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Greg’s Bite: HP & Dell lose market share

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By Greg Mills

My, how things are changing in the PC market. Microsoft’s “rounding error” that amounts to Apple surging spreads to Dell Computer and HP.  

Both of the blockbuster PC makers have seen the market for PCs shrink, even as the economy seems to be recovering. Mike Dell, president of the Dull Computer company, once famously gloated that Apple ought to just sell it assets and return stockholder money and go away quietly. Now, his computer company has a market cap of roughly US$30 billion — or about 10% of Apple’s current value. 

What one has to remember is that consumers buy computers in cycles. We don’t buy a computer every month; we wait a couple of years until our hardware runs into obsolescence or breaks down before we buy a new one. Well, the market is changing from PCs to tablets for a lot of people and no one has a decent tablet but you know who. I noticed Sam’s was selling the iPad 1 yesterday at a discount over the original price. They were sold out of the iPad 2.

People are discovering that Apple products generally just work. Apple has its occasional bump, as in the iOS “tracking gate,” and other minor problems but nothing compared to a falling market of 5% in a quarter lower than projections.  That spells a long-term problem for the PC industry as a whole. The free enterprise market is cruel indeed to those who fail to be nimble and see fundamental changes in their industry.  

We have seen giants such as Kodak struggle to cope with digital photography, Blockbuster struggle with, first, the disk in the mail and then the digital video download in the movie rental market. We have seen printed page publishers struggle with the ebook development. We have seen the music industry convert to the iTunes method of marketing. These are painful and disruptive changes in an entire sector of the economy. It is just starting in the PC industry.

The PC market is taking a beating not as much due to a lack of tablet hardware as tablet software and a complete platform required to beat Apple. In the past the PC industry was content to let Microsoft provide the operating software and let them just pump out the beige boxes. Microsoft sleeping at the switch during the smartphone revolution and, amazingly, dismissing the tablet revolution as a passing fad will cost the PC hardware companies dearly.  In addition to locking up the tablet market for the foreseeable future, the Mac OS is also surging.  

Microsoft is floundering and willing to spend its nest egg to buy their way out of the lost leadership position they once held in software operating systems. Windows for the PC will be around, but as the PC market declines, Microsoft will also decline along with it. That has scared Ballmer spitless. That is why they are buying what ever it takes to emulate Apple’s successful structure.  

Will tablets completely wipe out the PC as we know it? I don’t think so, but for a lot of people an iPad makes a lot of sense. There are limitations inherent with tablets, but most people would get by just fine with one. We have seen a lot of development in tablets and will see more as the market matures.  

Keep in mind in year two of PCs we were talking black and white, 128MB, cathode ray devices as big as a microwave. Apple’s smaller computer came along and made owning a personal computer possible for the masses. The tablet computer form factor development is far faster by comparison.

In addition to the PC industry not having a viable tablet OS yet (the Android HoneyComb is really still in development and crashes a lot) there isn’t the off-the-shelf solution for a tablet OS. Microsoft has tried and failed to deliver a decent Windows OS with a touch user interface.

I know such devices have been launched or promised, but they all seem to lack the smoothness consumers demand. Bill Gates and Ballmer both were so convinced the tablet touch OS was a loser, it took them a long time to see the coming market swing towards the iPad was more than just a fad or rounding error.  

On the Android smartphone OS, news is that it is not secure when hooked up to Wi-Fi. iOS isn’t affected.  

Thats Greg’s Bite for today.

(Greg Mills is currently a graphic and Faux Wall Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. Greg is an Extra Class Ham Radio Operator, AB6SF, iOS developer and web site designer. He’s also working on a solar energy startup using a patent pending process for turning waste dual pane glass window units into thermal solar panels used to heat water see: www.CottageIndustrySolar.com Married, with one daughter, Greg writes for intellectual property web sites and on Mac/Tech related issues. See Greg’s art web site at http://www.gregmills.info He can be emailed at gregmills@mac.com )

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