Dell declares the PC 'undead,' Windows 8.1 starts to shine

Posted by Rob Enderle

Dell really is pushing hard against the mindset that the PC is dead this week. The industry heavyweight had one of their largest PC launches ever and while tablets were a part of the launch, the devices didn’t eclipse the overall initiative. Personally, I think this is quite a strategic approach, simply because tablets haven’t been trending that well of late (particularly for Apple), and while volumes continue to rise, they are mostly tied to really cheap products.   

Too much cheap product in any class hits a given market - which may very well stop buying everything. As some of you may recall, this is exactly what happened to Atari and the first big video game wave.  

Actually, this just got me thinking about one of the biggest goofs the computer industry made - declaring the mainframe computer dead. It was a goof because over 30 years later it remains IBM’s most profitable platform. Think about it: the mainframe evolved to become a pretty effective large scale server and PCs are attempting to evolve to embrace tablets. So history may very well repeat itself - the PC may now be just as dead, or given this is Halloween month, just as undead as the mainframe.  

Let’s talk about the Undeath of the PC and Dell’s launch this week.

iPad Year One

I recall the first year of Apple's iPad. It seemed like everyone had one and folks were carrying them to events I attended in increasing volumes and leaving their laptops (PCs) behind. By the end of the year, most people who gone through this transformation and, in their head, had killed their PCs were using MacBook Airs instead. Yet, they still seemed to think the PC was dead. The lesson? They really wanted to do more with their tablets than their device was capable of doing and so ended up with a laptop and a light carry weight. So they basically traded off price and battery life for a slightly more capable device.

But what if the iPad had been able to perform like a MacBook?  Might they have stayed with the tablet solution? This is what Windows 8.1 and the new Dell hardware will be attempting to find out. 

Windows 8 Phase 2

There were two big problem with Windows 8, it represented a major user interface change and we really, really hate user interface changes. No matter who does it or when they do it, we tend to complain up a blue streak when someone changes how we’ve become used to doing things. 

For example, we’ve been capable of replacing steering wheels, break peddles, gas peddles and gear shifts with a single joystick which could be passed side to side if needed. However, car companies realized folks would have a cow if they were given the technology and never adopted it. When Windows 95 launched, Microsoft spent massively getting folks used to and excited about the new interface, yet with Windows 8 they threw out that book and marketing wasn’t even allowed to start really pushing the changes as advantages until the launch (months too late).  So folks had a major cow about the change and even Microsoft’s own premier application bundle, Office, didn’t make the jump to the new interface (I still think someone should have been shot for that alone).  

The second big problem was that the hardware needed to make Windows 8 sing mostly wasn’t ready. With a touch interface you really need reasonably priced touch hardware and that mostly didn’t exist either.  

Wrapping Up:  Dell Ready for 8.1

So Windows 8.1 now comes with folks a bit more used to the new interface and it has improvements that address many of the things which really irritated a lot of users. Dell’s products are designed specifically to make Windows 8.1 sing. Strong industrial design, incredibly beautiful high resolution touch screens, strong battery life, light weight and attractive prices.  

It is my belief that had Windows 8 launched this way, (granted, with a year of marketing to get folks at least ready for the UI change), that launch would have gone much better.   With the exception of Office still not being flipped to the new interface (and folks who don’t want to learn a new way of working with Office yet may appreciate the extra time anyway), the combination of this new Dell hardware and Windows 8.1 should be what the doctor ordered for fixing the demand problem with Windows 8.

Granted, it will still be up to the sales and marketing team from both Microsoft and Dell to actually create the demand - but at least this time those organizations will have products that support, rather than fight, the effort.