None of this means the PC is doomed, but, as a general-purpose, go-to computing solution, PCs face a serious threat from tablets, especially the iPad. Microsoft must respond with an OS that makes sense for tablets.
Understanding Microsoft's Angle
You might argue that Microsoft should have left Windows alone while building a separate tablet OS on the side. But who would use the latter?
Apple iPadWindows PC users would have little incentive to switch, which leaves Microsoft to figure out how to lure prospective iPad buyers. That's a tall order, and it certainly hasn't worked out for Android tablets, which aren't selling very well.
Instead of going that route, Microsoft is using Windows 8 to force the transition for anyone who buys a new PC.
As Technologizer's Harry McCracken pointed out a year ago, Microsoft's transition to Windows 8 is as radical a change as the company's move from DOS to Windows 3.0. Then, as now, Microsoft had to tread lightly, letting people fall back onto their old software and old ways of doing things.
But, over time, the old way got phased out. Today's command prompt is but a distant relative of the DOS version, and most Windows users never go near it.
Microsoft is banking on the chance that, as it redefines Windows, it can guide users through their own transitions. If you've used a PC your entire computing life, changing OSes means throwing away all the keyboard shortcuts you've learned, as well as losing all your USB accessories, the file system, and the eponymous windows.
Windows 8 lets you keep all those things while it introduces something new.
From here, the future of Windows could play out in a few ways:
One possibility would be for Microsoft to concede defeat. Instead of forcing users to adopt the new Windows interface, Microsoft could give users the option to boot directly into the desktop, launch programs through an old-school Start menu, and maybe even bring back the Start button.
With Windows 8, Microsoft offers the possibility of one device that handles both desktop and tablet needs, without the need for remote desktop applications. Splitting up the OS would eliminate that advantage.
This might be possible in the distant future, but right now Microsoft's strategy hinges on exposing everyone to the new user interface, so I wouldn't expect a split any time soon. Besides, businesses have taken a liking to the iPad, even as they continue to rely on desktop software.
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