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BLOG: Apple soars as Intel bores: The post-PC world in stark contrast

Bill Snyder | Sept. 14, 2012
Nothing illustrates the shift in power from Intel/Microsoft to Apple like the contrast between the iPhone 5 launch and Intel's Developer Forum

Otellini: "I don't think there is a tablet- or phone-centric world. My view is we live in a personal computing-centric world."

Excuse me? It's one thing to say that laptops, desktops, and Windows will be around for some time -- they will. But to pretend the world still revolves around that decades-old model smacks of sticking one's head in the sand.

At least Intel's CTO seems more aware of reality: Justin Rattner told our sister publication Computerworld that the PC industry needs to step up with new technology to reignite passion for the PC, if it wants the industry to continue. Rattner cited touch capabilities -- ironically, what perhaps most distinguished the iPhone and iPad from PCs -- as a technology the PC industry could use to regain momentum, such as with Windows 8.

One billion smartphones by 2016
Consider this: NPD Display Search this week released its smartphone forecast. By 2016, cumulative shipments will pass the 1 billion mark. The overall volume is impressive, but so is the growth rate, a near doubling from expected shipments this year of a bit more than 500 million. Looking at NPD's chart, I'm also struck by the smoothness of the growth curve, as I'm always suspicious of analysts who predict hockey-stick growth. NPD is not doing that, which gives me more confidence in the forecast. To be clear, the vast majority of the shipments in 2016 will be replacements for existing smartphones, but that still speaks to the firm hold the smartphone has on the public.

Even if that forecast is too bullish, contrast it with the very, very slow growth in the PC market. "In the second quarter of 2012, the PC market suffered through its seventh consecutive quarter of flat to single-digit growth," says Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa. To be clear, that's seven straight quarters.

What's more, sales of Ultrabooks, Intel's answer to the tablet revolution, have been slow, though Otellini maintains they've met expectations -- numbers he declined to specify. Just last week, Intel told Wall Street that slower than expected PC sales will cut its revenue by $1 billion in the third quarter of the year. Sure, some of that is probably a result of PC vendors trying to lower inventory ahead of the Windows 8 launch, but that's not a good sign, to say the least.

Meanwhile, that next iteration of Windows has received a reception that varies from lukewarm to downright hostile. (Can you say "Windows Frankenstein"?) It will, of course, sell. People are still buying PCs and the software to run on them. But I have yet to meet a user who's excited by the prospect. Indeed, people I know who've purchased laptops recently say they wanted to get a good deal on a Windows 7 machine and were afraid if they waited, they'd be stuck having to buy a Windows 8 PC. (Good news: You can buy Windows 7 for at least two more years.)


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