Microsoft's weak mobile presence could leave it irrelevant in 4 years

By on April 4, 2013, 11:30 AM

It's no secret that tablets and smartphones are gradually occupying more computing time among folks who don't need the horsepower of a full-fledged PC. Although this trend has prompted many to predict the death of PCs, it's fairer to say that high-end desktops aren't going anywhere, we're just witnessing a change of preferred platforms among standard users -- a shift that could leave Microsoft irrelevant in as little as four years, Gartner warns.

"While there will be some individuals who retain both a personal PC and a tablet, especially those who use either or both for work and play, most will be satisfied with the experience they get from a tablet as their main computing device," Gartner research VP Carolina Milanesi said. "As consumers shift their time away from their PC to tablets and smartphones, they will no longer see their PC as a device that they need to replace on a regular basis."

Considering Microsoft's dominance is primarily in PCs, declining desktop and laptop sales isn't good news for the software giant. However, the company's weak presence in the booming mobile segments presents a bigger concern. Microsoft has largely been one step behind its rivals when it comes to smartphones and tablets, and shipments of Windows-branded devices including PCs and mobile hardware will soon be dwarfed by others.

Unless something changes, Gartner predicts that shipments of Apple's devices (including iOS and Mac OS) will reach parity with Windows PC and mobile hardware -- something that reportedly hasn't happened since the 1980s. During the same period, shipments of Android devices will total about twice that of either Microsoft or Apple -- a gap that will continue to grow through 2017 when Google's OS is expected to ship on 1.5 billion devices.

"Winning in the tablet and phone space is critical for them to remain relevant in this shift," Milanesi told the Guardian. "We're talking about hardware displacement here -- but this shift also has wider implications for operating systems and apps... Android is going to get to volumes that are three times those of Windows. From a consumer perspective, the question becomes: what software do you want to have to get the widest reach on your devices?"

She also noted that many people in developing markets are more likely to have a smartphone or tablet as their first "computer," and they'll likely stick with devices that provide a smartphone-like experience. Microsoft could also face increasing trouble attracting application developers as Apple and Android greatly outpace the company's smartphone and tablet shipments, and few things will kill an outfit's mobile efforts faster than having a weak ecosystem.




User Comments: 26

Got something to say? Post a comment
2 people like this | veLa veLa said:

While it's true that desktops and even laptops are becoming less relevant with the upswing in mobile devices, I certainly plan on continuing to build my own "gaming rigs" as well as using a smartphone. There's something special about building your own machine.

Guest said:

The specialness wears off at some point. However, I do agree that I plan on having a gaming computer for many years to come.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

This is why win8 is designed for mobile as well as desktop...they were looking ahead. As more people replace their PCs due to their death or becoming outdated, win8 will get a bump and so will the mobile version...so no MS death is likely. If win8 had just been win7 refresh, that might be a different story...

Guest said:

An impressive new Android tablet called the Novo 9 Spark - launched this month for $269 -- with one of the first U.S. resellers it's available through is a site called TabletSprint -- this new model compares to the iPad and Nexus 10 tablets with a much more competitive price tag and offers a full size, 9.7 inch display with an Retina type screen and a Quad Core Processor --

The Novo 9 Spark features a 9.7 inch 2048x1536 IPS screen and a Quad Core processor/1.5 Ghz/2GB - along with a performance 10,000 mAh battery, 32GB Memory, WiFi, a MicroSD memory card slot, the new high end 4K Digital HDMI to stream movies from the tablet and display on an HD TV, a 2 Megapixel Front webcam and a 5 Mega - pixel Rear Camera with autofocus; and also comes preinstalled with Google Play Store, with access to over 400,000 Android software Apps, as well as provides options for 3G/4G internet access.

The Novo 7 Venus 7 Inch tablet also launched in March and compares closely to the Nexus 7 -- but retails for $149 --

jonny702 said:

Except Windows Phone has experienced the biggest increase in Market share in the last year than any other platform (52% increase)

2 people like this | SammyJames said:

Yeah, sure. "PCs are going to die!" Does anyone here realize HOW MANY TIMES WE HAVE HEARD THIS OVER THE LAST THIRTY YEARS?!

"The Commodore 64 is the PC killer!"

"The Apple IIc is the PC killer!"

"The Commodore Amiga is the PC killer!"

"The Atari 540 ST is the PC killer!"

"The Mac iBook is the PC killer!"

"The MacBook Pro is the PC killer!"

"The cell phone is the PC killer!"

"The iPhone is the PC killer!"

"The iPad is the PC killer!"

"Google Android devices are the PC killers!"

"Google Glass is the PC killer!"

