That means Microsoft would find it harder to drive revenue from device growth, its historical means of monetizing Windows, even if it wasn't leaving hundreds of millions on the table with its giveaways.
"Last quarter's poor performance in Windows sales is much more indicative of the longer-term trend than short-term headwinds. I see Windows 10 slowing the decline a little, but ... I don't see [it] solving any of the fundamental challenges," argued Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, in an analysis last week of Microsoft's Q4 2014 financials.
"There are two theories of what's going on with the Windows PC market," Dawson added in an interview. "One is that it's in a slow but permanent decline which may be offset every now and then by things like the XP end-of-life. The other is that there is still growth left in the market, and so the dips are the exception."
Microsoft, said Dawson, believes the latter, while he has taken the former position. "Not just last quarter, but the trend in general is that there is a longer-term decline in store for this market," Dawson said.
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