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When is a PC a PC?

Posted: 06.05.13

New definitions needed to get back to reality

As you know the PC is dead, noble thing that it was, it served us well for many decades. The PC has been replaced by the tablet; you may have heard that too. In fact you probably have one or two, I do.For bean counters like us, knowing the correct name of the beans we’re counting is of utmost importance, I mean you want to confuse black beans with brown, white, or yellow, what a mess that would make. How would the Wall Street sharp shooters know who to short if the beans got mixed up? 

So tablets are alive and growing and PCs, well, like I said, it’s just sad. Except, what’s the difference between a tablet and a PC? Now that discussion is like how many angels on the head of a pin, or the color of Taylor Swift’s hair.

So recognizing the obvious vacuum in definition, here I am to save the day (again)—this won’t take long.

I (well, we at JPR) have decided to differentiate tablets by OS. There are three types of tablets: Android, iOS, and (x86)Windows.

The first two can be called media tablets to easily differentiate them from the third tablet which we are calling a PC-tablet. PC tablets are powered by x86 processors from AMD and Intel, and potentially VIA Technologies, and run Windows 8 or earlier, and Microsoft Office and other x86-baed applications. PC Tablets run DirectX and understand what the right mouse button can and should do. PC tablets are for people who work for a living, have deadlines, design goals, and file compatibility and security issues to deal with every day all day.

PC tablets have been with us since 2000 when Microsoft introduced the tablet PC, and although never obtaining great popularity then, continued to be sold into vertical markets, and still are. Last year a few of Intel’s OEMs like HP, Lenovo, and Asus fielded x86-based tablets and they were mildly accepted. They were a bit heaver than the Apple iPad, or the dozen or so Android tablets, and no OEM or Microsoft had an app store at the time which was the hotsy totsy kool rage of the time. Just those boring production workers embraced the Widows 7-based x86 tablets.

This year AMD OEMs will introduce several APU-based x86 Window 8 tablets that will be indistinguishable from the darlings in Apple and Android-land—indistinguishable except for their ability to allow a person to do real work and not just you-tube videos and slide presentations.

What’s more AMD and Intel OEMs will even be able to offer dual-boot versions that can run either Android or Windows (and one day not too far away virtually one of them as a guest of the other).
That changes the obituaries of the PC.

When you count x86-based Windows 8 running PC tablets as a (cough)  PC, you get a new set of numbers,

and CAGR. This is of course good news for AMD and Intel, not necessarily for Nvidia. However, if Nvidia can cram a discrete GPU into an Ultra-thin notebook, I’ll bet they’ve got or are working on an x86 tablet version with a discrete GPU.

The other category of mind-bending bean counting definitions are the convertibles. Asus, Acer, Dell, HP, and others are (or will be very soon) offering ultra-thin x86 notebooks that can be used as a tablet, and/or as a notebook. These of course ARE x86 PCs, but don’t fit tidily into a category so we have to add yet one more, and so far the general feeling seems to be “convertibles” are an acceptable definition. 

There is one more outlander, and that’s the x86-based Android running Chrome book. This is not a PC, and it’s going to make counting the beans tricky if it gains any traction in the market (my views on the Chrome book are expressed earlier in this issue).

So it’s going to take a few questers to get the silicon folks in Austin and Santa Clara comfortable with these definitions so we can get some granularity into the colored beans they are shipping. This is not fun work because the bean builders have all kinds of silly paranoia’s about what they will and won’t tell us (and others) and why. Which when you look back a couple of years and ask, really? Was it really that important? You get a sheepish grin and a shrug. But we’ll soldier on and do the best we can. In the mean time I suggest you call 800 flowers and see you can cancel that death wreath you ordered for the PC.