Microsoft — not Apple — is redefining the modern PC
I recently read an interesting article by respected writer and analyst Walt Mossberg, who said the PC is being redefined. I agree. But ...
I've described the evolving personal computing landscape in the past. To communicate an accurate picture of the modern personal computing environment and the influencing factors that have shaped it, I've acknowledged that it's impossible to ignore the impact of the iPhone.
Though smartphones existed before the iPhone, those business-focused devices were not relevant to the masses. The iPhone, with its "massive" touch screen merged the iPod, a phone and an internet device, and redefined the smartphone. Consumers loved it as much as they loved the popular iPod that primed them for a pocketable consumer-focused smartphone from Apple.
Eventually, the iPhone and the "there's-an-app-for-that" model, which made it a veritable "swiss-army mobile computing device," evolved into much more than the phone-iPod-internet device introduced by former Apple CEO Steve Jobs in 2007.
In time, Apple's introduction of the iPhone had a profound effect on the personal computing landscape. The iPhone, Android phones and to a lesser extent Windows phones — all with their supporting app ecosystems, integrated services, always-connected nature and pocketability — supplanted the traditional PC as the most used personal computers. Yes, smartphones are personal computing devices.
I agree with Mossberg that the mobile computing environment and ecosystems that shape personal computing today are influencers on what the PC will ultimately be. However, I disagree with his assessment that a significant shift to the new type of ARM-based PC that runs mobile apps will be determined by Apple.
Millions of consumers already buy laptops that use "mobile apps"
Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and Windows 10 laptops and 2-in-1s have already begun the process of bringing consumers to a laptop form factor that runs mobile apps, as well as traditional apps. This computing environment will be brought to ARM processors, as ARM-based Windows 10 PCs begin rolling out in several months. The change to an ARM-based system will be largely transparent to users.
What won't be transparent are the advantages of ARM-based cellular Windows 10 PCs. Among other advantages, consumers will reap the benefits of lower costs, and lighter, fan-less and more power-efficient Windows 10 PCs.
Mossberg said the following of a shift to ARM in relation to this problem:
I agree with the general assessments Mossberg puts forth. I also see the value in his conclusion that Apple, because of its vast and appealing app ecosystem, occupies an influential position. Consumer love for iOS apps may be a sufficient motivating factor for the masses to consciously and deliberately choose to use a laptop running those same mobile apps. That's if Apple can deliver a good mouse-and-keyboard productivity experience.
I put forth a similar analysis in relation to Google's position if it ever decided to merge Chrome and Android. Google's 80 percent dominance of the mobile market would be a real threat to Microsoft's 90 percent dominance in PCs if Google brought a viable desktop experience to a desktop environment.
Microsoft already invented the universal app 'wheel' Apple needs
iOS apps are optimized for a slate consumption-based experience, not a peripheral-enhanced productivity setting. Mossberg stated the following in relation to this problem:
Microsoft's Windows 10 and Universal Platform with Continuum are driving the evolution of the PC while also keeping the traditional PC around. Rather than just a clamshell laptop that runs mobile apps, which is Mossberg's vision for an evolved PC, Microsoft's strategy is more comprehensive.
Redmond saw the coming shift and created a device form factor with the Surface, a context-sensitive OS in Windows 10 and a Universal Platform that provides a common core for all device types and app development.
The research firm IDC said the following, confirming the success and adoption of Windows laptops and 2-in-1s in a recent report:
As we watch the unfolding of Microsoft's strategy with the industry's embrace of 2-in-1s, Windows 10 laptops and PCs and Windows Mixed Reality (formerly Windows Holographic), Microsoft's impact on the evolution of the PC, in all of its forms, obviously exceeds Apple's.
Technologically, Microsoft is where Mossberg hopes Apple will get
Mossberg states, "Apple … boasts 1.3 million tablet-optimized apps for the iPad, and these could presumably easily run on a small laptop with a built-in keyboard and touchscreen." He supplies the caveat "presumably" in acknowledgment of his (and all of our) uncertainty as to the viability of iOS apps running on a small laptop with a built-in keyboard (and mouse).
By contrast, we know with full certainty that Microsoft's unique UWP allows Windows Store apps to run on phones, laptops, 2-in-1s, HoloLens, Xbox, desktop PCs and any as yet to be created Windows devices. Most Windows 10 devices also run Win32 apps in conjunction with Store apps, and Windows 10 on ARM may bring that ability to phones.
What Mossberg speculates would be a technological advancement for the Apple ecosystem already exists in far greater depth and breadth as part of Microsoft's UWP. Mossberg's vision of an evolved PC is a laptop with iOS apps and only iOS apps.
Microsoft's personal computer vision is far broader than that.
Windows 10 is key to the modern PC
Though Windows 10 is only running on 400 million devices, Windows is a desktop and mobile platform. In less than two years, though far below it's one billion devices target, 400 million devices is impressive. iOS and Android have had roughly a decade to reach the billion mark those OSes achieved.
