The end of Windows

Ben Thompson writes for Stratechery:

The story of Windows’ decline is relatively straightforward and a classic case of disruption:

• The Internet dramatically reduced application lock-in
• PCs became “good enough”, elongating the upgrade cycle
• Smartphones first addressed needs the PC couldn’t, then over time started taking over PC functionality directly

“What is more interesting, though, is the story of Windows’ decline in Redmond, culminating with last week’s reorganization that, for the first time since 1980, left the company without a division devoted to personal computer operating systems (Windows was split, with the core engineering group placed under Azure, and the rest of the organization effectively under Office 365; there will still be Windows releases, but it is no longer a standalone business),” Thompson writes. “Such a move didn’t seem possible a mere five years ago, when, in the context of another reorganization, former-CEO Steve Ballmer wrote a memo insisting that Windows was the future.”

Thompson writes, “The story of how Microsoft came to accept the reality of Windows’ decline is more interesting than the fact of Windows’ decline; this is how CEO Satya Nadella convinced the company to accept the obvious.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Now all we need to do is get rid of cancer, heart disease, and bad mass-produced beer.

Even before iPhone, a few hearty souls foresaw that the Dark Age of Personal Computing was drawing to a close:

As we have always said, even as many short-sightedly waved (and continue to wave) the white flag, the war is not over. And, yes, we shall prevail… No company is invincible. Not even Microsoft. — MacDailyNews, January 10, 2005

SEE ALSO:
Microsoft’s Windows is doomed – September 1, 2017
Steve Jobs’ plan to take back the personal computing business from Microsoft proceeding apace – December 7, 2009
Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ ultimate goal: ‘to take back the computer business from Microsoft’ – June 16, 2005

36 Comments

    1. Mobility isn’t one-dimensional. It opens up a whole new set of possibilities and capabilities. There are a thousand needs that smartphones “do better than PCs”. It is the single feature of mobility that unlocks all those needs.

        1. Oh come now you are just being contrarian because you don’t like to agree with anyone about anything. Mobile devices can do many things much better than PCs. Just off the cuff, connect to your car and offer a range of hands free tasks, enable a digital wallet and payment system, communicate via voice and text with ease as you walk or drive, take photos, record video, augmented reality in real time at a museum as you move the screen around an object on display, AR for business or tourism information on the street, driving or walking directions. I’m sure there are many more this is just what I thought of in a minute or two. These are all things that are better or only possible on a mobile device. There are many things a PC is better at but there is a long list of things that mobile devices easily beat PCs at and some things that are only possible on mobile devices. It’s a lot more than “fit in your pocket” and “brought the internet closer to more people”.

          1. See I got you to elaborate. As you walk is mobility, as you drive a mounted system is better. I’ve been talking into PCs since the early 90s. Directions? Laptop is far superior and even works offline and can hold the whole world in storage.

            Now…speed, sophistication of programs, number of open windows, ease of typing, size of screen, expandability, capacity….

            I stand by my comment.

            1. You addressed less than half of the capabilities I described. There are many, many more. A mounted system is not better than directions on my iPhone. I have both. I know. I can also mount my iPhone (that is the law in some places it has to be mounted in cars). You can do offline maps on phones too. Size and mobility are key aspects that open up and improve a wide set of tasks.

              This isn’t either/or. PCs will always win at many things. Smartphones will always win at many other things. I didn’t even get into a smartphone in my pocket connected to and working with wireless earbuds and a smartwatch. Size and mobility make this expansion of capabilities impractical with a laptop PC unless you’re going to argue how convenient it is to lug around a laptop bag all day.

              What about augmented reality? You skipped that entirely. PCs can’t compete. Unless you want to argue that it is convenient to dig your laptop out of its bag and then hold it up on the street and move it around while you look at things and get information and then stuff it back into your bag but wait you forgot one bit of information you need so you dig it back out of your bag. So convenient.

              Same goes for the digital wallet and payment system which you did not address. I’ll just whip out my laptop PC in the grocery line. Very convenient.

              There is also sharing content with friends or associates which is far more convenient and easy with smartphones.

