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The PC Lives -- No Matter What Steve Jobs Says

The PC era is over. Didn't you know? The smartphone, the tablet computer and various other touch-screen devices have made it obsolete -- or they will soon, anyway. So says Steve Jobs, and Steve Jobs is never wrong…is he?

Maybe he isn't. He said this week that PCs would soon be like trucks. Check out this passage from the Seattle PI blog linked above: "The PC, Jobs suggested, will assume the role of niche workhorse as the touch-screen user interface -- best illustrated, so far, by the iPhone and iPad -- grows in maturity and usefulness."

Steve Jobs obviously isn't from Texas if he thinks that trucks are niche workhorses (not his exact words, we realize, but we think that the PI captured his point), whatever that means. But what if they were? Trucks are still incredibly useful, and manufacturers can still make big money off of them. Maybe that's exactly what Microsoft should do -- stop chasing Apple and Google in consumer search and devices, and focus on Windows, Office, enterprise technologies and the cloud.

Of course, we've been saying this here for a long time: The harder Microsoft tries to be cool, the more it fails in its effort. The vast majority of Microsoft's consumer-oriented creations not named Windows and Office have been money losers. So, let Apple make toys. Microsoft can make serious technology for serious users -- enterprises and the like. Would that be so bad? Not for most partners, it wouldn't.

Still, we don't see the PC going away anytime soon, given that Windows 7 is actually selling pretty well and given that Google's Chrome OS, now due this fall, is going to target…laptops! You remember those, right? We used to use them before we all sold our trucks and bought iPads. Or something like that.

Ray Ozzie is out now preaching that PCs are still relevant. But that's not really the point, is it? Relevant is such a hipster word -- it doesn't matter how "relevant" PCs are with iPad users (although we're guessing that most iPad owners also have at least one laptop of some sort). What matters is that Microsoft and its partners know how to make money off of selling Windows and Office for PCs -- which will likely be staple in the enterprise (at least) for some time to come -- along with keeping companies up-to-date with products such as Windows Server and offerings such as Azure.

In other words, Microsoft should stop trying to be everything to everybody and stop trying to steal everybody's share of every market. Focus on core products -- improve them, make them necessary and indispensable (like Windows 7). And get Azure and the various cloud offerings up and running. Forget about being cool or trying to catch Apple in cuteness or in market share. Let Apple crank out sports cars. Enterprise partners and customers drive trucks, anyway.

Do you see the PC disappearing anytime soon? Answer at lpender@rcpmag.com. And, yes, we will run reader e-mails again one of these weeks. Promise.

Posted on June 03, 2010 at 11:56 AM


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