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The Fall of Wintel and the Rise of Armdroid 431

Posted by Soulskill
from the upgrading-the-portmanteau dept.
hype7 writes "The Harvard Business Review is running a very interesting article on how this year's CES marked the end of the Wintel platform's dominance. Their argument is that tablets are going to disrupt the PC, and these tablets are predominantly going to be running on Google's Android powered by ARM processors — 'Armdroid.' Quoting: 'Both Microsoft and Intel have suffered from the same problem that most successful companies face when dealing with disruption. They cannot find a way to profitably invest in low-end offerings. Think about it from Microsoft's point of view: now that Windows 7 has been developed, to sell another copy, they don't have to do a single thing. Because of this, it becomes very hard for any executive to advocate the complete development of a low cost OS that will run on tablets: not only would it cost Microsoft a lot to develop, but it would result in cannibalization of its core product sales. Intel has the exact same issue. Why focus on Atom, or an even lower-end chip, when there is so much more margin to be made by focusing on its multi-core desktop processors?'"
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The Fall of Wintel and the Rise of Armdroid

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @09:12AM (#34914818) Journal
    About Microsoft's first foray into the tablet market the article says:

    Their tablet should have been about disrupting the PC market with something light, cheap and simple. Instead, Microsoft tried to make it do everything.

    Okay, so we establish that tablets have a subset of functionality as PCs. I agree with this, I don't do software development, word processing or gaming on a tablet. But then the article notes that tablets herald the end of PCs. So are we expecting the software makers to bridge that gap that prevents me from playing World of Warcraft, writing a book in Word or LibreOffice, coding in Radrails, etc? I just don't see that happening. I think there's a fundamental hardware issue with capacitive touch. I am not certain it will ever get to the point where I feel comfortable doing serious work or serious gaming using a glassy surface as my input device. Maybe I'm getting old but I just have never been impressed with even the latest cellphone displays and their response.

    I would speculate that most tablet users are first PC users at home and at the office. The tablet is a subset of the desktop computer and it's hard to reach all levels of functionality with only a tablet. So I would almost argue that tablets will bite into the PC market only in markets with people who just need a computer to surf the internet, play casual games and maybe e-mail. In my opinion, it's highly likely that Wintel and Armdroid will continue to coexist for many years with different functional targets.

    this year's CES marked the end of the Wintel platform's dominance

    There's potential but if you counted all the Wintel machines in use right now and all the Armdroid devices in use right now, I would bet Wintel would retain dominance in numbers. It's fun to get exited when it makes sense to you that this should happen but the reality is that Wintel still sits comfortably above a throne of untouchable marketshare.

    • by Zouden (232738) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @09:34AM (#34914936)

      Indeed. Here's my prediction: in 5 year's time, most people will still be using desktops/laptops running Windows on an Intel chip. The rise of tablets really isn't going to disrupt things as much as columnists like to claim. But "Status Quo to Remain Unchanged!" is not a very compelling headline.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mwvdlee (775178)

        Whether it'll be a traditional desktop or laptop running Windows on Intel, I am not certain. But we WILL be using a full-sized keyboard and mouse to control it.

        • Agreed. Who cares whether the processing power is housed in a mid-tower PC case or in the smartphone in your pocket (connected to the desktop monitor and input devices via wireless HDMI and Bluetooth or some other standards)?

          See Motorola Atrix for an idea of the direction we'll be taking. Hell, if my Desire had video out I'd already be using it that way - bluetooth HID keyboards and mice are available and work fantastically with CyanogenMod (use them with RDP mainly).

          • by cbope (130292)

            Sorry, I disagree, and there's the problem outlined in your last sentence. Why the fuck should you need to hack or modify something, to add missing functionality like a bluetooth keyboard or mouse to such a device? It clearly needs alternative input devices and it's great that you and I can mod it, but the point is it shouldn't be necessary. Joe Sixpack isn't going to do that. Your 61-year old mother certainly isn't going to do that.

            This issue is closely related to the walled-garden approach that most of th

            • But Jo Sixpack and your Mother are not going to upgrade the desktop either. They are about as relevant as a Somalian in this market.
            • What problem? The Atrix is a complete package that doesn't require modification...

              Current smartphone hardware that doesn't have these features built right in? Yep, of course you'll need to mod it if you're planning on hooking up a keyboard, mouse (although a few manufacturers are starting to add their own Bluetooth HID profiles to Android devices) and monitor for use as a PC. What did you expect?

              And as for Joe Sixpack - don't you think he'd be perfectly satisfied with a tablet and an XBox for the big screen

            • by Lumpy (12016)

              It's also following a flawed thought pattern.

              Why are people thinking that their phone is going to be their only PC. that is a really stupid idea. I want far more storage than my phone will EVER deliver. I want to go home and use my home PC that is faster and has a huge amount of storage. What NEEDS to happen is wireless sync. when my iphone sees I am home, sync with the main PC. Things I want access to while away are easy to get to with services like dropbox and I can always VPN back home and use VNC

      • by grumling (94709)

        But they'll also be using Android/ARM on their phone, Wrist Watch (no watch is just a passing fad until "smart watches" are introduced), TV, DSLR, Coffee Maker, Rice Cooker, Blu-Ray player, kid's toys, NAS, and in-dash sat nav system.

