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Wintel under siege as mobile and Android ascend at Computex

Michael Kan and James Niccolai | June 7, 2013
Many of the hot products at Computex this week are non PC devices running Android.

"We are very committed to Windows 8; we think it's a great operating system, but we see a market for Android and Chrome developing as well," said Lisa Su, an AMD senior vice president and general manager.

Wintel has been on the wane in computing for years. Apple's iOS has been part of the reason. There were plenty of Android devices at Computex in 2011, but they were mainly low quality products from unknown vendors. Last year, the PC industry launched a major counter-offensive, built around Windows 8 and Intel's ultrabook formula for touchscreen laptops.

But they and a myriad of other twisting, folding, convertible designs have failed to ignite sales, and the PC market is in one of the worst slumps in its history.

Analysts say Windows 8 bears part of the blame. A shortage of new apps, a confusing user interface and high tablet prices have put off users, said IDC analyst Dickie Chang. Windows RT, the version for low-power ARM chips, has also failed to gain much support. Some consumers returned their RT devices when they discovered they couldn't run traditional Windows apps, Chang said.

"Nobody is talking about Windows RT," he said. Taiwan's PC makers are instead using the more traditional version of Windows so it doesn't get "confusing" for customers.

For sure, the PC industry isn't down and out. Microsoft and Intel each have new versions of their core products at the show, with Microsoft promoting Windows 8.1, which aims to addresses some of the criticism of the current OS, and Intel pushing its Haswell chips, which it says will offer double the battery life of Ivy Bridge.

Microsoft has reduced its license fees so that PC makers can offer cheaper Windows tablets, and there are some innovative products at the show. Acer introduced the first 8-inch Windows tablet, the Iconia W3, and there are new hybrids and convertibles like Dell's XPS 11.

The problems for Wintel shouldn't be overstated, Intel executive vice president Dadi Perlmutter said in an interview this week. "There are going to be a lot of Windows-based products in the next few years. I don't think [Wintel] is collapsing," he said.

But PCs have not been driving the market for a long time. No single platform dominates any more, and users are gravitating to whatever system gives the best experience. "There are no more computers; it's all about computing," Acer Chairman J.T. Wang said at the company's press conference, acknowleging a shift in buyers' mind-sets.

And analysts expect to see more non-Windows devices from PC makers in the future, including potentially more laptops and desktops running Google's Android OS.

"PC sales are very slow," said Tracy Tsai, an analyst with research firm Gartner. "The vendors here want to diversify."

(Agam Shah contributed to this report)


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