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Can Microsoft Afford its Windows OS Competition in 2014?

Dec. 27, 2013, 8:46 a.m.
ABI Research

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According to an article posted at the Fox News website, PC makers may use the CES trade show in early January 2014 as a stage for introducing non-Windows computing systems.

In the traditional PC markets of desktops and notebook computers, the market is Microsoft’s to lose.  There have always been alternatives when it comes to PC operating systems, though the market reaction to Linux builds by both end-users and IT-centric businesses has been to stick with what is known – Windows. Today, the greatest challenge for large display computing is Google's Chrome OS, which is currently found on a range of so-called Chromebook notebook-style PCs.

However, the influence of the smartphone – a highly personalized and customized device that is carried on your person – provides an installed base greater than PCs and the presumption that desktop Windows is "most familiar" no longer applies.  In the mobile ecosystem, Windows (characterized by Windows Phone, Windows RT 8, and Windows 8.1) has had little impact so far on the decisions of device OEMs and buying audiences.

The messaging being ushered out for 2014 is that audiences have a choice in OS for their mobile devices and their PCs.  No OS provider is in a position to offer the same system software across both PCs and mobile computing, though there is a desire for users to be able to access, modify and share content in convenient ways across these hardware platforms. 

Perhaps most surprising is which company is leading this charge toward OS flexibility:  Intel.  While considered late to enter the mobile device market as it defended its PC turf, Intel today offers tablet designs that can load either Android or Windows, or in some cases both system software platforms (see ASUS and Samsung device announcements to this effect).  Want the productivity of Windows applications but not willing to give up the range of apps and games available for Android?  A solution is now close at hand.

Stitching together a value proposition ("Why would an audience segment appreciate the choice and/or ability to load different operating systems on a single device?  How big is this audience and how are they reached?") and not pricing the capability out of reach for the potential audience remain challenges to be addressed by mobile device makers in 2014.