Some may argue that Windows 10 is merely an upgrade to the Windows OS that has a billion installed base. It is actually more of an evolution toward a new type of OS that retains the legacy strengths of the traditional desktop while adopting the necessary attributes of the modern, mobile personal computing environment. Universal Windows Apps, along with the coming full Windows on ARM and CShell on all types of mobile devices, help us visualize this reality.
When viewing it from that proper perspective, the unique unified desktop and mobile OS that is Windows 10 has already begun to achieve in a very real way what Mossberg anticipates will be achieved with Android and iOS: bringing a relevant "mobile" OS to a desktop clamshell form factor.
The market is buying, but may not "buy into" Microsoft's vision
The PC's transformation, based on Windows 10 2-in-1s and even laptops, has already been accepted in the market by OEMs and consumers. Mossberg's vision awaits a move from Apple to create wide acceptance for what the success of Windows 2-in-1s is already achieving: market-wide acceptance of a laptop (or 2-in-1) OS that runs mobile apps. The Windows Store on a Windows 10 desktop has thousands of universal apps that work across various form factors, including mobile.
I concede that the success of the Windows Store is not on par with Microsoft's goals. Moreover, the implementation of a Windows-based smartphone has not met commercial success. Consequently, though there are thousands of universal apps that are compatible beyond the mobility of a laptop or 2-in-1 form factor, and that work on a phone, the number is dwarfed by the number of iOS apps in the App Store.
So yes, the popularity of iOS apps, if somehow made to work as efficiently in a mouse-and-keyboard laptop form factor, would produce more of a "conscious" decision by consumers to seek out or inquire about such a device. These consumers may be motivated by a desire to use the mobile apps they're familiar with from their iPhones, on a laptop-like device.
By contrast, the universal apps that are part of Microsoft's proliferating "evolving PC" vision and that are also available to users who buy Windows 10 2-in-1s and laptops are in many cases likely just "along for the ride." Candidly speaking, these user purchases are likely less motivated by the opportunity to experience universal apps and their benefits than by the productivity legacy of Window PCs, even as manifest in modern touch-enabled laptops and 2-in-1s.
The Windows Store's underperformance is likely one of the motivating factors in Microsoft's increasingly aggressive advertising efforts in Windows 10. It needs to get users that have embraced the new OS and evolving PC form-factors to also embrace the ecosystem that they exist within. Apple, with the popularity of iOS apps, but the lack of a truly universal platform akin to the UWP, and the efficient productivity environment that Windows 10 PCs bring mobile apps, would have the exact opposite challenge.
Microsoft's impact on PC evolution is both deep and broad
Ultimately, I agree with Mossberg's conclusion from a consumer perspective. That is, if Microsoft cannot draw developers and consumers to its modern app ecosystem, Apple may be more successful in drawing consumer "attention" to the concept of a mobile-app-focused laptop. That's if Apple invests in and successfully creates an iOS-based laptop, which the famously secretive company has made no indication of doing.
I do, however, believe that Mossberg may be underestimating the industry impact Microsoft's Windows 10 and UWP has had, and is currently having, on the evolution of the PC, in the form of touch-sensitive laptops, 2-in-1s and other devices like HoloLens that run universal apps.
OEM's, consumers, businesses, and various industries have greatly embraced these "modern," evolved PCs.
As Microsoft's partners begin bringing ARM-based cellular PCs to market in several months, that impact will be even more evident than it is now. In truth, Apple's mimicry of the Surface with the iPad Pro is indicative of its reactive, or follower's role, in the PC's evolution.
The evolution is well underway. Microsoft is driving it, and its plan goes even further than Mossberg's vision of mobile apps on a laptop form factor.
Get the Windows Central Newsletter
All the latest news, reviews, and guides for Windows and Xbox diehards.
Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!
By Jez Corden
Closeing some Win32 windows in tablet mode results in a blank screen where you can't do anything, instead of going back to the Start screen. The whole thing is incomplete, and second grade software like this will NOT challenge Apple in the long run. When Microsoft themselves decided the Windws Explorer in full screen is good enough to take care of file management even in Tablet Mode, why would anyone decide to create UWP apps for tablets and limit themselves framework-wise when they can create Win32 and target all Windows versions? This whole strategy is all patch work and will not hold up against a proper attack from either Apple or Google targeting the desktop.
Now when i click on a link to windows central, for example, it opens the app instead of the website. At this point, its up to the devs, I believe. YouTube.com will never do it because google but facebook already does for me.
