Attracting the attention of the Taiwan PC builders may be critical.
Reports have indicated that Intel's Haswell chip is also expected to launch soon, most likely timed to coincide with Computex. The Haswell family of chips offers up to 50 percent more battery life than Intel's previous-generation processors, the current "Ivy Bridge" chips, Intel recently said. AMD plans its own response to the Haswell onslaught, with the Temash, Kabini, and Richland chips.
Rakesh said that he didn't believe that Haswell would have as much impact as the Windows 8.1/Blue refresh.
Loren Loverde, IDC's principal analyst who authored the latest report, said in an email that demonstrating "attractive and capable devices at competitive prices" would be the most important factor in the success of PCs built around Windows Blue, as far as businesses were concerned. Because enterprises typically evaluate a new OS over a period of about a year, they won't rush to adopt any new upgrade, he wrote.
"Since Win 8 is so consumer/touch focused, we don't see it as much of a driver for enterprise," Loverde wrote. "Rather, they will update as forced by hardware replacement and to avoid security update issues with XP."
One of the problems that Microsoft faces is that Taiwan isn't exactly wedded to the PC market. Companies like Asus, for example, originated as motherboard makers, expanding into other segments of the computing business in an effort to expand. Those same companies haven't shied away from further expanding their businesses by building tablets for companies such as Google. The proportion of tablets to PCs showcased in the booths of big-name Asian hardware makers will be a key indicator of the role each category—tablet versus PC—is expected to play in the months ahead.
More worrisome will be how those hardware makers view competition from Microsoft itself. Acer, for example, notoriously complained about Microsoft's presence in the hardware market, with products like the Surface that competed against Acer's own Windows tablets.
By the end of the month, we'll know what Windows Blue looks like, when Microsoft is expected to release a preview version at its BUILD conference in San Francisco. It's a shame that Computex won't be held after that. The response to Blue, filtered through the actual hardware makers who will be asked to support it, will go a long way to shaping opinion on Microsoft's OS refresh.
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