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Prominent PC makers used CES 2017 to showcase a range of new laptop and desktop designs, some of which are clearly inspired by Microsoft's growing stable of Surface-branded, Windows 10-based personal computers. Targeting a range of market segments, the products on display played to the primary strengths of the Windows PC, namely choice and versatility. With the Windows 10 Creators Update due this spring, and new ARM-based mobile PCs expected later in the year, enterprise vendors and service providers should prepare for increased interest in PC-based products and solutions.

Complexity is still the Achilles' heel of the Windows PC

After a period of stagnation and lackluster innovation, Microsoft appears to be reinvigorating the personal computer industry through a strong combination of software- and hardware-led design efforts. It is still too early to tell if this will result in a significant market upturn, but the general hum from industry commentators and the technorati is at least positive rather than negative.

Microsoft's foray into PC hardware got off to rocky start in 2012 with the arrival of Windows 8 and the unloved Surface RT device. But perseverance, together with billions of dollars of investment, has finally resulted in an aspirational stable of devices: Surface Pro, a hybrid tablet PC; Surface Book, a powerful convertible PC; Surface Studio, an innovative all-in-one PC; and Surface Hub, an interactive meeting room PC. Developers can also purchase HoloLens, Microsoft's clever head-mounted, augmented reality PC.

Some of the personal computers revealed at CES 2017 are similar in design to Surface Pro and Surface Studio. But this isn't blatant copying, it's part of Microsoft's plan to seed the market with inspirational new designs and innovative device categories. Having put its considerable research, design, and marketing resources to good use, Microsoft now wants PC manufacturers to go one better, driving market adoption, innovation, and scale as they do so.

By developing personal computer products that cater to differing needs, desires, and cost constraints, the likes of Dell, HP, and Lenovo are continuing the tradition that many IT professionals still associate with the Windows PC, namely that of offering broad choice and versatility. And this looks set to expand even further later this year with the arrival of always-on, always-connected, mobile PCs running Windows 10 and powered by ARM processors from Qualcomm.

This latest crop of personal computers shows that the PC market is still alive and kicking, especially in the commercial market. But despite recent improvements, Windows 10 still has far too many "moving parts" under the hood, making it brittle and tricky to support. This detracts from the overall appeal and utility of the PC, and does little to endear the platform to the technology-ambivalent customer or new user. Frustration and aversion are now Microsoft's foe, not Apple or Google.


Further reading

2017 ICT Enterprise Insights in Enterprise Productivity and Collaboration, IT0021-000225 (January 2017)

"Microsoft teams up with Qualcomm and cellular carriers to attract the next generation of Windows users," IT0021-000227 (December 2016)

"2017 looks set to become the year of the smart digital workspace," IT0021-000222 (December 2016)

2017 Trends to Watch: Employee Engagement, Productivity, and Collaboration, IT0021-000215 (November 2016)


Richard Edwards, Principal Research Analyst, Enterprise Mobility & Productivity

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