By the time HoloLens gets up and running (if it ever does) the competition is very likely to get there with something of their own, and they are in the right place too: imagine an Android augmented reality headset that runs apps just like HoloLens does; Augmented reality isn't really for content creation but mostly entertainment and collaboration and these categories are a good fit for mobile apps instead of something like Photoshop. So Google and Apple can pretty easiy release HoloLens-esque headsets and jump in the game. I'm sorry. But it seems to me that with all this fumbling of ideas Microsoft puts them on the path to oblivion in the consumer space.
So this line of reasoning is invalid and Surface IS redefining the PC with sales of laptops dropping and hybrids gaining ground. Again, it was about living off a legacy. Microsoft's legacy is Windows. Surface is new adventure for them. Apple's legacy, as of now, is the iPhone. They have no new adventure and are living off of the iPhone sales.
Microsoft's consumer software is sloppy and buggy. A PC will be a phone but doing what they are doing Microsoft won't be the one capturing that market.
Posted from an Android S7 because I dropped my 950XL and could not replace it...
I believe that Apple may have once been innovative, but not anymore. They simply copy others now, the iPad Pro being an embarrassing example.
The way MS is going is very interesting, I can't wait to see what happens next
The rest of the OS just...sucks. Be it the bad performance on most of the phones, weird battery behavior with each update, weird lags that happen intermittently, etc. This thing certainly drops the ball on what WP was great at: speed and fluidity. Windows Phone was supposed to be fast and fluid. W10M isn't either. Work with it for 15 mins and it becomes painfully evident that it's just an experiment. Personally, Live Tiles weren't the highlight of WP for me at all. It was the whole of the design language that worked perfectly together, and Live Times were a small part of it. Now W10M doesn't really have any of that, and it still tries to be what Android is, minus the apps.
MS is getting more and more friendly to everyone - open sourcing there software, developing apps and services for iOS/Android/Mac as well as Windows mean while Apple and Google are getting more and more closed in terms of their software and services - so it is them that needs to buck up their ideas. Want to test something on MacOS - better not want to us Virtual Machine - because nope Apple says you can't. All other OS can be installed on a VM. Apple can come talk to me again when I can install macOS on hardware of my choosing or a VM. Until that time it is not a fair comparison.
* MS includes a Windows terminal program (similar to Teamviewer, etc.) as part of Windows 10
* It should be possible to remotely log into another Windows machine via internet or via 4G/5G phone networks; it must be possible to reach through routers, firewalls, etc.
* Assuming I have a desktop computer, job work station, home media computer, etc., and that I have all the 32 bit or 64 bit applications I need on these, it should be possible to log in from ARM based (and intel based) smartphones, tablets, laptops, or in principle any type of computer ("terminal machine"), and run the programs on my desktop, workstation, media computer, etc. ("server machine") -- remotely
* The "terminal window" should mirror the desktop on the "server" computer.
* If I have two screens on my "terminal" PC, it should be possible to run the terminal window on one screen, and run other programs on any screen.
* It should be possible to cut and paste between the "terminal" PC and the terminal window of the "server".
* If both "terminal" PC and the "server" PC sync files via OneDrive (or DropBox, or whatever), this gives transparent exchange of files. But copy and pasting may still be useful. OK... personally, I'm a little skeptical about completely depending on running programs on a remote computer -- what if internet is down (or the connection is slow), or what if there are expensive roaming fees on 4G/5G? So I certainly see the usefulness of running 32 bit (and if possible, 64 bit) applications on the smartphone/tablet/etc. (ARM processor, etc.), but a modern "terminal" program will make it possible to, in practice, run 32 bit and 64 bit programs on relatively light weight ARM processor based units. The main problem with this approach is with small screen devices such as smartphones: I'm not sure the user experience will be good with running *applications* on a small screen -- maybe a foldable screen device may make it possible to fold out a decent screen? UWP apps is something else -- they are designed to adapt to various screen sizes.
Also, we should not forget that the architecture of Windows is that of a full fledged operating system. I don't thing that Android and iOS can match that in the near future, not to mention the UWP development paradigm and tools.
Hates messy desktop and taskbar.
Eventually, I wrote my own StartScreen back in the day so that I can callout the interface, type a few word and hit enter (or mouse click on the icon) to open whatever I want anywhere anytime. And now it's there by default. I'd say Win10 better than any past ones.
Only downside... is that I wish the UWP apps can be as keyboard-user-friendly as win32 applications.
For the longest time I've also been using the paid CookMe PRO App, which does come with OneDrive Sync/BackUP capability, but recently they literally started extorting me to buy more into the App because of server costs before they'd restore my OneDrive backup - Like what server costs? My recipes are on OneDrive! There shouldn't be any server costs involved for which I'm not already paying >:|
Put mobile apps on Laptops and hope that developers will optimize them. What Microsoft does:
Tell developers that they have to build apps which run on all types of devices. What Apple does:
Also, both iOS and Mac are not keyboard-user-friendly. Moving pointing devices here and there, click, click, click... isn't faster than a few shotcut keys.