What it is: The PC and Microsoft Windows have been long associated with each other that they’ve been dubbed WinTel. Now that dominance is coming to an end.
Anyone remember when the release of a new version of Windows and a new version of Intel processors was something that immediately boosted sales of new PCs? That’s because in the old days, there were rapid advances in both Windows and Intel processors. A newer Intel processor meant a dramatically faster PC, and a new version of Windows meant upgrading to a new PC to run the new version of Windows, often so you could run the latest version of Microsoft Office as well. Back then, every new version of Windows and Intel processors meant getting a dramatic leap in productivity.
Even after Microsoft released duds like Windows Me, people still keep upgrading to the next version of Windows to run the latest software and bought new PCs to get the latest version of Intel’s processors.
Then Microsoft released Vista in 2007 and it ran so poorly on older PCs and offered zero productivity gains that Microsoft essentially taught the world that it wasn’t necessary to upgrade PCs every few years to get the latest Intel processors and the latest version of Windows. When corporations and consumers alike avoided Vista, Microsoft hurriedly rushed out Windows 7 that gave people a reason to upgrade, but even then a large number of corporations and consumers still stuck with Windows XP. After seeing the pointlessness of Vista, people suddenly realized that newer versions of Windows and newer versions of Intel processors no longer meant dramatically increased productivity. That’s when people decided to either stick with Windows XP or move to Windows 7 and stick with Windows 7.
When Microsoft released Windows 8 with its confusing tile interface and emphasis on tablets, they further alienated the rest of the PC community. One reason so many people stuck with Windows was because they already knew how to use it. When Windows 8 came out, it required such a steep learning curve that Windows was no longer easy for previous Windows users to use. Windows 8 also gave no productivity advantages in return for forcing users to relearn the user interface. Given these obstacles, it didn’t matter how fast Intel processors could run if Windows 8 would hamper your productivity. That’s why so many people avoided Windows 8.
With Windows 10, Microsoft and Intel are trying to recapture the past, but it’s already too late for two reasons. First, Microsoft’s successive disasters of Vista and Windows 8 taught people that upgrading was more of a hassle and a hinderance to productivity than a help, and it was no longer necessary. Second, mobile computing devices like smartphones and tablets are already used by people to do common tasks that used to require a PC such as instant messaging, e-mail, and Internet browsing. With so many people using a smartphone, there’s less of a need to use a PC. Today’s PCs work just fine for common tasks like word processing and spreadsheet analysis. A moderate increase in speed isn’t noticeable for the vast majority of people. Today’s PCs are good enough.
That’s why the recent release of Windows 10 was largely ignored by the media and why Intel’s latest Skylake processors aren’t attracting the same amount of media attention that Intel used to get in the past. It’s because Windows and Intel are no longer the center of the competing universe. Today, mobile and wearable computers are the future and PCs are as ancient as mainframe and minicomputers in the early days of the PC.
Back when PCs were first appearing, mainframe and minicomputer users dismissed PCs as toys. Then PCs became more powerful and more useful since an individual could control a computer as a laptop that he or she could take anywhere. Mainframe and minicomputers were always more powerful than PCs, but the greater convenience of having a personal computer was far more important than raw processing power. Once PCs became powerful enough, nobody thought about mainframe and minicomputers any more except for specialized users.
The same is true with PCs and smartphones. Smartphones are now powerful enough that they can do video editing while being with the user at all times, which PCs can’t offer. Given a choice between relying on a smartphone or a PC, many people can rely on a smartphone. They may still use a PC, but they don’t need a new one every few years like in the past.
The PC era is over. PCs will still be around just like mainframe and minicomputers are still around, but they’re no longer the dominant force in the computer industry any more. Smartphones, tablets, and wearable computers are the future, and that’s where Windows 10 and Intel processors are the weakest.
Watching the decline of the PC is like watching the decline of film. It’s slow, it’s steady, but it’s inevitable. Kodak clung to film for so long that they missed the digital photography revolution when digital cameras could capture pictures just as good as film and then surpass the quality of film. Then digital cameras migrated from dedicated devices to just another feature on a smartphone where smartphone cameras can now capture images that dedicated digital cameras used to capture.
The decline and irrelevance of Kodak foreshadows the decline and irrelevance of Windows and Intel processors. The world has shifted and Windows and Intel have not. If you want to keep up with modern technology, the answer is not Windows or Intel just like the answer to photography is no longer film. The future is already here and it’s only going to get worse for Windows and Intel. It’s inevitable so you can either fight it (and lose) or accept it (and survive). Unlike Microsoft and Intel, your future doesn’t need to be tied to the growing trend away from the WinTel alliance.