When you have 30 years of ANYTHING, it's tough to kill it. Hell -- VINYL hasn't disappeared yet. CDs haven't disappeared yet. I'm not saying that it is IMPOSSIBLE to kill something that is 30 years old, but it's tough. And given how entrenched PCs are in our daily lives, how they have been incorporated into, well, most corporations, you begin to see why desktops, laptops, and other x86 devices aren't going away anytime soon.

For content creators who depend on faster-than-usual PC performance, a desktop is still a must-have -- or at least an extremely powerful laptop.

SammyJames said:

An impressive new Android tablet called the Novo 9 Spark - launched this month for $269 -- with one of the first U.S. resellers it's available through is a site called TabletSprint -- this new model compares to the iPad and Nexus 10 tablets with a much more competitive price tag and offers a full size, 9.7 inch display with an Retina type screen and a Quad Core Processor --

The Novo 9 Spark features a 9.7 inch 2048x1536 IPS screen and a Quad Core processor/1.5 Ghz/2GB - along with a performance 10,000 mAh battery, 32GB Memory, WiFi, a MicroSD memory card slot, the new high end 4K Digital HDMI to stream movies from the tablet and display on an HD TV, a 2 Megapixel Front webcam and a 5 Mega - pixel Rear Camera with autofocus; and also comes preinstalled with Google Play Store, with access to over 400,000 Android software Apps, as well as provides options for 3G/4G internet access.

The Novo 7 Venus 7 Inch tablet also launched in March and compares closely to the Nexus 7 -- but retails for $149 --

Wow. Thanks for all of that obviously impartial observational information, "Guest."

alcarin2030 alcarin2030 said:

Except businesses will still use Microsoft. You know, the main users of Microsoft? This article completely forgets this. Irrelevant in four years? Please lol.

JC713 JC713 said:

Microsoft will fight back. They have some awesome concepts under development.

Lionvibez said:

" Gartner predicts that shipments of Apple's devices (including iOS and Mac OS) will reach parity with Windows PC and mobile hardware -- something that reportedly hasn't happened since the 1980s."

hmm too bad jobs is dead he would have loved to see this if it comes true.

Lionvibez said:

The specialness wears off at some point. However, I do agree that I plan on having a gaming computer for many years to come.

Someone that loves building cars will love it still there last day.

It never wears off if it does you didn't love doing it as much as you think you did and need to remove your enthusiast badge!

treeski treeski said:

MS will be juuuuuuust fine

4 people like this | Lurker101 said:

Microsoft will fight back. They have some awesome concepts under development.

And an infinite amount of opportunities to screw them up in the most underwhelmingly spectacular ways possible.

In all seriousness though, Microsofts biggest problem isn't mobile platforms. It's the desktop. It's seen the amount of money Apples business has shovelled in and started trying too hard to be Apple. There's been a lot of stupid moves and statements made by Microsoft lately, born of equal parts arrogance and stupidity. Choice statements such as (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Of course touchscreens aren't as intuitive or productive as a mouse and keyboard but people will get used to it." and "We didn't want you to have to make a choice." aren't exactly a brilliant way to endear your company to users who have grown up with a Microsoft whos stance on an operating system was pretty much, "It's your computer. Do what you want.".

Instead of trying to be dictatorial with their interface, alienating home user and business users alike, they could stand to actually listen to the user feedback a little more and learn through that what the way forward is. It would definitely be a better way forward than forcing a new and intrusive user interface on its customer base while not leaving the option of the old, comfortable version which seems to split the community, bombarding the world and his wife with infantile advertisements through every form of medium possible and blaming OEMs for poor sales before announcing less than a year into release that they're working on the next version of Windows already so that the people who have a tenancy to hold out until SP1 (and there are a lot of them) say "bugger it, I'll just wait for the next Windows" which serves only to depress sale even further.

Or is my brain just plugged in backwards?

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Or is my brain just plugged in backwards?
If your brain is plugged in backwards, so is mine.

kajehart kajehart said:

I agree. However, MS has been hurting getting smartphone carriers besides Nokia.

2 people like this | grip_2_go grip_2_go said:

The way I see it is that MS has set a trend of coming to the table "after the fact" with other peoples ideas for too many years now. If they would just focus on their strengths, or god forbid, even beat someone to the punch with a game changing innovation then it would all be roses and champagne for them.

I personally have bricked two Zune devices (No longer supported, even under non-warranty conditions), and suffered years through Windows Mobile (The most useless and frighteningly obstinate cell OS ever to date, period). It is for this reason alone that I will not purchase a "Surface" tablet. I can pretty much guarantee that after a year or two of disappointing sales, MS will close shop on that as well. NO THANK YOU. What I can guarantee you is that, as long as game developers are making graphics crushing, entertaining titles, and as long as hardware manufacturers are still scrambling to push out the latest state of the art peripherals in order to make those titles playable, and as long as it's all done on a Windows platform, then I'm going to be a PC guy.