        And that desktop will still be used, but less, since there's all these other screens available. It might not be the "media hub" that MS wants it to be, but it will be used for anything that needs high performance processing (like the "fix it" button on low end photo editing sof

        • by Lumpy (12016)

          "Wrist Watch (no watch is just a passing fad until "smart watches" are introduced), "

          The only smart watches run a windows OS.

          Fossil had the microsoft based smart watches and you can still buy them. They are the only smart watch platform that was not horribly half assed like the palm ones from the late 90's or utter crap like the china junk that is available.

      • I see it a bit differently, I see PC's becoming smaller, maybe losing the keyboard, mouse and display and acting more like small home servers (maybe something like Sheevaplus), left on permantently to act as download managers and act as file servers, perhaps used for home automation.

        Media PCs/Games Consoles interact with the home servers to provide living room entertainment, and the user interface too all of this will be something Tablet like, prehaps with bluetooth keyboard and mouse for more serious dat
      • I disagree, both with the Intel part as well as the tablet part. Look out how popular the iPad is? Its only a matter of time until someone comes up with an awesome text recognition or formula recognition application and you can transcribe notes digitally from your handwriting and about 50 percent of students and/or engineers will suddenly have one (or the Android equivalent). Think of how many people need a notepad to take down notes in meetings or classes or need a engineering notebook to draw schematics e
      • by nurd68 (235535)

        Why? What (for example) precludes ARM desktops running Linux?

      • No kidding (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @10:19AM (#34915458)

        Something that the tech journalists who get infatuated with tablets seem to fail to consider is that they are lousy devices for content creation. They are good for passive experiences. If you want to surf the web or maybe watch a video (though a TV is better for that) they work great. However the more interactivity that is called for, the less useful they are. When you get to content creation, and by this I mean even simple things like writing an e-mail, they are not very good. They CAN do it, but not near as well as a regular PC.

        A tablet can't match a keyboard, mouse, and monitor for entering information. This is because the keyboard is an efficient means of entry, and has tactile feedback, and you can be looking at what you are doing without your hands occluding part of your view.

        So a tablet is fine as a toy, and for some special productivity purposes, but it lousy for most general work related things. That alone means that computers aren't going anywhere. Even if homes became 100% tablet, offices wouldn't because you need to get shit done there. Managers are not at all going to be interested in moving over to tablets and then have everything slow to a crawl as people's typing speed (among other things) goes through the floor.

        I don't see computers doing anywhere any time soon, particularly not in favour of tablets. We've got a few people at work that have iPads and they amount to nothing but toys. They all crow about how wonderful they are, but all they do with them were things they already did with their laptops, and none of them have gotten rid of their laptops and kept just the tablet. That's all well and good, but it is quite clear tablets are not something that is allowing them to dump traditional computers.

        • Something that the tech journalists who get infatuated with tablets seem to fail to consider is that they are lousy devices for content creation.

          Only for a limited definition of content. For drawing they are far superior to laptops.

          Even for writing they can be better, because they are so compact. I prefer taking short notes on a tablet.

          For longer writing, you can attach (wirelessly or wired) a keyboard. How many times do you have to write something really long? For most people that is not a common case.

        • I have to agree, though as a thin-client, I think the Arm+Chrome may be a possible solution as more and more internal office applications become web based.. though Outlook Web is in serious need of some updating. I think that there is some potential in that space... I don't think that the Tablet form factor will rule out for all computing usage for a long time to come. We still don't have voice recognition that's accurate enough for general use, and gestural input has a long way to go as well. I did kno
      • by TheLink (130905)
        If brain-computer interfaces become common, tablet computers will probably go extinct - who needs a midsized screen when the screen appears in your mind, and you can share data/objects by just sending them to the recipient's brain-augmenter (like telepathy). Who needs touch-sensitive stuff, when you control stuff (including the environment via local/area services) by using thought-macros.

        But I bet powerful non-portable personal computers will still be around - home servers to help you do "magic", store, bac
    • by MrHanky (141717)

      Exactly. And it's amazing that a business journal is unable to see past the transparent hype. I'm sure they believe the Segway will replace cars as well. Morons.

      • I'm sure they believe the Segway will replace cars as well.

        It totally will. We just have to perfect that cliff-avoidance algorithm.~

        Also, Howdy Ho, Mr. Hanky!

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      There's at least one model of tablet coming out that has a dock to connect with a keyboard. So for home use, I could type on the physical keyboard of my choice, perhaps navigate with the optical mouse of my choice (and maybe connect a large monitor? awesome!), and do nearly everything I do on my home PC. There's very little I can do on my Ubuntu laptop (my current primary home PC) that I couldn't apparently do on a Honeycomb tablet. Give me an app to burn CDs and DVDs (is there one? I don't know), an app
      • by jedidiah (1196)

        > Give me an app to burn CDs and DVDs (is there one? I don't know), an app for P2P
        > downloading, multi-tabbed full-html browsing with flash, and multi-tasking ...and here is the crux of the matter. Some people want an overgrown walkman and understand that this is what they are getting in a "tablet".

