Sunday, 14 June 2009

Good enough

(By Richard Holway 4.00pm 14th June 09)
I’ve usually found that my best insights come from first hand experiences. I think my views on, say, FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter are enhanced because I am a user.

I spent this weekend in our place in the Lake District. I always bring my now 7-year old Panasonic Toughbook laptop with me. It cost £1800 back in 2002. I bought it, first and foremost, because it weighs just 1.2kg. It has been around the world with me and had never let me down before...

But when I switched it on when we arrived this weekend, the hard disc made the most awful noise and died.

My first priority was to find something so I could do my work. In particular update UKHotviews. So I fired up the Dell PC which has been stored in the cupboard for years. It is 10 years old and runs Windows 98 with 128mb RAM. Amazingly, it worked! Even more amazingly, I could do everything I wanted to do (albeit a bit slower than I would have liked). Of course, this was greatly aided by the fact that most of what I do today is in the Cloud. As long as it can connect to the internet, any machine will do. But I was also surprised that the very old versions of Word, Powerpoint and Excel did everything I wanted too. It certainly showed me that I haven’t used any of the new features Microsoft must have introduced in the meanwhile!

My 10-year old PC and Windows 98 were ‘good enough’.

Then I set about choosing a replacement for my Panasonic Toughbook. I need something that weighed the same. I settled on the new Acer Aspire One D250 which weighs 1.15kg. It comes with a 160gb HD, 1gb of RAM and XP. It costs £299 from Amazon. Rather than buying a new Toughbook, I could afford to drop 5 Acers and still be in profit!

I’m sure I could have got something much ‘sexier’ – running Vista - for many times the price. But, yet again, XP is ‘good enough’ and the Acer is more than ‘good enough’ for my needs. (I might have been swayed by an iTab – but neither Apple nor Jobs was ready to launch it last week)

Microsoft has a real problem over this. 21m Netbooks will be shipped in 2009 according to Gartner – 15% of the laptop market. In order to keep out Linux, Microsoft reduced the price of XP for netbooks to $10-$15. This was one of the reasons behind Microsoft’s recent profits slump (see Microsoft first revenue decline in 23 years). I understand that Microsoft will charge $55 for Windows 7 on netbooks – a sizable chunk out of a $400 netbook’s price. (For a good article on this see Small but Disruptive in this week’s Economist)

I wonder how many people will still decide that XP is ‘good enough’?

I think my experiences this weekend are a microcosm of what we are seeing in the industry as a whole. Enterprises, in particular, see no return from constantly upgrading software – as we have seen in the dismal takeup of Vista. If you don’t change the operating software, the hardware lasts and lasts! Cloud means that even ‘old’ hardware is ‘good enough’ and has a whole new lease of life.

Microsoft’s problems are only just beginning.

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