              You didn’t address taking photos and recording video either. In a static setting with the right accessories a PC wins but it is the accessories winning that, not the PC. Still I’ll give that win to the PC. But a smartphone can be used in both a static setting (with accessories as well) and on the move and in the moment when opportunity presents itself. The smartphone wins.

              A hybrid tablet laptop would be more convenient (because it introduces some mobility) but still not as good as a smartphone. PC-like expandability will come to smartphones also with external keyboards and screens, storage, programs will become more sophisticated, chips will get faster and faster.

              Smartphones win at a lot more than you are willing to admit.

            2. I stand by my comment. Only in mobility do Smartphones have advantage. That’s an important advantage, but as computers they utterly pale in ability. Take away the internet and they are almost entirely useless.

              But be aware of what I call mobility… and this is where I agree with you, mobility is when you can’t pull a laptop or desktop out of your pocket. That’s where Smartphone have the advantage. As computers they suck.

              The fact that the PC can accept accessories is another reason. I said expandable and upgradable.

            3. “Only in mobility do Smartphones have advantage. That’s an important advantage, but as computers they utterly pale in ability. Take away the internet and they are almost entirely useless.”

              This is not true. Smartphones use local networks and network with each other and other devices in many applications. Payment is one. Sharing content is another. Augmented reality is another. There are more. Taking photos and video require no internet. Your argument does not hold water.

              “The fact that the PC can accept accessories is another reason. I said expandable and upgradable.”

              Smartphones are also expandable and upgradable in many ways and those capabilities will expand and offer features that PCs cannot (and they already do in fact). I have already outlined some of that and you haven’t addressed any of it. The only way your argument holds even thinly is by ignoring most of the smartphone capabilities I have already described.

              Maybe you think I’m saying smartphones are better than PCs? That’s wrong. Neither is better. They are different and each better at different things.

              I haven’t even discussed how the mobility and affordability of smartphones opens up computing to third world countries in ways that PCs will never be able to.

              Your argument should be that purely as a computer, how you define that, PCs beat smartphones. That’s fine. However, that is not what you said. You said “The only need Smartphones do better than PCs, and it’s an important one, is fit in your pocket.” That’s a very different argument and one that does not work.

            4. Surely you’re not suggesting PCs don’t network as well as Smartphones…. Patently false, in fact the opposite is true. Can a Smartphone be a good server? It’s not even as good a client.

              PCs do all those examples better except where physical mobility is involved. Taking photos, for instance, at the register, for instance. Especially AR, where there is more cpu and graphical horsepower.

              We agree, that as a computer, PCs are better. Where have we ever differed on that? And if I slight Smartphones, it’s as computers. The article is titled “The End of Windows” after all.

              But keep in mind, “you need a PC to program a Smartphone” and one PC can program an ecosystem of Smartphones. That’s power.

            5. “And if I slight Smartphones, it’s as computers. The article is titled “The End of Windows” after all.”

              You’re moving the goalposts now. What you originally said was “The only need Smartphones do better than PCs, and it’s an important one, is fit in your pocket. That’s it though.”

              I have shown that is not true and is not an argument that stands up to even the mildest scrutiny.

              “PCs do all those examples better except where physical mobility is involved. Taking photos, for instance, at the register, for instance. Especially AR, where there is more cpu and graphical horsepower.”

              PCs are not better at augmented reality since the best and most practical uses of AR require mobility. Admitting that PCs are not better when mobility is required is an admission that my argument is correct. Mobility enables literally a whole new world of new capabilities that PCs cannot practically enable.

              “But keep in mind, “you need a PC to program a Smartphone” and one PC can program an ecosystem of Smartphones. That’s power.”

              That’s a completely different argument and has nothing to do with what you said, which was “The only need Smartphones do better than PCs, and it’s an important one, is fit in your pocket. That’s it though.”

              We’re talking about humans accomplishing tasks and device capabilities. I’m not the slightest bit interested in discussing what is or is not a computer according to your definition. Why? Because it doesn’t matter and it isn’t the interesting part of how humans and technology interact.

