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The Fall of Wintel and the Rise of Armdroid 431

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) (at) (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 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 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.

  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @09:42AM (#34914976) Homepage

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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 falsified ( 638041 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @10:36AM (#34915678)

    No! This is completely untrue!

    Copy a few cells in your favorite spreadsheet program, then paste those cells into your favorite word processor, in a tablet. Format it with headers in a different font and color. Then, do that at a desktop computer with keyboard and mouse. Which was easier?

    I know that tablet technology is rapidly changing, but once you have a big enough screen to capably handle windowing, you've basically got a laptop without a keyboard, not a tablet. And who wants that for business use?

  • 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.

Don't get suckered in by the comments -- they can be terribly misleading. Debug only code. -- Dave Storer