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BLOG: The death of the PC: Invented by Apple, accelerated by Microsoft

Galen Gruman | April 12, 2013
Apple's iPad was designed to change computing, but Microsoft's bungling of Windows dramatically hastened the progress

I fully believe Apple saw this transition taking five to 10 years -- certainly, the pace of cross-pollination between iOS and OS X suggests that.

Microsoft's bungling created a PC no one wanted
Then Microsoft sped up the process by being stupid, making the Windows PC undesirable just as the post-PC alternatives began surging in popularity. As a result, mobile sales (iOS and Android) are booming -- tablets will outsell PCs this year. Apple's Macs may be caught in the overall PC downdraft as well, though at half the pace, according to IDC, which says global Mac sales last quarter declined 7.5 percent versus 13.9 percent for PCs overall. Gartner estimates a 7.4 percent increase in global Mac sales, though -- the two research firms are often out of sync on Mac sales estimates, so we'll find out on April 23 when Apple reports hard sales numbers.

Microsoft had been trying to create a tablet market for more than a decade before the iPad arrived, but its pen versions of Windows XP, Vista, and 7 were awkward to use, and the hardware was clunky. It had no sense of how to treat a touchscreen device, so it stuck a touchscreen on a flat laptop running the same old Windows.

When the iPad came along and showed that you needed to think different to get different, Microsoft panicked. It put its Office chief, Steve Sinofksy, in charge of the new Windows, later to be called Windows 8, and he led the creation of a new Windows user interface code-named Metro based on the Windows Phone UI that really did adopt a radically different approach to touch computing.

That made sense, but Microsoft decided it couldn't break from the past so dramatically, as Apple had done in iOS, though it was derived from OS X. So Microsoft married Windows 7 and Windows 8's Metro UI into what my colleague J. Peter Bruzzese -- a real Windows aficionado -- labeled "Windows Frankenstein."

Windows 8's early promise went unfulfilled

The decision to bring the past along with the future wasn't itself stupid. When I first saw the plans for Windows 8, I thought that a successful melding could really take on the iPad, as it would help ease the shift for existing Windows users -- all 1 billion of them. But execution is everything, and Windows 8 is a really bad mix of Windows 7 and Metro, requiring way too much work and mental adjustments. Everyone I know who's tried it hates it. The extremely poor sales -- worse than the bad Vista -- show most people feel the same way.


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