        Actual consumers are fine with this while platform partisans try to shout down anyone that brings this up.

        Meanwhile some people want their mobile devices to be "real PCs" including access to whatever periph

      • by bfree (113420)
        A dock? Just give me a proper usb host port or three. In fact there are already cheap tablets out there with both a usb host port and hdmi so what more do you want other then a decent software stack on top of it?
    • by poetmatt (793785)

      I think the wording of the article is a bit extreme, but the message is clear:

      PC's are being disrupted and arm/android is taking over a lot of the result.

      I don't expect gaming, development, or PC's themselves to go away (if ever), but to expect the market to focus elsewhere is exactly what I got from the article.

      Whether you're impressed with cellphones or not, you're missing the explosion of performance that has come with them. ARM chips, in the past 3-4 years, have gone from 400-450mhz Pentium 3 equivalent

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        No. ARMs are still stuck in the Pentium 300Mhz era. It's just that specialty silicon hides this for some uses.

        This is great for those "some uses" but quickly falls apart elsewhere.

        ARM still has a long way to go in terms of raw horsepower. It's also not helped by the fact that we seem fixated on computationally intense "standards" like h264 that only drive the need for much more powerful gear (CPU & GPU) than ARM offers.

      • by rcs1000 (462363) * <rcs1000@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @10:46AM (#34915810)

        ARM chips are improving enormously, and there's no doubt that the ARM9 instruction set is significantly more elegant than Intel.

        However, I'd be a little cautious about assuming that Intel/x86 will be threatened any time soon.

        I run Debian on a TI OMAP @ 800Mhz. It started as an experiment to see if I could transition my desktop to ARM. It ended as a VPN router sitting on my network (performing the extremely useful service of fooling certain US VOD sites as to my geographic location...).

        ARM chips are highly optimized for one particular feature set: extremely low-power mobile computing.
        Intel chips are highly optimized for another: Windows/Linux on the desktop.

        Almost all x86 has extremely sophisticated branch prediction to minimize calls to (slow) DRAM. ARM9 has pretty simple branch prediction. You will have far, far more cache misses on an ARM9 chip than on x86. So, to maintain performance for a given clock speed, you'll need to add on-die cache. Which starts getting pretty expensive. And the branch prediction on Intel is specifically geared around the way Windows (and to a lesser extent Linix) works. Unless Windows is completely re-written, or ARM ceases to be a low-cost chip, it's hard to see how ARM can offer equivilent performance at the same clock-speed as x86. For this reason (as well as the fact that ARM Windows will lack any kind of compatibility layer), I am pretty pessimistic about Windows on ARM - or indeed, ARM penetrating the desktop market.

        And I am equally pessimistic about Intel succesfully getting into phones and tablets. When running at low loads, ARM chips are extraordinarily efficient. Intel has made a big fuss about its HUGI ("Hurry Up and Get Idle") efforts. But, of course, this is incredibly misleading. Most of the time an ARM core is doing something... just not very much. Will consumers accept a phone or tablet with 50% less battery life (or worse) for an Intel Inside logo? I think not.

          Of course, ARM has another advantage (which is also, tangentially, a disadvantage). ARM does not make its own processors - it licenses its core designs to nVidia/Samsung/TI/Qualcomm/etc. This means that we can see an incredibly diversity of ARM-based products. Qualcomm can offer ARM cores with integrated 3G baseband. nVidia can add a couple of graphics processors, and call it Tegra 2. This means that ARM cores can be used in more applications, and more flexibly.

        But it also means that ARM cores will be at least one line-width generation behind Intel. Intel has a very efficient design and *internally* build structure, with the best process technology in the industry. Which means 32nm Intel chips battle 42nm ARM ones. It was this process disadvantage that did for AMD, and it means that ARM will struggle against Intel in desktop. It is tough to compete on cost when someone else has a 50% higher transistor density for the same cost.

        Wrapping up: ARM is fantastically well positioned for the fast growing tablet and smartphone markets; and Intel has a surprisingly defensible position in desktop/server chips.

        • by Svartalf (2997)

          Don't bet on the defensible position for Intel.

          You're comparing things to a Cortex-A8, based on your lead-up there. That's roughly like comparing an i5 to an Atom, really. Not the same beast. And the observed behavior doesn't match up with what the A9 or the A15 is going to perform like.

          Think of it as being roughly like a PIII at clock, about like the Atoms have been. As such, you're talking about a PIII-800MHz machine in performance with your claimed configuration. Unlike the Intel solutions (even Ato

    • by LS (57954)

      What about android devices with full size screens and keyboards? How does that fit into your argument?

      • by falsified (638041)

        That's a laptop without a hinge, so I have to go find something to support the screen. At the airport, that isn't happening.

