IHS: Wintel playing 'catch-up' thanks to smartphones, tablets

The Microsoft-Intel alliance is starting to show some frays, leading analysts to pounce on a potential decline.

The growth of the mobile segment -- specifically, smartphones and tablets -- have led many tech analysts to declare we're in the "post-PC era." Thanks to that, the Microsoft-Intel alliance commonly known as Wintel is now starting to show its age, according to market intelligence firm IHS iSuppli.

To break it down, IHS projects that Microsoft's share of the operating system market to slip to 33 percent by 2016 (down from 44 percent last year), while Intel will drop to 29 percent in the microprocessor segment -- down from 44 percent in 2011.

At the same time, IHS forecasts that the total computer market (which includes PCs as well as smartphones and tablets) to roughly double between 2011 and 2016. Thus, the major boost is going to be thanks to handheld mobile devices -- not PCs.

This year alone, analysts expect 655 million smartphones will be shipped worldwide -- approximately triple the total for mobile PCs.


Craig Stice, a senior principal analyst covering compute platforms at IHS, explained in the report that because Microsoft and Intel based their strategy by tying together an operating system with specific microprocessor technologies, that same strategy doesn't work for the post-PC era.

In the PC segment, Wintel extracted the majority of the profits, controlled every move and compelled all other players to either comply or risk being forced out of the game. While still an overwhelming influence in their respective markets, the tables have turned for Microsoft and Intel. With smartphones and tablets performing tasks previously exclusive to PCs, the computer market has expanded to include other platforms. As a result, Wintel finds itself in the unfamiliar position of dancing to someone else’s tune, following standards that were set by other companies for form factors, user interfaces and even pricing. This means Microsoft and Intel must think outside the box—even if it means adopting strategies that work against each other’s interests.

It also doesn't help that up until now, Microsoft hasn't exactly been a moving force in the smartphone and tablet markets, both of which are presently dominated by Apple and Google.

Stice added, "The Wintel camp is not accustomed to following, but with both companies being excluded of the two fastest-growing markets, they are in catch-up mode."

Nevertheless, there is still plenty of hope with both of these companies -- at least on an individual level -- as Microsoft preps for the release of Windows 8 and Intel responded to the evolving PC market more pointedly with Ultrabooks. But both of these moves are what IHS analysts describe as steps away from "a traditional partner," thus revealing more frays in the Wintel partnership.

Chart via IHS iSuppli