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Can Microsoft survive post-PC era?

Posted: 14 Jul 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:post-PC era? Microsoft OS? software? x86?

If I had to place a bet, I'd say Intel Corp. will survive the post-PC era pretty much intact, but I am not so sure about Microsoft. That's what I am thinking as I head to a mobile technology conference in San Francisco.

Interestingly, no one from Intel is speaking at the event and Microsoft has just one slot, which it will use to preview its Windows Mobile 7 OS. The conference is hosting chip executives from ARM and several of its partners including Marvell and Qualcomm. On the software side, there are speakers from Symbian, Adobe and several from Google.

Indeed, these days the disrupters are the ARM/Android players. Wintel represents the old guard, trying to hang on to its franchise.

I thought Barclays Capital had it right recently when they predicted the new wave of tablets will give ARM/Android vendors a boost at the expense of Wintel. The same may happen circa 2012 in the server sector.

I think this is just the beginning. We are entering an era when people will use many mobile systems, the majority of which will probably not use any form of Windows. Increasingly, the cloud services these systems tap into may not use Windows either.

They may use the x86, however. Intel has done a good job with its Atom design, has been working hard to squeeze it into a smart phone's power budget and has seeded at least one experiment in Atom-based servers. It has also been burning the midnight oil to catch up with the SoC business that ARM and its partners know so well.

In the end, Intel is fully engaged and has the design and manufacturing prowess to drive the x86 into any future computing market. Microsoft has a tougher challengeit must compete with free. In servers that's spelled Linux, and in mobile it is increasingly all about Google Android, the leading of a handful of mobile Linux variants including the Intel/Nokia Meego.

In the mobile market Microsoft is playing catch up, and not doing so well. At best, its Zune is a reasonably distant second to the iPodand very late to market. At worst, it canceled a me-too consumer tablet design and its hip social networking Kin smart phone was a disaster.

No surprise then that Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft's ever loyal OEM partner, bought Palm. I expect to hear more about how HP will use the Palm software at the event.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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