    • by ArcherB (796902)

      . I think there's a fundamental hardware issue with capacitive touch. I am not certain it will ever get to the point where I feel comfortable doing serious work or serious gaming using a glassy surface as my input device.

      My problem with using the screen as an input device is that my hand tends to cover part of the screen. When you're talking about a screen that is 4-10 inches diagonal anyway, screen real estate is at a premium. The only way for tablets to take over for the some of the tasks you described, word processing and gaming, it will have to be able to accept external input devices. A dedicated game pad for games, for example will take tablet gaming a long way. The same for a keyboard and maybe even a mouse will

    • by falsified (638041)

      Tablets, in the style of the iPad or the recent Android models, just aren't useful for 8-10 hours of real work. I would say that almost anyone who has to work on a computer for their job needs to have more than one window open, too. It's hard to pull that off and maintain any level of productivity on a 7" or 10" screen.

      I'm thinking of getting one to bring to meetings and such as a replacement for my bulky laptop, since I can type notes faster than I can write them (plus being able to record what's going on

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        If you had a speedy tablet capable of driving an external display simultaneously to the internal one then you could carry it around between desks and cars, not to mention using it when you're not near any infrastructure.

    • by g2devi (898503)

      I think what the author of the article has a vague idea that the interface and use will be scalable.

      Essentially, the tablet should function on its own, but if you wanted to, you could hook in a real physical keyboard (as some models currently allow) and possibly an external monitor (as nearly all laptops allow).

      If you think about it, there's little need to have several devices when one will do. A decade and a half ago, IBM demoed a device (I believe it was called "the cube") which took this to the extreme.

    • Okay, so we establish that tablets have a subset of functionality as PCs. I agree with this, I don't do software development, word processing or gaming on a tablet. But then the article notes that tablets herald the end of PCs. So are we expecting the software makers to bridge that gap that prevents me from playing World of Warcraft, writing a book in Word or LibreOffice, coding in Radrails, etc? I just don't see that happening. I think there's a fundamental hardware issue with capacitive touch. I am not certain it will ever get to the point where I feel comfortable doing serious work or serious gaming using a glassy surface as my input device. Maybe I'm getting old but I just have never been impressed with even the latest cellphone displays and their response.

      I don't expect tablets to be the end of PCs, but I think tablets will replace the PC as the primary computing device for your average user. Especially if average user does not need to do serious work. Where Apple differed than MS in tablets is in the approach. For MS, the tablet was just another PC with a touch screen. And for 10 years, that's how they designed and marketed it. Apple came from a different approach; the tablet was a device. To Apple, the tablet was an extension of the PC with focused m

  • by Compaqt (1758360) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @09:24AM (#34914884) Homepage

    Maybe the much-awaited Linux surge isn't going to be in desktops but on mobile devices. Increasingly, people have become resigned to the fact that their portable computing devices aren't going to (and don't have to) look like the PC at work.

    Android and Meego (when it finally ships) are harbingers of the trend.

    • by Organic_Info (208739) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @09:44AM (#34914994)

      I really hope so, but I'm loosing faith that the popular Linux distributions will actually break out from their server (and to a small extent desktops) stronghold.

      It's the OEM device manufacturers, if you look at the netbook/laptots debabcle, outside the rather significant Wintel strangulation, each OEM decided to roll their own or partner with some no name distribution for their initial Linux offerings which IMHO resulted in a rather poor consumer experience.

      This gave Wintel their opportunity to get in a take control. You can see it happening again with Android, the frequently talked about fracturing of the platform will be matched by the plethroa of App Stores which are going to spring up.

      Reviews of the Toshiba AC-100 all say the same thing great hardware (with some odd keyboard decisions) badly let down by the Android implementation and slef rolled App Store.

      Unless an ARM OEM device and Android (or a popular big Linux distribtion) presents a decent consumer experience this will just be another "Year of the Linux..." meme in the making.

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      look at how many android devices we have. All of them run linux. Yet you don't hear about it being calculated in global OS marketshare all the time, yet they're there. Counted separately as "mobile OS".

      Microsoft is hurting from this, bigtime. Seeing Execs drop like flies is an enormous sign of looming problems. [rcpmag.com]

      If people stop adding a device to the "Year of linux" thing, they'd realize that from probably 2008-now has easily been "years of explosive linux growth across the board".

    • The linux surge into markets beyond the server started maybe 5 or more years ago.

      For a great deal of desktop use linux is already fully capable of replacing Windows or OS/X but it wont happen. (For anyone whose knickers get bunched due to this statement and feel they need to vent their personal anecdotal rants about their linux desktop experience, don't waste your time, I'm not saying you have to use linux, Windows or OS/X on the desktop, use whatever you prefer, I prefer linux.)

      While the cost of Microsoft'

  • by pcause (209643) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @09:28AM (#34914908)

    The first rule of technology is that "If you don't canabalize your own business, someone else will do it for you". This is the classic tech product/company dilemna and we have lots of examples of dominant #1's who ignored this rule and are gone. Digital? Wang? Visicorp? Borland?

    • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @09:45AM (#34915000)

      The first rule of technology is that "If you don't canabalize your own business, someone else will do it for you". This is the classic tech product/company dilemna and we have lots of examples of dominant #1's who ignored this rule and are gone. Digital? Wang? Visicorp? Borland?

      How about IBM's mainframe dominance in the very early microcomputer era?

      The pity of it, was looking at something like DECs PDP-8 offerings, DECs multi kilodollar software kicked butt over microsoft ROM basic in a typical home PC. Microcomputers beat DEC on hardware, DEC utterly smashed microcomputers in software depth and quality, but DEC wanted like $3000 for a fortran compiler.

      I think one factor of the "wintel" vs "armdroid" not discussed is the typical cost of software is, once again, imploding. The fact that the hardware and underlying OS is nice, but, much like DEC PDP-8 vs the apple II, most people will switch because the software is cheaper (not because its better) Despite not personally finding angry birds to be very entertaining, I do understand that its a bit cheaper than civ 5. Doesn't matter how much they're different, because they both do the same thing, that being wasting time, so the cheaper one will win.

      Which is too bad, because I like the fancy stuff.

      • Digital? - Who?
      • Wang? - Who?
      • Visicorp? - Who?
      • Borland? - Who?

      Man, you can read some weird fucking shit on Slashdot.

      • I hope you are joking. These are all good examples of companies who were #1 at one point. A bit of Googling or a trip to Wikipedia would help you understand. I would add Lotus to the list (the pre-acquisition by IBM Lotus).
        • by Jesus_666 (702802)
          Whooosh. The GP's point is based on that: Nobody who isn't interested in IT far enough to learn the history of once-important but now-dead companies knows who DEC or Wang are. DEC might have created some of the most important computer models ever but nowadays they are of no greater importance to the average person than Kreidler or Vickers-Armstrongs, two similarly once-important but now obscure companies.

          If a company is not in business, expect people not to know about it. Basic history is something many p
    • by uffe_nordholm (1187961) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @09:50AM (#34915044)
      There is a book about this problem: "The innovators dilemma". (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Innovators-Dilemma-Technologies-Cause-Great/dp/0875845851/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1295358384&sr=8-1).

      Shortening the entire book into one sentence, it says that when something new (tablets) comes along, the leaders in the old business (PCs) often have problems adapting to the new market.
  • Whats missing is the ARM-powered linux netbook. Take your typical netbook, remove the expensive ATOM hardware and replace it with a nice ARM SOC (the kind found in things like the iPad or Nokia N900). Run a nice arm-optimized linux distro on it with a full range of software (internet, office, media playback, photography etc) and build in a good range of support for external peripherals so that they work when you plug them in without extra effort (e.g. tethering a mobile phone, connecting a camera, using US

    • by Meneth (872868)
      True. I've been looking for a nice little ARM netbook since 2007, but none of the prototypes I've seen have been available for sale, at least not here in Sweden. I suspect Microsoft have been pressuring manufacturers to stick with Wintel. Hopefully, that will change before I have to buy a new one.
    • I would be somewhat surprised if we saw "stock" linux ARM-books ship in any quantity, given how fast Linux netbooks seem to have withered(though plenty of the ones that ship with Windows do just fine with linux, once loaded).

      On the other hand, if it runs Android and isn't Tivoized or proprietary-blobbed all to hell, it's pretty much ready to run stock linux in the usual sense. I assume that, if only for the sake of attempted differentation, somebody is going to throw an android tablet with a folding keyb
    • by vlm (69642)

      Take your typical netbook, remove the expensive ATOM hardware and replace it with a nice ARM SOC

      The L-users don't care about the chipset. Remove the keyboard instead.

      Although I think the problem is, most people have this expectation that if it looks like a laptop, its going to work like a laptop and run WoW or Word or Photoshop or whatever other windows-based software they want. Tablets are viewed differently because people dont see them as a "computer" in the way they view a netbook.

      See above, remove the keyboard. Thats the difference. You can't convince a L-user that openoffice is the same as word, even if objectively it does the same tasks. Nothing but endless whining about retraining, despite the fact that every release of word needs both retraining and a stack of money. But remove the keyboard and the impact on the UI is enough to kick them into thinking some appstore thing is just the way its done now.

      Same

    • by Fnkmaster (89084)

      You can get a case with built in thin USB keyboard for about $25 for the Viewsonic G Tablet (Tegra 2 Android tablet). A lot of people getting them at XDA Developer forums. Lets you use your tablet as a tablet, or as an Android "netbook" essentially. I think this convertible arrangement is ideal, since it lets a single device function for both media consumption, app running, and light office work/light content creation tasks (Word doc editing, spreadsheet editing, heavier duty emailing than you want to do

    • by Organic_Info (208739) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @09:59AM (#34915152)

      I had high hopes for the Toshiba AC-100 but the reviews all say the same thing great hardware (with some odd keyboard decisions) badly let down by the Android implementation and self rolled App Store.