There is no thrill like cranking up a new game in a monster machine and watching in wonder as particles, shadows, and AI all interact in a spectacular smooth flowing bonavaganza of gaming goodness, the likes of which even make the next gen consoles look like pikers months before their release. The PC is dead?. As if!.........

VitalyT VitalyT said:

I wouldn't jump to a conclusion on the fate of Windows on the mobile market. I'm looking forward to seeing new tablets with high resolution, running Windows Blue by end of this year. We just haven't seen good products with Windows 8 yet, so it may likely happen before this year is out.

Carleton Wu Carleton Wu said:

If chrome OS had a legitimate office suite and maybe a decent photo editing app, I would ditch Windows altogether.

Mbloof said:

This is why win8 is designed for mobile as well as desktop...they were looking ahead. As more people replace their PCs due to their death or becoming outdated, win8 will get a bump and so will the mobile version...so no MS death is likely. If win8 had just been win7 refresh, that might be a different story...

Outdated? I think we've reached the end of the 'Wintel' forced update/upgrade cycle. The REAL issue now is the cameras, scanners and printers we use with our computers. It will be years before OEM's stop providing WINXP support. If your XP PC dies your more likely going to have it repaired then replace it with a WIN8 box and then spend $1000's more replacing all your other stuff to get WIN8 compatibility.

The last decent version of 'Office' was in 1997 - everything since then has been nothing more than 'bloatware'. Mostly the same with Windows itself - most folks (outside of dedicated Gamers) would still be using WIN2K or XP if they were not forced to get Vista/W7/W8 with a new box.

"New" is surely not always better and now that just about everyone can get email, weather, stock, news and the TV schedule on their smart phones and super cheap photo prints are just a few clicks away the list of things that only a "PC" can do keep shrinking.

Does every new version of Apple or Android OS require a new box and all new accessories?

1 person liked this | Guest said:

If your XP PC dies your more likely going to have it repaired then replace it with a WIN8 box and then spend $1000's more replacing all your other stuff to get WIN8 compatibility.

Have even used Win8? It has the same kernelbase (granted, updated kernel), same driver model, even more peripheral drivers shipped allong as Win7. So if there are peripheral issues, you'll have them in Win7 as well.

I do agree that the forced WinRT home-screen may have not been the best decision, but stability- and performance-wise, Win8 is superior to Win7.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

*Same user as above

Does every new version of Apple or Android OS require a new box and all new accessories?

No, Apple just ditches old hardware (and old is 4 years in their eyes) entirely with new OS released, forcing you to buy a completely new machine. Quote from Wikipedia "OS X originally ran on PowerPC-based Macs. In 2006, the first Intel Macs had a specialized version of 10.4 "Tiger". In 2007, 10.5 "Leopard" was the first to run on both PowerPC and Intel Macs with the use of Universal Binaries. 10.6 "Snow Leopard" was the first version of OS X to drop support for PowerPC Macs. Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" was the first version of OS X to drop support for32-bit Intel processors and run exclusively on 64-bit Intel CPUs."

Great job Apple!!

JC713 JC713 said:

If chrome OS had a legitimate office suite and maybe a decent photo editing app, I would ditch Windows altogether.

Picasa is said to be killed and the features will be ported to Google +. Or they may just rename it Google+ _______. As for Google Docs, you are right. When I am too lazy to go to my PC I use the Mac downstairs, but we dont have Word on it. So I just used Docs. I didnt think it was that bad, but there are tons of features in Word that can really improve your work. Docs is still in Beta in my opinion.

FrostBolt said:

These are exciting times. Microsoft has dominated software for as long as I can remember. I think it's awesome that there is more than one software option now. I just hope that Google or Apple doesn't become the new monopoly.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

These are exciting times. Microsoft has dominated software for as long as I can remember. I think it's awesome that there is more than one software option now. I just hope that Google or Apple doesn't become the new monopoly.

I believe that Microsoft will regain much of its lost credit with the release of Windows Blue. Granted, they screwed up in a few key departments with Windows 8, but if they evolve it in the right way, they may get their approval back. After all, the touch-screen isn't going anywhere, and if MS didn't attempt to push for it as much as they did with Windows 8 - someone else would have picked up the race, and there is no guarantee they would do it any better. The change is usually painful, and that's normal.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Brilliant 'misrepresentation' of facts from Gartner at least the way I see it after having read the same information from different perspective. Just have a look here: [link]

kuroiei kuroiei said:

It's nothing. I'm sure they'll #dealwithit.

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.