid phone is about right for that kind of usage), but most of my more "serious" stuff (and my schoolteacher wife's) is still done on x86 PC's (mostly Linux as I mentioned before), but they are not being replaced any time soon, and that is what I think is the "traditional" PC's problem - they have reached saturation levels, and there are no burning reasons to rip and replace - certainly not Win 8, although the attrition process as power supplies, disks, and other components fail will induce most non-techies who don't know how to fix such things to finally get that new Win 8/9 PC, but with a sharp eye for sales I would guess.
      • Yes, MS pushing it, an almost no one wanting it.

        Most of your statements are outright fabrications, or gross over-generalizations. To wit:
        "The main problem with Windows 8, is the non-touch devices it is on."
        Win 8 was designed to be superior on both. Clearly you feel they failed.

        "Reviews of Windows 8 have been overwhelmingly positive for touch based devices. "
        What a load of nonsense. For every review positive of touch, I can post five claiming it is irrelevant, or annoying.

        "Given the fact that the Iconia W3 device is a small touch based device, which allows you to do the same things you can do on similar sized touch based iOS and Android devices…"
        Yeah. Not.

        "… but also allows you to do productivity activities as well (the Iconia W3 device comes with Office 2013 installed) which gives it a distinct edge"
        Nonsense. First, let go of this stupid meme that iOS and Android devices are not productivity devices. First, many people use them quite productively, your inability to do the same notwithstanding. Second, just because YOUR field does not favor productive use of iOS or Android does NOT mean that other fields don't as well.

        As for Haswell, it barely moves the bar.
      • Reviews are not sales.

        You missed the point. It doesn't matter what few journalists think in their reviews. Windows 8 is not selling to the public regardless of hardware so it is not likeable according to author. The touch device Surface is a confirmed flop and with RT version it is practically dead.
  • Re: why people like their smartphones and tablets

    Simple. Because they don't run Windows.

    People associate Windows with two things:

    1. Work. Work. Work. People want computers, that are not for work. Simple.

    2. The Tamagotchi. Many were tempted by that little gadget that required constant care to stay alive. Eventually, they abandoned it, in order to have more time for their own life and the ones they love. Nobody wants to be slave to the Windows computer again.
    • Oh, please, that is so much BS.

      and you know it. The questionable thing is why you wrote that knowing it was BS?

      1) The real reason why people like their smartphones is really quite simple -because the majority get them for free or next to nothing. PC's still outsell the traditional tablets, so that kind of throws a monkey wrench into your theory.

      2) "little gadget that required constant care to stay alive"

      You're saying that all these people were running a TI-99/4a?
      William Farrel
      • TI 99/4a

        Whatsha talking bout Willis- trash talking my first PC :)
      • Correct

        And the most installed application on those PCs is by far Start8 application that removes all traces of Metro interface from the PC.
    • 1 is not necessarily true.

      For many, the word Windows brings to mind fond memories of The Elder Scrolls series, online Battlefield matches, and (more recently) Star Trek online dogfights. Windows is as much play device as it is a work device. Dismissing it as otherwise is silly. Ask any PC gamer.

      As for 2, I do work on Win PC's, but I haven't slaved over one for a long, long time. Aside from rare issues, which can happen with any OS and usually boil down to hardware, I've never had any trouble with Windows.

      The above is not to say that Windows is the be-all end-all of OS's, but neither is OS X, Linux, Unix, or BSD.
    • The only reason smartphones outsell PCs, is because, they're subsidized,

      and their service plans cover the leftover, and the combo of device and service plan, are "amortized", to a point where the monthly cost is "tolerable" to most.

      Otherwise, if those devices weren't being subsidized and paid via 2 and 3 year service plan agreements, smartphones would never have taken off. So, in order to sell, the telcos/service providers, made them "affordable" via those 2-3 year plans. But, if consumers were to have to purchase those devices at around $500 - $800 without a service plan, they the vast majority of consumers would have opted to keep their old simple feature phones.

      The only way that smartphones have been able to sell is via hiding the total real cost of them. But, consumers are being taken for a ride, and the cell plans are hiding the true cost of those devices. No tiny non-computing device should ever cost more than even the most sophisticated of PCs.

      Now, if PCs were to be sold with 2 or 3 year plans, by the ISPs, then there might be a lot more PCs sold than tablets and perhaps smartphones. People don't like to have to fork over $400 to $1000 in one shot. But, they could easily be convinced to purchase those things if they only had to pay $40-$80 per month for a couple of years. The "expensiveness" of the PCs would be hidden, just like it's hidden for smartphones.
  • To Solve A Problem, You Must First Recognize There Is A Problem

    Microsoft's total refusal to even admit that the post-PC era has dawned will be the end of it.
    • The one with the problem is you, because, Windows 8 has already sold over

      100 million licenses, and probably a lot more by now. That's an amazing number, for any device or piece of software. And, the numbers will eventually get much higher, into the hundreds of millions for Windows 8/8.1.

      Now go back and stay under that rock you keep crawling out of. Your input is always complete nonsense, and nobody appreciates nonsense.
      • Bull

        They have sold licenses into the channel. Those licenses have NOT in turn been sold on to final consumers. There is a glut of Win8 machines, that is well-known and well-reported on. It is not a secret. While this has no effect at the present, and stores refill inventories, the backward pressure caused by this growing glut will most certainly be felt soon enough as downward pressure on commercial reorders.
        • Eat the "bull". Neither you nor Ido17 know exactly how many licenses

          have been sold up to now, and neither you nor Ido17 know exactly how many have been activated at the consumer level. What you and and Ido17 are doing is just guessing and hoping that you are right, and that MS hasn't sold any more. The figures you quote are months old, so, by now, they very likely have gone up by a lot.
          • Eat your own

            Neither of us are guessing or hoping anything. We are stating that you bringing up the number is MEANINGLESS, as you can not state what that number means in terms of sales to end users. WE are admitting ignorance. You are taking your ignorance and trying to build the Taj Mahal from it.
            And then you just flat out make stuff up. Case in point:
            "The figures you quote are months old, so, by now, they very likely have gone up by a lot."
            Um, neither of us brought up figures!!! The only one who brought up figures is you. If they are months old, that is on you. But good job discrediting your own data!
  • Failure

    Metro is still a nasty, FUGLY, unintuitive UI. Not to mention people generally don't equate Microsoft or Windows with a good experience.
    • So, why do you need to be making the same comment on every MS-related


      Why not be like most people who apply common sense to ther everyday decision-making. Most people who don't like a product, will learn to ignore it, and just move on to purchasing something which meets their fancy. IOW, id you don't like Windows or the "fugly" UI, then, nobody in the world is going to force it on you, and you can move on to purchasing an Apple device or an Android device, or a Linux-powered device. See how simple that is? So, you don't need to continue making an a-z-z of yourself, because, in reality, your opinion is already known and most people don't really care about what you have to say.

      So, move along, and leave the discussion to people who have something a lot more fundamental or of substance to contribute. You're just a nuisance and a gnat. I'm changing your ID to itgnatZERO.