      I don't understand why the OEMs seem so averse to taking a nice ARM netbook and partnering with one of the large and popular Linux distributions rather than rolling their own poor to unterley crap install or partner with some no name distribution, both of which fail to deliver a decent consumer experience or community.

      ARM have been promising "ARM based laptops/netbooks will be out soon" for the last three years, so far their licensees and the OEMs have failed to deliver.

      I'd say the market is there, I wonder now though if they'll just continue to chase Apple believing locked down tablets to be the market to chase rather than getting back to those of us who are waiting for a decent ARM netbook/laptop.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @09:35AM (#34914942) Journal
    It would require comparatively radical changes(and possibly a cut to precious, precious margins); but it seems to me that both companies have a potential major asset that they could rely on in this "Post-PC" environment:

    For intel's part, their chip designs at the low-power end are mediocre and not as profitable as their Xeons and soak-the-gamers parts. However, their fabs are among the best. Were they to announce that some lucky ARM SoC maker could(for a large pile of quite public cold cash and some quiet restrictions designed to keep their product in tablets and away from Intel's bread and butter) be the only one in the industry to be fabbing their otherwise pedestrian wares on one of the smallest, lowest-power processes in the industry... Doing this would, of course, pretty much scotch their attempts to compete in the area with Atom parts, since their plan has been to die-shrink those until they can compete, so offering the competition matching die-shrinks means that that will take forever; but offering the competition die-shrinks will mean a profit per tablet/phone/whatever now, not in "just a few quarters from now, when cargo pants come back into style".

    For Microsoft's part, it remains to be seen how well "Windows Phone 7" will end up doing; but, if nothing else, they have .NET/Silverlight/XNA, which is theoretically cross platform/cross architecture, and(while Apple would never touch that with somebody else's 10 foot pole), a few modifications would produce something that could be licenced to makers of Android gear that would allow it to run(nearly unmodified) .NET/Silverlight/XNA applications, produced in quantity by MS's generally well regarded developer tools. Not their preferred solution, of course, since selling OSes is more lucrative than selling runtimes(Hey Adobe, how's that "flash lite" licensing revenue working out for you?); but nothing in the relevant licenses would forbid the production of "Android for Enterprise", which takes a more or less stock build of Android; but has support for CLR software and a few interface layers to the android UI/notifications/address book. They've made money selling application software to Mac users for years, so this wouldn't be the world's most shocking departure, if Windows on tablet/phone doesn't really pan out...
  • Windows has never been right for any portable device - phone, tablet, netbook, etc. Name one that has worked well. No news there.

    But, how can anyone possibly say that tablets will be predominatly Android? How is the iPad mentioned only in passing? Apple has already built a HUGE developer base for iOS with the iPhone and iPad. Apple is one of the only huge companies to "invest in low-end offerings", as the article has put it and it's certainly paid off for them. They've been hugely successful in iPhone

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      To be fair, Apple the only "low-end" offering they have is the hardware bit. The price of this "low-end" hardware is still quite "high-end".
      I don't know if Apple is willing to compete at a low price point if they need to; they're used to selling at a high markup.

      • by Luckyo (1726890)

        It's not that Apple doesn't want to compete on price point - it's that it can't. Study the history, and the main reasons why Apple was bankrupt 10 years ago.

        Apple's main selling point is the image associated with its devices, not the device itself. Device obviously has to be fitting the image, i.e. hip, trendy, pretty, usable, etc. But all of these and more are just an afterthought to the image.

        This is why Apple is valued as "one of the most expensive technology companies in the world" if not THE most valua

    • by Eskarel (565631)

      The fundamental problem with iOS development is that it's a huge pain in the ass. The language isn't used on any other platforms, the developer licenses are relatively expensive and you're subject entirely to the whims of a madman when it comes to what kinds of software you can release, and what kinds of features you can use in it. Pretty much everyone who programs for it in any serious way is doing it for the money, and the money is based entirely around the iPad/Pod/Phone being the hot thing right now. If

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      But, how can anyone possibly say that tablets will be predominatly Android? How is the iPad mentioned only in passing?

      Take a look at what is happening to iOS in the handheld market, Android has already passed it and is rapidly on its way to relegating it to footnote status. Is there any reason to believe the same won't happen with tablets?

      The simple truth is that Apple is a follower. OSX never happened until Linux paved the way for desktop Unix. The App Store is a copy of the package management stuff Linux users had enjoyed for years prior. Even Microsoft was stripping down and embedding Windows years before Apple ever tho

  • by js3 (319268)

    I've seen some crazy predictions about mobile lately, common sense says it's a bubble.

    • by eltonito (910528)

      A bubble is likely, but tablets are also a complementary market to the PC. Tablets might have an impact on PC/laptop sales, but they aren't going to spell the death of the platform anymore than Netbooks did.

