The general consensus seems to be that we are slowly, but surely, moving towards a truly mobile world. In this new world even laptops are considered old fashioned and not portable enough. We use our smartphones and tablet computers (and HUD glasses if Google is asked) for our computing needs. Laptops are only used very seldom for serious work, such as writing a book or coding Facebook games. Only really serious people such as animators or stockbrokers use desktops. Others consider them antique or in a best-case scenario have never even heard of them. Of course this all is still few years away but the transition has already started. Laptop, tablet computer and smartphone sales are up, whereas desktop sales are down and will continue to be so in the coming years as well. There is no escaping the fact that this transition will eventually happen. How long it will take is just a matter of taste. According to Apple we are already living in a post-PC world.
I started this article by saying that Windows 8 matters. Why? Because it really does. There are people who are so convinced and will do anything to convince you that the post-PC world is already here and the “war” is over. Just like on the famous speech given on the deck of USS Abraham Lincoln there is no truth in this argument. The “war”, if you can call it that, hasn’t in many ways even started yet. So what am I on about? There’s a lot of talk about ecosystems and app stores and the amount of apps in each store etc. Apple is leading; Google’s Android is following (or the other way, depending on what is measured and how). It’s a two horse race and Microsoft is not invited. This is essentially the atmosphere at the moment. But if you really think about it you start to realize that it doesn’t really make any sense.
Android has been a massive success. Which is actually a bit of a surprise but then on the other hand not. Originally Android was supposed to be a BlackBerry type of OS for BlackBerry type of devices i.e. phones with keyboards. Luckily for Google Apple introduced iPhone in 2007 and Google was quick to realise that trying to copy BlackBerry OS was stupid, when you could instead copy the iPhone. So, they changed their “source of inspiration” and introduced the Android that we know and love/hate today. You could well argue that it was in fact Apple that created the demand for Android. Largely Android is the mass-market, Toyota version of the Mercedes-Benz iPhone. Android was not the first on the market but it was the first to offer an alternative to the iPhone. So far, Android has been a major success. However, and maybe even surprisingly, Google has not been able to reproduce the success that it has had with smartphones to tablet computers. When it comes to Android tablets, consumers are just not interested. And I think I know why. Putting it bluntly, I believe the answer is simply that consumers just don’t care about Android. But how can this be? Android smartphones are selling like crazy. My argument is that Android smartphones are selling despite of Android rather than because of Android. When a normal consumer (i.e. not you) walks into a store to buy a new phone that is exactly what they want to buy – a phone. Not an Android phone. They have a rough idea what they want the phone to do; Facebook, web, e-mail, IM, take photos and act as a phone. Oh, and it has to look nice. Then it is up to the sales clerk to sell something that fits these requirements and the customer’s budget. Today that phone in most cases just happens to run on Android. Besides, there seems to be a fundamental difference in how smartphones and tablets are perceived. You could well argue that today the only real differentiator between a smartphone and a tablet computer is the physical size. Yet, smartphones are still generally seen “only” as phones, whereas tablet computers are more-or-less regarded as computers. And this is where Windows steps in.
I wrote in my previous article that both Apple and Microsoft are taking steps to merge their mobile and desktop operating systems in the long run. Apple is approaching this challenge by adding elements from iOS to OS X, whereas Microsoft has boldly decided to revamp Windows in its entirety. Like it or not, but the new Metro UI with its colourful tiles is what you will be using in the future. This is the way 90% of people will be using their computers from now on. If you are a PC or an Xbox user there will be no escaping the tiles. Microsoft will tile up your life for good.
If we really are moving towards a post-PC world then doesn’t that mean that eventually mobile operating systems will replace desktop operating systems? And if so, isn’t it realistic to assume that the fittest, the most popular, the one with the biggest developer support and the largest ecosystem would be the one that would be the most attractive to the consumers also in the future? When comparing together all the operating systems on the market today: Mac OS X has about 5% of the market, iOS has 2%, Linux is at 1% and Android is at just 0.5%. Although iOS and Android seem to be the hot topics of the day, the fact is that Windows with its 90% market share is still dominating the market left, right and center.
With Windows 8 the line between a tablet OS and a computer OS is not just blurred, it’s gone. Just think about it. If we really are moving towards a post-PC world, wouldn’t that mean that all the millions of PCs from countless different manufacturers, offered at every possible price point and sold literally everywhere would in the future, more or less, be replaced by tablet computers? Is there anything that would suggest that around 90% of these computers would not be continuing to ship with Windows?
Windows 8 will likely hit Apple in the face, but Apple being Apple they will get over it. They have more money in the bank than most countries, which will keep them feeling pretty good about themselves. Apple can keep doing what they do and leave world domination plans to Microsoft. The unfortunate victim in preserving the status quo is Google. They’ve had years to find a way to catch up with Apple but have essentially come up with nothing. That’s too bad for Google because Windows 8 will most likely kill Android on tablets for good. Unlike Apple and Microsoft, Google has no desktop OS market share that it could benefit from and that it could try to convert into tablet users. Being free probably won’t help Android either. Just think about Linux and how well the “being free” has worked out for it. Android’s future as anything more than a smartphone OS is therefore very questionable indeed. It might even be that overtime having just a smartphone OS is simply not enough. Apple will continue to have a strong ecosystem that covers both smartphones and computers (i.e. tablets) and so will Microsoft. If consumers really do not choose an Android device because of its operating system but for other reasons, it means that the device could just as well be sporting some other OS. Then why not go with something familiar? Say, something that you are already accustomed to in your computer or home entertainment system? With Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 Microsoft makes answering these two questions very simple to a huge amount of people.
With Windows 8 Microsoft is essentially changing the name of the game and showing it is not kidding around. It’s no longer iOS, Android, Windows Phone but Windows versus the rest. Welcome to the post post-PC era.
[EDIT] Click the link below to check out the amazing comments and join the discussion!
[EDIT II] One of my favorite sites, All About Windows Phone, has published their take on the article on their site. Go check it out! >> AAWP