In 2018, Windows died at home and nobody cared

While Microsoft's desktop operating system continues to be a key fixture of enterprise computing environments, it faces extinction at home. And Redmond seems perfectly fine with that.






A year ago, I argued that Microsoft's Windows operating system, as we have traditionally understood it, has an expiration date. And for the Redmond software giant to move forward, the "death" of Windows probably will happen sooner rather than later.

I described various architectural changes to the operating system that were critical in order for it to modernize and to shed legacy components that were hampering its evolution, such as the Win32 subsystem that has been present since 1990 or so, as well as its affinity to the Intel x86 architecture and moving to low-power SoCs, such as Qualcomm's Snapdragon, which is based on an ARM architecture.

Systems that run on Windows and use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, such as HP's Envy X2 2-in-1, are already shipping.

These are changes that Microsoft is actively working on as part of a long-planned transition toward a more modernized way of software development, which allows it to target as many platforms as possible.

This includes mobile devices that run on Google's Android and Apple's iOS, as well as IoT appliances that scale all the way from tiny microcontroller-based smart light switches to smart appliances, video streaming devices, smart TVs, and video game consoles.


What Microsoft now recognizes as its target platforms for its software products and services is effectively everything, not just personal computers.

To quote its CEO, Satya Nadella:

"Digital technology, pervasively, is getting embedded in every place: Everything, every person, every walk of life is being fundamentally shaped by digital technology -- it is happening in our homes, our work, our places of entertainment... It's amazing to think of a world as a computer. I think that's the right metaphor for us as we go forward."

None of this should come as a shock, as Microsoft has been doing quite a bit of organizational shuffling to de-emphasize its Windows teams and put much more emphasis in higher-growth areas such as the cloud and AI.

This is not to say Windows is unimportant to Microsoft and as an overall technology. It continues to be a very important fixture of not just desktop but also server-based computing in the enterprise.

Even with application modernization efforts that move away from APIs, such as Win32, and toward web services and standards, Windows remains very sticky in large companies due to many legacy desktop applications that will just not go away.

The continued importance of Windows as a server OS in enterprise data centers and in the public and private clouds for IaaS workloads means we will probably still be dealing with it for at least another 10 years, if not more, despite the adoption of application-centric technologies like containers, micro services, and SaaS.

And their numbers are significant.

They may have home broadband and Wi-Fi on their premises, but they primarily interact with mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, as well as IoT devices like Amazon's Echo, and video-streaming devices for consuming content like Netflix on larger-format screens such as smart TVs -- this is assuming they aren't consuming the balance of it on the go using mobile data connections.

If they do have a personal computer, it is more than likely a company-issued laptop, not a personally-owned asset.

Or perhaps it's an old PC or Mac that was purchased years ago and is now gathering dust in a corner. It's nearly impossible to get accurate numbers about the age of the installed base of PCs, but there's plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that people are hanging onto those old PCs longer and not replacing them every few years as they did at the height of the PC era.

And while K-12 and higher education students still very much use personal computers, increasingly they are now being outfitted with inexpensive Chromebooks -- stateless zero-configuration systems that use all web-based and cloud-based software and Android applications.


Is Microsoft being left out of this trend? No, quite the opposite.

But that is the enterprise and the public sector, which move much more slowly and have many dependencies that must be taken into consideration. Personal technology and the home is another matter altogether.


In the home, the usefulness of the personal computer -- which includes Apple's Mac systems -- is reaching its endgame. There exists an entirely new category of computing users who do not even own personal computers.

While it is difficult to correlate, taking into consideration the declining sales and effectively flat growth of PCs along with the huge market saturation of the smartphone and their overall usage seems to indicate people not only do more on smartphones but may even be using them exclusively as their primary computing platform.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: