5 Reasons 2014 Could Be the Year Microsoft's Windows Finally Dies

Once a virtual monopoly, Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) Windows business is but a shell of its former self. Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) iOS and Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Android have exploded in popularity in recent years, and the demand for mobile devices has weighed on the market for traditional PCs.

But 2014 could be the beginning of the end for Microsoft's Windows. More than just mobile devices, there are growing signs that Microsoft is losing control of the traditional PC. Let's look at five of those signs.

1. New Android-powered desktops
Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show, the world's top two PC vendors, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo, unveiled radical new desktop PCs. I call them radical because, unlike the vast majority of desktop PCs, they run Google's Android -- not Microsoft's Windows.

HP's 21-inch all-in-one Android desktop is aimed at businesses, while Lenovo's machine is intended for home use. At any rate, if Android-powered PCs catch on, Microsoft's Windows will suffer.

2. The growth of Chrome OS
Google's other operating system, the Web-dependent Chrome OS, has been around for years but has finally started to gain traction. Amazon.com said two of the top three best-selling laptops during this past holiday season were Chromebooks, while Google's operating system now powers about one out of every five laptops sold through commercial channels.

Last week, Toshiba unveiled its first Chromebook, joining a long and growing list of Chromebook vendors. Almost every PC-maker will have at least one Chromebook model on sale in 2014.

3. Larger, enterprise-focused tablets
Also on sale in 2014 will be larger tablets aimed at business users. Samsung's 12.2-inch Galaxy Note Pro is a tablet powered by Google's Android intended to appeal to enterprise users. With a screen almost as large as those of many laptops, and a plethora of built-in business software, Samsung's device should cannibalize sales of Windows-powered PCs.

Apple is expected to join Samsung later this year. A number of reports have indicated that Apple is working on a 12- or 13-inch iPad "Pro" that will go on sale next fall. According to analysts at Evercore Partners, the iPad Pro will be pitched as hybrid between a tablet and a traditional laptop and will be aimed at business users.

4. Steam Machines
Outside the office, Microsoft's Windows still has a following among gamers, but they, too, could soon abandon their Windows PCs in favor of ones running an alternative operating system. Valve's Steam OS is based on Linux and aimed at gamers. A dozen different PCs running Steam OS -- "Steam Machines" -- were on display at CES last week and will go on sale later this year.

Steam OS can't do all the things Windows can, but if gaming is what you do most on your PC, Steam OS could be a potent alternative to Microsoft's operating system -- especially because it's free.

5. Cheaper Macs
Then there are Apple's Macs -- obviously, Apple has been a force in the PC market for decades, but its Macs have never taken more than a token share of the overall market. I wouldn't expect that to change dramatically, but Macs could become increasingly popular machines in 2014 and beyond. Historically, the problem with Mac adoption has been one of price: The absolute cheapest Mac models start at $999; the average PC sells for about half that amount. Put simply, most people just can't afford them.

But Apple has started to cut Mac prices. When Apple refreshed its Mac lineup in October, it cut prices of its MacBook Pro models by 13%. It also announced that its new operating system will be free to all users, and that buyers of new Macs will get several Apple-made applications for free. With Mac prices on the decline, Apple could take a larger percentage of the PC market. There are already signs this is beginning to take place -- according to Gartner, Apple's share of the U.S. PC market rose to 13.7% in the fourth quarter, up from less than 10% last year.

Is Microsoft rushing Windows 9?
According to longtime Microsoft observer Paul Thurrott, Microsoft is working hard to get Windows 8's successor -- Windows 9 -- shipped by April 2015. Thurrott notes that Microsoft is well aware of its Windows-related problems and is working hard to rectify the situation.

But in the tech world, 15 months can be an eternity. With Microsoft's Windows under siege from seemingly every angle, by the time Windows 9 is released, it could be too late.

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Read/Post Comments (10) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 5:11 PM, symbolset wrote:

    Windows is an operating system. Its job is to run programs. People are waking up to the fact that it isn't special in this way.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 8:28 PM, kellenbmiller wrote:

    Microsoft must prevail. I can not stand Google's money making scheme. It is a virus like approach that has made them billions. Something MSFT would have been sued to stop doing. So I do not see why Google get paid so much when it is the consumer that is being bombarded with the adds. The consumer should be paid as far as I am concerned not Google. We are ones losing time to the adds and redirecting to Google placed advertising.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 8:42 PM, NotMotely wrote:

    You are so pathetic. Why do I see only your company targeting Microsoft? Do you have a vested interest in Apple and Google. Keep your opinions to yourself as we all know, a fool will be counted wise if he keeps his mouth shut. You have no clue where Microsoft is heading or where the cooperate world is heading. Please go back to your hole and keep meditating.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 9:50 PM, lw67 wrote:

    Pretty sure that last comment will be wiped off here. They don't like anyone calling a writer an idiot. I have experience in that dept. HA. It does make me laugh when I see someone write that a company with revenue of over $80 billion a year and profit of over $20 billion a year will die in one year. AMAZING THOUGHT PROCESS AND THEY GET PAID FOR IT. GRRRRRR

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 11:18 PM, emilykulish wrote:

    I want to be the second one to call this Author an idiot. Be clear and loud: Sam Mattera is an idiot. Well, he could be worse than an idiot. He just wants to get more readership with this kind of absurd subject line.