              “Surely you’re not suggesting PCs don’t network as well as Smartphones”

              As a practical matter smartphones do network better than PCs, because of mobility, affordability, usability, and penetration within the population. It is like that saying “the best camera is the one you have with you.”

              Even in some cases where a PC beats the smartphone handily in a technical aspect the smartphone can win in a practical real world aspect. However, it doesn’t matter which one wins in networking. I have shown so many capabilities where smartphones are far better and you haven’t dealt with most of them. Instead you’ve gone off on tangents to prove PCs are better computers and I’ll remind you again that has little to do with what you originally said.

              I’m done now. You right fight into eternity. I’m more interested in thinking and intelligent discussion and that is next to impossible to have with a right fighter.

            6. Sorry friend, you are not entitled to your own facts. I originally rebutted the post itself. And other than mobility, which is a broad usage pattern, smartphones are far superior computers. Its not even a contest.

            7. Btw… A small example. If I want to AR a nuclear blast, accurately, it won’t be with a smartphone. If I want to look something up pictorial it would be with the computers the smartphone is connected.

          2. Looks like applecynic changed his or her mind and has come over to the other view of computers. applecynic just said “smartphones are far superior computers. Its not even a contest.”

    2. I’ve been using internet banking since the days when I needed to switch banks in order to get an on-line service and when I did start using that service, my bank adopted a number of my suggestions for improving their service because there were so few other users.

      In the years since then we’ve gone from strength to strength, but until a year or two ago, using my Mac was always by far the preferred way to manage my banking needs. However since my bank started offering a banking app for IOS, much to my surprise I rarely use my Mac for banking any more. The big difference is the way that IOS devices can instantly verify my identity, either by a fingerprint or face recognition. The banking app is useable almost immediately without having to enter passwords by selecting numbers using a mouse.

      I don’t very often need mobile access to my bank account, but even when I’m sat at my computer, I still use the iPhone as it does the job better. Obviously the entire user experience depends on the usefulness of the app supplied by your particular bank, but when they offer a good app, it can be excellent.

      1. I understand, and it’s still the mobility aspects of the phone.
        PCs have had cameras and fingerprint readers for years, or they could be easily added.

        Again, its the mobility, not the “compute”.

        Don’t even get me started on typing on smartphones… glass has one texture.

  1. Well this isn’t really an Apple victory. It’s more like the whole PC era, including Macs, has passed. That certainly explains Apple’s lack of interest in the Mac lately.

    1. And yet Mac sales have done quite well and not suffered the decline that PC’s have. All Apple has to do is make Macs the way customers want ’em and sales would probably grow another 25% or more. You want to say to people “well if you do need a home PC “truck” it should be a safe & secure Mac.” Macs have the opportunity to take from the PC market and shift sales leaving Windows further high and dry.

  2. All I can say is my personal business went from 100% all done on desktops, to in the last 18 months, all done on phones, reluctantly, and even via text, its crazy, People want to text business deals, not email, not via windows on a desktop,
    They DONT HAVE desktops, or Laptops.

    So PLEASE, can Apple make a total business solution that sits on the Iphone? Please? Pretty please as an AAPL owner, please take enterprise serious? Please? This is Apples Chance. (of course there’s Android,,,) Please? can someone listen… we dont want super child-like programs, we want fully detailed full-function programs with all the bells and whistles. Can Apple improve “mail” on the phone and laptops? give us categories, folders, and a great file system for attachments, somehow make messenger way more functional?

    1. Apple doesn’t have much of a clue about “business” or “corporate”, so good luck with that. They are too busy focusing on working on animated emoji and parallax effects, because they are sooo cooool duuuude.

    2. “we dont want super child-like programs, we want fully detailed full-function programs with all the bells and whistles.”

      There are devices for that. They are called laptops and desktops.

      I want to carry 50,000 lbs of freight in my Prius……….yeah, right.

  3. All I can say is my personal business went from 100% all done on desktops, to in the last 18 months, all done on phones, reluctantly, and even via text, its crazy, People want to text business deals, not email, not via windows on a desktop,
    They DONT HAVE desktops, or Laptops.

