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Can Backwards Compatibility Save the PC?

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In the past, one of the key advantages of buying a Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) Windows PC was for its backwards compatibility with applications designed for previous versions of Windows. For the end user, it meant you wouldn't have to repurchase all of your software when upgrading to a new Windows PC. Nowadays, the rise of cloud computing and Web applications has changed the collective mind-set that backwards compatibility is a must-have feature.

A new world
believes that the public cloud computing industry will grow by 18.5% to become a $131 billion worldwide industry this year. The software-as-a-service market, which consists of Web-based applications, is expected to become a $19.3 billion sub-industry. For the end user, the beauty of the cloud is that your applications will often work on a host of different devices, meaning you have more flexibility to be operating system-agnostic. In this context, the operating system becomes less important and the focus becomes geared toward the user experience.

Surprise, surprise!
Between the radical departure from its past and poor customer reception, Windows 8 hasn't exactly been regarded as an operating system with an excellent user experience. In the age of mobile computing, it's become clear that simplicity and ease of use have taken a central role in the user experience. Since Microsoft didn't exactly nail that concept with Windows 8, the hope is that Windows 8.1 will address key user issues and improve reception.

The bigger elephant
Fueled by the explosive rise of mobile computing, it's likely that cloud computing will continue to grow in importance to the everyday user. Consequently, the more applications made available through the cloud, the lower the value of backwards compatibility. In this context, future Windows sales are likely to be largely driven by user experience and price. Although Intel Bay Trail will help drive down the price of Windows 8 devices, introduce new form factors, and make the Windows ecosystem more competitive against mobile computing, it's not going to change the Windows 8 user experience.

Judging by the lack of improvements, I'm not sure Windows 8.1 will, either.

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Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On July 08, 2013, at 10:39 PM, JoeLemon wrote:

    Cloud is nothing new. Writing articles pretending like it is doesn't show a lot of knowledge. Cloud is just a new word on something that has been around since the 70s.

    Save the PC? Funny I was just at work and out of the 1500 people not one was doing work on a ipad and never will.

  • Report this Comment On July 08, 2013, at 11:18 PM, twotwentythree wrote:

    Joelemon is right. I'm really not sure why Motley Fool pushes this Death of the PC storyline so hard, but it let's me know exactly what to think of everything else that comes across the wire here. Misguided nonsense.

  • Report this Comment On July 08, 2013, at 11:40 PM, bcweir wrote:

    Agreed about the dead horse the Fool continues to beat. People who know little about computers or the technology industry in general continue to sell this snake oil as some sort of stupidity test. Death of the PC? Really? The PC is STILL a multi-BILLION dollar industry, especially if you count the market for individual computer parts used to build homegrown computer parts EVERY DAY.

    The PC is far from dead. It's simply no longer the only game in town. Businesses buy BILLIONS of dollars in both laptops and desktops every year.

    If Fool wants to stay relevant, stick to what you know - the nuts and bolts of the finance markets. Its attempts to "look" relevant in the technology industry are only making it look like the eight-track tape player next to a tablet or smartphone in 2013.

    The moles who push this death of PC crap ought to be allowed to crawl out of their holes once every decade or so to see the real world outside their cellars.

  • Report this Comment On July 09, 2013, at 12:01 AM, Jeffkory wrote:

    Maybe fool is referring to the horrible win 8 os- I know this is my last microsuck product- I told my wife I hope this new laptop dies soon- I hate the 8- It probably is ok for a cell phone but not my laptop.. It's all unwanted BS.

  • Report this Comment On July 09, 2013, at 12:54 AM, CrazyDocAl wrote:

    Why is it that there are idiots who think that PC sales were always going to continue to increase? The same with the smart phone market? My 4 year old PC still does everything I want it to do. Why would I replace it with one that has a faster CPU, larger hard drive, and more memory when I will never need any of that?

    Face it, consumers are finding themselves with less money n their pocket. They are not going to replace items that work just fine. They are not going to trade in their S3 for a S4 or 4s for a 5. That doesn't mean the market is dying, it just means consumers aren't willing to spend money where they don't have to.

  • Report this Comment On July 09, 2013, at 1:41 AM, GuitarJim wrote:

    The author is a hack who has never used a PC for anything more than writing his questionable opinion in blog posts. He'd be perfectly contented with a sub $100 Chinese tablet computer.

    For those of us who use PC's for professional work, cloud based applications might be fine for some office applications but there will always be things which are clumsy, difficult, or even impossible to do in "the cloud". Video editing, digital audio recording and editing, 3D graphics design and animation, electronics engineering, software development, and the list goes on and on. There are just too many areas where you need to the CPU power on your desk rather than on a server somewhere else.

  • Report this Comment On July 09, 2013, at 8:38 AM, normcf wrote:

    As windows PC sales continue to slow, and every other OS grows, the commenters resort to attacking the author and motley fool. Even though they purport to disagree, they still have time to read and type hate. Are they really worried that an article like this will change consumers or shareholders minds?

  • Report this Comment On July 09, 2013, at 1:43 PM, JoeLemon wrote:

    Mac sales are so bad that Apple had to reduce the price. Apple has lost market share not gained in the last year. Chrome OS was a huge flop. Exactly what desktop OS is making gains?

    The windows 8 phone has had the biggest market share increase of anything out there. It went from 0, since it is a brand new product, to around 3%. Based on that the author of this article show be saying that in 5 years it will have 100% market share. It is using the same logic he is using.

    Of course this article won't affect anything. No one that knows anything takes it seriously. What exactly is your point?

  • Report this Comment On July 09, 2013, at 10:03 PM, jvgfool wrote:

    Actually Windows 8 makes things much easier. It gets rid of the stupid hard to read pop up menu and replaced it with an easy to read and manipulate splash menu. It's funny. Windows 8 is actually too advanced for today's gadget heads, and yet this new technology resides on a PC.

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