      And like the mighty tablet, Netbooks were predicted to deliver the death blow for PC's by pretty much every tech blog/zine. They ended up having a slight negative impact on PC sales, and then were banished to the land of the unhip the moment usable, inexpensive tablets hit the market. Netbooks failed

  • I have a coworker who reads Harvard Business Review regularly (or at least, puts it on her desk, I don't know if she actually reads it), so I've been thinking of getting a copy just to see if its any good. I'm glad this article came up because clearly it is not. This article isn't even well researched. This quote is so naive it's almost beyond belief:

    it becomes very hard for any executive to advocate the complete development of a low cost OS that will run on tablets: not only would it cost Microsoft a lot to develop, but it would result in cannibalization of its core product sales

    What???? Have they never heard of WindowsCE? Not only does Microsoft have a low cost OS that will run on tablets, they are actively developing it. Look at what

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Windows CE is a piece of shit and it is not even a contender except in the form of Windows Phone which by Microsoft's own statements will be superseded on future devices by Windows 8. So in fact you are talking from the wrong orifice. I've owned multiple WinCE devices; right now I have an iPaq H2215, a Digital Tech Dt366, and two Magellan GPSes (one of which I have hacked to run other stuff.) They are fucking garbage at all levels but especially the software. Actually, my Dt366 now runs Debian... and I have

      • OpenEmbedded steadfastly refuses to build a bootable system for me, every time I try someone has broken some different package. No testing is apparently built into the process of new package submission for OpenEmbedded or, by extension, Angstrom

        Wow, I'll bet you're exactly the target market for windows phones. Doesn't everyone try to install their own phone OS?

        Windows CE is a piece of shit and it is not even a contender except in the form of Windows Phone

        In other words, it is a contender in the form of Windows Phone. OK.

        The point, which you seem to have missed, is that the article strongly implies that Microsoft is not building a mobileOS, when in fact Microsoft has been doing so for over a decade. Whether they succeed in staying in the market or not is a different question, but they are definitely trying.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          The point, which you seem to have missed, is that the article strongly implies that Microsoft is not building a mobileOS, when in fact Microsoft has been doing so for over a decade. Whether they succeed in staying in the market or not is a different question, but they are definitely trying.

          They've never actually tried hard enough to make it happen in a way that wasn't horrendous. Further, Windows CE is on the way out! Windows Phone will allegedly be the last time Microsoft actually does anything with CE. I expect them to bring it to end of life, it doesn't make sense to maintain so many different codebases.

  • To me Armdroid is a robot arm, as described here: http://www.megadroid.com/Arms/armdroid_1.htm [megadroid.com] and here: http://www.theoldrobots.com/clone.html [theoldrobots.com] and was created some time back in 1981.

    But knowing that makes me feel old.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @10:26AM (#34915560) Homepage

    There is no end to the speculation of what certain things mean to the future of "the industry." Yes, tablets of varying sizes are extremely popular. They have been popular for a VERY long time starting with the Palm Pilot and some might argue even before that. But unquestionably, Palm (hand held computing) has proven to be a virtually addictive form of computing.

    I don't recall, but I wonder if after the introduction and immense popularity of the Palm Pilot series of devices led people to speculate "the end of the PC as we know it?" Clearly that was not the case regardless of any speculation that may have occurred. But now we are looking at really souped up handheld devices that do a great deal more than their forerunners. A lot more of the desktop/laptop functionality is being copied into handheld devices now. But so far I see the following factors as cause not to believe that handheld computing will replace desktop computing:

    1. Keyboards
    2. Displays
    3. General comfort

    These factors all have one thing in common -- how the user interfaces with the device to make use of it. A full-sized keyboard is a must for any serious amount of data entry. It would take me four times as long or more to enter this comment from my android phone. Display sizes and positions also contribute to the comfort the user experiences. A good sized display at an appropriate elevation makes all sorts of computer use more comfortable. With handhelds, you can comfort your arms by holding the device low resulting in a "prayer" like position. (I have heard it called a "blackberry prayer" often enough) If the handheld were closer to eye level, then the arms would get tired pretty fast not to mention that the display would likely be held rather far from the user's face making it even more difficult to see the tiny displays. And if it were an iPad display, now you are dealing with an entirely different set of limitations and issues though iPad's display size is pretty optimal in my opinion though it means you can't put it into a small pocket.

    The general comfort item was included to fill in the remaining gaps. But the fact is, the way handheld devices are used, they can't really be used for hours on end in comfort. Nothing really replaces the mouse. Nothing seems to overcome the need for a separate numeric keypad. (Though interestingly, since I started on things like C64 and TRS80 CoCo, it took some doing to get used to the 10-key at all... and I still don't use it so much personally -- I just say that people in general make a great deal of use of the 10-key portion of a keyboard even if I don't) To have your hand lower, your arms rested and your head vertical at once is a human ergonomic requirement that cannot be overcome without extreme technological improvements such as display "glasses" or projectors.

    While there is unquestionably a revival in the popularity of handheld computing and data devices, I don't see it "replacing" the desktop PC just yet and it has little to do with their power and capacity and everything to do with how it is used. (These are details that gadget engineers tend to forget while they are taking advantage of ever more powerful things in ever more tiny packages.)

  • I hate these stories. While one rises, the others needn't not fall. There is not limited market space for a phone AND for a computing platform. It's not like people only have a computer OR a phone...many of us will have both for decades to come (and multiple copies of both at that).

