What did Bill Gates mean by, "When I read about optic fibers or wireless, I say to myself, 'Wow, that sounds like radial tires.'"? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
People in Microsoft are constantly worried about customers not buying new PCs. Our revenue primarily came from new computer sales [when Windows was the default], and when those computers work for a long time [like what happened with radial tires], then there is a big revenue drop for the entire PC ecosystem.
In late 2006, we had a major organizational meeting to plan for Windows 7 [after a somewhat disappointing Vista launch]. One of the top-level things that was stressed was to optimize the OS for laptops and mobile devices. People were left wondering why we should care about whether customers buy laptops or desktops.
The simple answer was that desktops don't break, while people drop laptops all the time and shatter their screens/screw up the charging sockets/break the keyboards, etc. And replacing any part in a laptop is such a pain that people don't take the effort. On a desktop, you keep swapping parts.
A long time ago, you upgraded your PC because the new software was quite cool or the old one was so out of place [due to the speed of innovation]. However, by the mid-2000s, the pace of innovation slowed and some people to this date  are OK with keeping their Windows XP boxes running Office 2003.
That means we could not rely on just cool new features alone to get people to buy PCs. That means we had to try something different.
The push to laptop strategy worked brilliantly, as people started buying new computers not because the old ones were outdated, but because they broke them.
The laptop strategy came with a whole package--sales gave incentives to laptop producers, the networking team made Wi-Fi connectivity much more reliable, there was push towards a thinner OS [never bore fruit successfully], and so on.
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