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2014, at 1:08 AM, badgerzilla wrote:

    I don't see Windows living past 2014.

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2014, at 2:37 AM, fauxscot wrote:

    I am not a particular fan of Windows, but I think 2014 is a little early on calling the game. At the same time, you summarized a lot of the new competitive environment cleanly, and raised some relevant questions.

    Apple bashers and haters abound, and for every one there is at least one MS hater and basher.

    From where I sit, using both IOS and Win7, they are decent products, to put it mildly. It's not a character flaw to prefer something; to each his own.

    Fair article, good content, no agenda that I can detect. Thanks, and disregard the haters. Folks get wrapped up in their choice and defend it, even when nothing offensive has happened, sometimes. It's only when a writer is doing clickbait crap, distorting facts, and overinterpreting microtrends, or selectively focusing on common issues that abuse it justified. (I see that in Apple articles a lot. Not so much in MS, though, and definitely not in this one.)

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2014, at 10:40 AM, jameskil wrote:

    A little refresher here ... this guys brain is firmly ensconced in the consumer tech market, and part rightly so a that market shoots up. However, the business world does not run on smart phones and tablets, which for the most part are secondary devices to those of us who work for a living or own businesses. The support, computing power, and the ability to use self-supporting software (like the "offices") on a device that is friendly to hours of productive effort requires a more established platform, and a from factor that will not drive you blind. Sure, tablets can execute web based applications, but when the data entry requires a decent amount of text, or to navigate "grid" based data like spreadsheets (the goddess of all business tools), or to do detailed presentations, you drive yourself nuts trying to hen-peck your way through a touch screen keyboard. Until such time that the form factor barrier to entry is overcome (in some way, shape or form that does not require incessantly tapping away with a single finger), the larger devices will be more prevalent. There is a lot to be said for going mobile with applications suitable to road warriors (the client site visit or sales call come to mind), but those types of applications are summary in nature, and the majority are "read only", meaning not a lot of critical updating are required. This guy, and those like hi have no idea what it takes to support business and knowledge workers with hardware, applications and updates or changes to the same. Plus, they don't understand how critical it is to have a full fledged set of developer tools available for the non-software engineer types (i.e. the average Joe IT) that make it possible to create the complex business applications need and require. So far, nobody other than Microsoft understands this well. That's how they out maneuvered IBM when it was OS/2 vs. Windows, and more recently Java (which Sun burned itself out trying to make popular). Tablets are about to mort into something more substantial than the iPad, and the various Android devices. And the Chromebook, although more of a gadget buy today despite all the usual hype, still is tethered to a network to be consistently useful. Plus, like Apple (who has shunned the needs of the enterprise because of the required ramp up and human capital required), the competitors for ubiquitous replacement of the Windows "ecosystem" (good, I hate that term), is years away from ever achieving this given the support issue(s) mentioned previously. Apple is quite happy being consumer focused, but also allows the dream to continue to be bantered about because it does no harm to them, but they realize the effort, capital and time required, they are not good at supporting more than a consumer, and really do not view themselves as an enterprise player (although established somewhat in certain niches). This all makes good press, but in reality there is only 3 companies right now that can scale to a huge installed base (IBM, Microsoft and Oracle), and look what it took to get there ... Sometimes the Motley certainly is a fool ...

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2014, at 5:44 PM, AlexMartin wrote:

    While I don't fully agree with the article and it seems obvious that 2014 is to soon for windows to die, some comments are not fair.

    It's not about the end of Microsoft, the article it's about the end of Windows - very different.

    Also as it stated in the article, the pressure comes not just from mobile devices but also from other type of competition, like Mac PCs that the author believe will become cheaper.

    While I don't see Apple overtaking Microsoft in desktops, I wonder how bad would be for MS if Apple could release a sub $700 MacBook...

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 5:45 PM, nono5551212 wrote:

    LOL. I believe Microsoft stock will quadruple in the next 5 years. Honestly they are in a good spot right now. Sinofsky, Balmer, & Gates pushed out. Their enterprise guy (Satya Nadella) is now CEO. - Nokia to make android fork that looks like windows phone - Possibly office on iPad and android tablets - Windows Azure profitable (not by much but in the green) - XBOX to finally turn a profit (Game system and great set top box) - Office 365 gaining traction.

    They have scrapped windows 8 and will possibly do the same with windows phone and tablet. If they develop software for android and ios to help connect to their services.. that could be a big win for them. Their share holders have not been happy as their stock has been somewhat the same for 8-10 years.

    I believe that they have learned a hard lesson that if they don't listen to their user base that they will fail. We all know windows 8 was a laughable attempt at an OS and I believe MS knows this too. The old regime is out and Satya will turn it around.

    Has this author completely forgot about Windows Server, Windows 7, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, Active Directory, Hyper V, CALS, Softwware Assurance, etc, etc, They dominate the enterprise and nothing else even comes close PERIOD.

    Microsoft knows that need to rebound on the consumer side and I am curious to watch them do so.

    So this author can go sit in his local Starbucks and work on his un finished novel on mac book.

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