A New Life for the PC ???

Business Week Online has produced a special report on the Future of the PC. The report looks at the past and tries to fathom future directions and innovations and concludes: “The personal computer may have revolutionized the way people communicate, calculate, gather information, and run a business. But their shape and style has remained mind-numbingly stagnant for nearly three decades. Save a few flashy designs from Apple year after year the PC has remained a bastion of anti-design, a wasteland of beige boxes full of circuits hooked to clunky monitors. Sure, their performance improved dramatically over the years. Todays models have more memory by several orders of magnitude than PCs made a decade ago. The chips that power them now boast eye-popping data-processing speeds….. But on the whole the PC industry has followed a steady, plodding evolutionary path. … No longer. In the next decade the PC will finally morph from a beige-box bomb to a thing of beauty”

And the report starts out with some promising technology but after a few pages one sees the Usual Suspects just in new guises. 500GB drives, new 3D displays, ultralite laptop form factors, and high-speed low-power chips mixed into new stylings and colors … but really … nothing we have not seen before and all conforming to the Wintel brand. Nowhere in the report does Business Week tackle this 70 billion-dollar Gorilla – and what it will allow in its space.

Not a lot – without getting a Delliscio piece of the action.

In fact, both Intel and Microsoft are fierce defenders of their turf. Former CEO Andy Grove at Intel is famous for being paranoid about any and all competition (read that as innovation in which Intel did not have a piece of the action). Bill Gates strategy is built on attaining and maintaining 90%++ monopolies in markets that Microsoft enters. So both vendors are looking to control not just their own markets but also near neighbor innovations. Intel in storage, mobile, communications chips, embedded processors. Microsoft has taken on the leading game vendors, handheld/PDA makers, and mobile phone suppliers. Neither is prepared to engage in Economist Joseph Schumpeters creative destruction… give up pieces of existing markets with lasting partnerships and/or co-operative ventures to spawn even bigger new wave evolving markets.

Intel is not as rabid as Microsoft about dominating markets in 90%++ fashion. Monopoly 90%++ market share thwarts any substantial innovation/change/reculer-mieux-sauter. A 90% market share means for you to win nearly everybody else has to lose leading away from co-opetition/win-win strategies and directly to zero-sum, “cut-off the oxygen” plays that have dominated the PC software business.

If the energy business which has clear and immediate organizational and national needs/interests for moving to a renewable foundation/basis (depleting and increasingly costly resource, pollution and environmental problems, national dependency on politically risky suppliers, competitive advantage going to smaller scale suppliers and processors) – if the mildly oligopolistic energy business has not been able to bring about a transition to renewable and an environmentally friendly energy source and/or processing basis for the past 30 years despite an ever percolating series of promising technologies plus clear and present dangers/imperatives … what is the likeliehood that the next ten years will see many profoundly different butterflies of innovation emerge in the monopoly dominated PC world ?? Uhhh … unnnnnh… maybe … well … No.