    So PLEASE, can Apple make a total business solution that sits on the Iphone? Please? Pretty please as an AAPL owner, please take enterprise serious? Please? This is Apples Chance. (of course there’s Android,,,) Please? can someone listen… we dont want super child-like programs, we want fully detailed full-function programs with all the bells and whistles. Can Apple improve “mail” on the phone and laptops? give us categories, folders, and a great file system for attachments, somehow make messenger way more functional?

  4. As much as I dislike MS for continuously selling fixes for paid fixes… it’s foolish to believe that Windows is anything but the strongest it has been in years. They’ve a huge developer base that makes money, they’re embedded in life-critical industries, they’ve successfully transitioned to a cloud and subscription model, and the list could go on (not sure how relevant it is, but they’re also the only real game in town where big money requires office productivity). What’s especially noteworthy is that Windows 10 is actually a *good* OS and has made huge leaps in security. We’ll see how a diversity of non-Windows devices and services affects Microsoft’s future, but it’s absolutely speculative to declare the “end of Windows.” Rather than “hate on” Windows, let’s advocate for great software. MS is closing the frustration gap with Apple for investors, developers, users, and the enterprise. Unfortunately, I’m increasingly afraid that Apple is neglecting this…

    1. I can run the latest Windows on my 2008 Mac Pros and they work great.
      I can’t run the latest Mac OS X on my 2008 Mac Pros.

      Microsoft supports my Mac better than Apple does.

  5. Microsoft stole Apple computer platform OS. Google stole Apple mobile device OS. On the user side, Microsoft strangled the user with a monopoly and Google is stealing user privacy data.

    KARMA is waiting in the wings for Android.

  6. Apple’s world-wide success can be attributed to Jobs who put his corporation into panic mode, fighting for its life which, it seems to me, which put its employees under perpetual stress, for examples, to meet deadlines and initiatives in innovation.

    Just how long it can maintain this MO and not slide into a MS phase characterized by carelessness, lazyness, and, of course, being victimized by technologies introduced by superior competitors, only a psychologist specializing in corporate health can answer.

    I just hope that Apple resumes the balance of pure innovation and practical production whose combination continues, so far, to delight and inspire people.

  7. Oh please, this is stretching reality a little bit.

    I’ll sing the praises of the Mac until the end of my days (Apple a little less so), but only the most blinkered of fan boys would even contemplate the end of Windows.

    What Satya has done is not convince Microsoft that the decline is inevitable, but convince them that they don’t have to dominate every market to make money from that market.

    He’s playing the long game, making sure that he has a foothold in everything.

    He’s making sure that whatever happens, Microsoft executes flawlessly.

    Microsoft aren’t the elephant/gorilla in the room anymore, they are the floor, walls and ceiling now.

    Nobody really notices them, but they are there. Forever.

    Every company and school I see is still a Windows shop end to end, at least in the UK. Things aren’t as bad in 1997, it’s actually worse.

    Apple now has Amazon, Google, Samsung and Microsoft to deal with.

    The chance for Apple to win markets are long gone.

    Apples lost education, the server room, gaming and increasingly the creative market. Selling high margin trinkets to the Starbucks generation is all that’s left.

    They are now betting that a combination of iOS and Swift will gain traction which relys on iPhones dominating the market.

    Somebody (guess who) once said ‘for Apple to win, Microsoft doesn’t have to lose’.

    The reverse is also true, ‘If Microsoft loses, Its not a given that Apple wins.

    1. Well put, like the proverbial hole dug to China, most companies are so heavily invested in Windows (down the hole), there is no alternate, unless Microsoft decides to abandon W10. That is not likely.

    2. This is not a love of MS, actually I wish Linux were more polished, but I digress.

      The value of having a large, modular, open access (if not open) platform can never be underestimated. It permitted the broadest, most abundant innovation possible. I care less that it was MS than if it were anyone else.

      (Though I favored their breakup when they leveraged Windows to beat competing applications, )

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