  • by Orne (144925) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @10:37AM (#34915698) Homepage

    Someone at Intel needs to read Christensen's "The Innovator's Dilemma".

    CompanyA is the leader in the high-end market. They see upstart CompanyB, who has a new (disruptive) technology that is targeting a new sub-market with lower profit margins. CompanyA says "Why do I want to compete with B at lower margins in an untested market, my customers don't want that product, and I am already in competition in my existing market. They can have those customers".

    So CompanyB takes the new market with the new technology with ProductB and CompanyA keeps making ProductA. But over time, process improvements in B begin to outpace A; Intel's CISC are too much for hand-helds, but an ARM may someday become powerful enough (multicore perhaps) to become a desktop processor. Technology A is already at the height of it's S-curve, while B climbs and intersects the capabilities of A. At that point, products A & B are equal in the eyes of the customer, but B is cheaper and soon nibbles at A's customers. CompanyA is non-existent in the new market which is now growing at unforseen rates. CompanyA is now in a position where it *must* switch to technology B, but it is years behind, and making B's canibalizes CompanyA's existing customers. History has shown that the CompanyAs soon hopelessly fall behind and thus die off.

    • by David Jao (2759) <djao@dominia.org> on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @02:27PM (#34918578) Homepage

      Intel's CISC are too much for hand-helds, but an ARM may someday become powerful enough (multicore perhaps) to become a desktop processor. Technology A is already at the height of it's S-curve, while B climbs and intersects the capabilities of A. At that point, products A & B are equal in the eyes of the customer, but B is cheaper and soon nibbles at A's customers. CompanyA is non-existent in the new market which is now growing at unforseen rates. CompanyA is now in a position where it *must* switch to technology B, but it is years behind, and making B's canibalizes CompanyA's existing customers. History has shown that the CompanyAs soon hopelessly fall behind and thus die off.

      You and everybody else here (including the author of the article and every single slashdot commenter) are missing a big point. The Wintel platform has an extraordinary track record of maintaining binary compatibility. This is a huge feature that many of Intel's business customers need. Without it, ARM is not even in the discussion.

      ARM can't offer binary compatibility even in principle. ARM doesn't make chips. They license their design to others who make chips. The licensees in many cases are allowed to modify the design, and their business model depends on allowing the licencess to do so. So far, I am only talking about ARM-to-ARM compatibility, which is already practically nonexistent compared with x86-to-x86 compatibility. On top of that, there is the huge existing installed base of x86 applications, which ARM is (obviously) not compatible with.

      You can, literally, buy a brand new Intel machine today and run DOS 5.0 and Windows 3.1 on it, unmodified, without emulation. That's 20+ years of unbroken binary compatibility. No one, not even ARM, can break into Intel's core base, because they cannot offer this level of compatibility, or even anything close. I also want to emphasize just how underappreciated this feature is. No other consumer technology ever made can claim anywhere near 20 years of full end-user software compatibility. (And really, if you're counting, it's closer to 30 years, since DOS 3.3 and the like will work as well -- but few customers need that.)

      At worst, the Wintel platform might go the way of IBM mainframes -- no longer at the center of the tech world, but still profitable for many decades thereafter.

  • The world moves on (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JerryQ (923802) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @11:37AM (#34916424)
    I wrote my first program in 1970

    I have used ICL, Burroughs, IBM, Univac, TI, DEC operating systems, VMS, nix, CP/M, MS DOS, win x, Apple OS etc etc

    I have a wintel desktop which I use for devlopment activities, I carry an iPad, I have donated my laptops to nephews and nieces.

    If I did not work in the IT 'space' I would happily use just my iPad.

    If something better than that comes along I'll move on.

    The world moves on, wintel was mainstream, it is becoming niche, I for one, have spent my career in technology because I love the excitement of new things and concepts coming along.

    In my experience it is the wintel crowd who seem unable to look forward, and behave as though wintel has some sort of divine right to its previous dominance.

    The most important development I have seen in my lifetime has been the internet, connectivity to it, html and the browser. For MOST people, that is how they do most of their computing, oh yes, and lightweight, non bloat, function specific 'apps'. Sadly, I will have to continue to use wintel on a daily basis as I have a server farm, rather than farmville. ;-)

    J
  • by mpapet (761907) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @12:42PM (#34917172) Homepage

    Imagine being the guy they hire to manage an ARM port at Microsoft. Could there be a worse job at Microsoft?

    Imagine how the ARM guy has to go around and convince various development, marketing and management fiefdoms built on x86 since day 2 to make an ideological shift to include or even imagine an ARM port.

    -The costs will be blown sky-high if only to keep things just as they are right now.
    -The resource constraints will be retold as enormous
    -The market research will cast the ARM market as "bad" for all kinds of crazy reasons.

    This ARM guy will probably quit if he has a brain in his head, or get fired for non-performance.

    Meanwhile tiny non-x86 devices will eat away at Microsoft's business until they can't pretend any more and the 'business' collapses.

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