Windows PC Biz Squeezed on Both Ends

Dell laptopOn Black Friday Best Buy advertised several discounted Windows laptops, priced at between $250 and $350. My wife and I wanted to get one from our younger daughter, who’s always trying to use my wife’s computer.

However when I read online reviews and looked at these machines in the store it made no sense to buy one of them. Their quality was pretty dubious (3 out of 5 stars generally). That made clear to me that the future is very challenging for the traditional Windows-based PC business (as well as the hardware makers themselves).

Beyond the well-established fact that consumers are putting off replacing traditional computers longer, Microsoft’s Windows PC business is getting squeezed from both ends. In the US at least Apple “owns” the high-end ($1K+) PC market. Most mainstream consumer PCs (Windows Machines) now cost around $500 or below.

But the quality shortcuts that many PC OEMs have made for price competition have made those machines much less desirable than buying an alternative such as an iPad or Android tablet (better quality for the money). We wound up buying the new Acer Chromebook ($199) for my daughter. This made the most sense for her and wasn’t as “junky” as some of the cheap Windows machines I looked at.

For internet activity and basic online tasks a tablet is generally sufficient. When people need something more a Chromebook is probably fine (if there’s a connection). For those who need a hard drive and software, Macs are typically a better quality choice than a more expensive PC (e.g., Sony Vaio).

Pundits and tech bloggers debate whether Chromebooks are a mainstream computing alternative to traditional PCs. I believe they are in most cases and evidently so does Microsoft, as indicated by its recent “Pawn Stars: Chromebooks aren’t a real laptop” spot — which tries to discredit Chromebooks and the Google brand overall.

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