Windows 8 and the PC’s Identity Crisis: Where Do They Go From Here?

Windows 8 is here to stay, and even though it isn’t selling like hotcakes I believe that Microsoft (and Windows 8) will be an important part of the evolution of the PC, not the death of it. The problem right now (in my humble opinion) is that Windows 8 and the PC market is struggling with an identity crisis. Windows 8 isn’t quite perfect for traditional devices, but not everyone has made the jump to a tablet or convertible device. Laptops and desktops of the traditional variety might still make sense to some, but not to everyone.

So where do we go from here? Some PC vendors are attempting to push AIO touch devices and touch laptops as the next big thing. Is this where the future of the PC is at? Maybe.

Still, you have to wonder: is touch really necessary for the laptop or desktop? I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit recently. Before continuing to read, remember this is my opinion. I may or may not be right, and I fully respect the opinions of others that don’t feel the same way.

I realize that everyone is different, what works for one person, won’t work for another. Still, I can see SOME merits in a touch-centric future for desktop and laptop devices.

For the Desktop

Consumer uses:
In the home, I think that the touch AIO (or tower with touch monitor) is a compelling set-up. It works great with traditional PC uses but can also double as a large screen device for multi-player touch gaming.

Think games like “Fruit Ninja” which allow split screen gaming. Additionally, touch works nicely for kids that want to do touch-screen painting and other tasks. Add a stylus (if compatible) and you have a great art/design setup up as well for that budding artist around the house.

Business uses: Honestly, I can see a few uses here, but really I personally think touch makes more sense for consumers. Now if the touchscreen monitor has a stylus? It could be great for digital artists, architects and others in “design-related” business fields.

For the Laptop

Consumer uses:
Besides navigating gestures, I don’t see as much here. I know they sell them, I know they are pushing them. For multiplayer gaming, the screen is probably going to be too small. For art and single-player gaming, it could be great, but again– not any better than a tablet or convertible/hybrid device.

Business use: Honestly, even with a stylus– I would think the keyboard’s design and layout would get in the way of things for 3D artists and folks in those kinds of fields. I’m sure there are some uses that I’m just not thinking of.

So If Not Touch Laptops and Touch AIOs, What’s Next for Computers?

Bottom-line, I personally think that a desktop device with touch makes sense because it will work/look a bit like a giant stationary tablet. For laptops, I don’t see the same benefits. A laptop’s “base” would seem cumbersome for many touch tasks and I don’t really see anyone using touch all that much for clicking on icons, scrolling, etc.

The future isn’t touch laptops and ultrabooks, at least in my humble opinion. I think Intel’s CEO Paul Otellini says it best:

“The PC business, as we have known it and as it is evolving and I would include tablets in that because as we look forward, it is very difficult to distinguish between a detachable, clamshell notebook and a tablet. The form-factors are going to blur here. The performance requirements are going to be the same spectrum of performance requirements that we think we have seen in the PC space over the last two years.”

I agree that laptops and tablets are blurring, and rightfully so. Why settle for a touch laptop when you can detach or flip to get a full tablet experience? Why go with a “just a ” tablet when a keyboard/trackpad works better for deeper productivity? Convertibles and hybrids can satisfy both of these needs.

Microsoft’s key to growth with Windows 8 is convincing people to move beyond traditional constraints. I don’t believe the PC is dead or dying, but it is changing.

Microsoft’s Success Will Be With Convergent Devices

The idea of a smartphone that can dock into a tablet or a monitor is part of the future. The same goes for tablet convertibles and hybrids. Microsoft needs to work towards finding ways to make us more productive while using fewer devices and fewer resources. The same goes for competitor devices. We need fewer devices that can do MORE and replace MORE. It will save us time money, and simply is more convenient than needed 3-5 devices (tablet, laptop, desktop, phone, etc) to get the job done.

I’m not sure what the future holds, but I think that touch AIOs and hybrid/convertible devices are just the beginning. Now Microsoft and the PC industry just need to pick a clear path and help push forward. I think that the Surface RT and Surface Pro is a good start for Microsoft, now I just wait on with curiosity to see what the rest of 2013 and beyond will bring.

Do you agree that Microsoft’s Windows 8 is struggling with a bit of an identity crisis at the moment? Do you think that devices that merge functionality (hybrids, etc) are the future?

Perhaps you have a totally different opinion about the PC market and where it will go in the next few years? If so, share your thoughts with us below.

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