Hoping to capture some of that desire for a more intimate device, Microsoft sought to turn tablets into PCs by creating a version of Windows optimized for touch instead of producing a mobile OS for tablets.
The thinking was that users would gravitate to a Windows tablet capable of running Office apps that had a familiar desktop interface, as well as an attractive touch UI complete with its own app store.
Nine months into Microsoft's grand experiment, however, the prospects for Windows aren't looking good. The company was forced to make a partial course correction with Windows 8.1 (due out later in 2013) to satisfy mouse-and-keyboard PC users who aren't interested in the new Windows start screen.
Microsoft is also struggling to convince tablet buyers to go Windows instead of buying an iPad or an Android slate. Recently, Microsoft was forced to take a nearly $1 billion write-offafter slashing the prices of Surface RT tablets lingering on store shelves.
Tablets running the x86 version of Windows haven't fared much better. In May, market research firm IDC said Windows tablet shipments reached just 1.8 million during the first three months of 2013 (Disclaimer: IDC and PCWorld are both owned by International Data Group). For the same period, Apple reported iPad sales of 19.5 million.
Part of the problem for Windows devices is the price. "Windows devices are expensive when compared to products such as the iPad mini and, especially, the glut of recent sub-$150 Android tablets," says Rubin. "Microsoft has been trying to make a best-of-both-worlds pitch, but the desktop applications have been so incidental to many people that the PC has been relegated to scenarios where productivity is at a premium."
While the end of the PC as a common utility may be coming, and Windows appears fated to suffer along with that decline, there will still be a need for PCs and Microsoft's trademark OS. Many professionals such as graphic artists, designers, engineers, and even lowly writers will still rely on a PC for day-to-day work.
Beyond the professional market, ultramobiles could become more popular as 2013 wears on. During the last three months of the year, Ultrabooks and other slim devices powered by Windows 8.1 will hit the market powered by Bay Trail and Haswell processors. While these new devices aren't expected to rival tablet shipments, they will help move the sales needle a little bit and will also let PC makers charge a premium for well-crafted devices, according to market research firm Gartner.
So while the iPad Mini, Kindle Fire, and Nexus 7 will become more common in the coming years, PCs, at worst, will occupy an important yet small niche in our computing universe.
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