Intel, I hope you enjoyed that record quarterly earnings report announced last month. The future is not looking as bright for you or other chip makers. As one JP Morgan analyst, Christopher Danely, is being widely quoted; orders from PC makers are "falling off a cliff". For example, HP (the No. 1 computer seller in the U.S.), Acer (No. 3) and Lenovo (of Thinkpad fame) have all cut back orders on laptop parts, chips or both.
Part of this is undoubtedly the economy. But, it's more than that; it's a train wreck. The PC Era is all but over. Oh, there will always be PC's, just as there are still radios. But the so-called "Golden Age of Radio" ended about 60 years ago. Who will and what will lose clout in the coming era?
1. Microsoft: a hot mess! If you look at its last earnings call, yes profits were off the charts. But, that is despite an operating loss in Entertainment and Devices (i.e. the gaming and mobile division). Monetarily, losing $172 million dollars in one division is chump change for Microsoft. But, what does it say about the future of the company? Touchscreen and Windows are all but antonyms of each other. I don't know anyone who can't wait for the Windows Phone 7 and spotting a Zune around town is about as likely as coming home with game for the table after a Snipe hunt.
2. The mouse: Television is to the to the web, as the mouse is to touch.
3. This vs. that wars: Technology products have been divided into dogs versus cats people for 30 years. Mac Vs. PC, Explorer Vs. Netscape (remember them?), Closed source vs. open Source... Clash of the Titans is quickly being replaced with a free for all in the marketplace (which is great for competition, but often a Tower of Babel for consumers). I'm not saying this is good or bad, like everything else on this list; it just is.
4. Fat clients: The PC era was all about more power under the hood with each upgrade. More power means more stuff to store and run at your fingertips. Now, it is all about thin clients with someone else carting the load of data and big moosey applications.
5. Infinitely patient customers: For thirty-something years, consumers have endured the blue screen of death, crippling software bugs and security holes, re-boot times that go on like married life, "help" menus that make the Rosetta stone look like a Betty Crocker recipe, and over-hyped new products with a shelf life on par with crab dip at a Fourth of July picnic. They've endured it because they've had no choice. Just say "thank you" and "I'm sorry" if your company was one of the purveyors of pain. Now stop! Customers are increasingly not having it, anymore. Through social media, like Twitter and Facebook, and the power of multiple choices (see #3), they can bust a product and bail out of techno-nonsense much more quickly. Apple is still stinging from the iPhone 4 antenna broo ha ha this summer. Compare that to what Microsoft has gotten away with since the advent of Windows 95, alone. I rest my case.
As always, this is just one woman's opinion. You are welcome to follow me on Twitter @oricchio, as well.
Last updated: Aug 12, 2010
RENEE ORICCHIO is a technology writer and former supervising news producer for CNN Financial News. She has been covering the computer industry since 1987. @oricchio