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The expiration of an operating system born shortly after the dotcom crash and before Barack Obama was in the White House was the main reason why PC makers fired off press releases this morning proclaiming the return of the PC era.

Don’t celebrate just yet.

In a word not seen associated with the PC sector in two years, market research firm Gartner said it saw “growth” in the personal computer market in the second quarter. This was cheered by the markets — reflected in the stock prices of Microsoft, Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, Seagate and Western Digital — more used to phrases like “the worst year since records have been kept” to describe the state of affairs.

But what drove the meager 0.1 percent growth in global consumer and business PC shipments between April and the end of June could be short lived. Microsoft’s decision to end enterprise support for Windows XP on April 8 drove businesses and professionals to replace old machines or risk catastrophic failure.

Gartner PC Shipment q2 2014

Evidence suggests this refresh cycle won’t last long. The earnings results last week of Synnex, a big distributor of PCs and tech products to large businesses, called the the XP expiration a “tailwind” in its earnings report last week. But when pressed by analysts on a conference call, its CEO conceded that it’s now “expected to subside.”

There may be some reprieve next year as a result of Microsoft’s announcement that it would cut off “mainstream support” for Windows 7 — the one that followed the one that followed XP (remember Vista?) — early next year, though “extended support will go on into 2020.” (ZDNet breaks downs the nuances nicely here.)

A glance at the global picture also foreshadows another ominous trend coming later this year. Though most regions saw upticks of seven percent to nine percent, one in particular, the Asia-Pacific region, registered a decline of nearly nine percent in shipments. The reason for the decline? Big smartphones. The atrociously named phablets, hybrids of phones and tablets, are eating into the low-end notebook market.

Expect this to continue as the arms race for bigger phone screens continues unabated.

VB Programming
VB Programming

And yet Microsoft won't open source the VB6 programming language.  One of the reasons 25% of desktops still use Windows XP is doubt over whether legacy software will run on newer versions of Windows.

Generally VB6 programs will run, but there is always a doubt. Microsoft have recently announced they will continue to support VB6 programming until 'at least' 2024.

If Microsoft either updated or open sourced the VB6 programming language this doubt would be removed.


 You're absolutely right, and having read a handful of the other breathless reports on the subject, I was scratching my head as to why no one bothered to recall that Microsoft scared a bunch of XP users about their computers being expired, and since those computers usually could not come anywhere close to running a newer version of the OS, they had to buy something off the cheap shelf at Best Buy....presto...instant "market share"... a bit less disingenuous than the Android market share claims, which include the $50 junk tablets made by no-name companies that no one wants shipped straight to the end caps of drugstores and $1 stores, and sitting in warehouses.  The market share mirage needs to be revised out of existence, by only counting units sold to end users, but that's another discussion.  In this case, the effect Microsoft's announcement had seems to have escaped the rest of the industry, but every affected user I encountered believed their computer was becoming illegal and they had to install a new OS, which was impossible on the hardware.  You're the only person who saw this and wrote it that I have seen, +2 points sir! :)

Lee C.
Lee C.

We will (continue to) see cloud and mobile *usages* driving the market to bifurcate between high-end x86 (and if IBM is awake mainframe) servers and lower-end SOC form factor based mobile computing platforms. Enhanced mobile SOC silicon performance, power, and integrated peripheral support from Intel and ARM will continue to put downward pressure PC form-factor and associated software platforms.  PCs aren't going away, but corporate upgrades and forced obsolescence (e.g. XP and Win-7) aren't going to save the PC.


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