I have been seeing charts like this one all over the place, but I think this one is telling. It's from a presentation by a firm called KPCB.
First there's this technology cycles graphic:
Finally, here's the visual chart that goes with the above infographic:
So the WinTel era starts with MS-DOS in about 1982, and if you plot the line at the left side, with some kind of long tail, a gaussian distribution, which I think makes sense, you get this:
If that happens, here's what you'll see:
- PC shipments will continue to decline, and the PC will become a tiny niche that represents about 10% or less of the overall computing world's annual sales.
- Microsoft will continue to control the WinTel/PC desktop world, but the significance of that will shift almost entirely upstream to the Enterprise and large Corporate markets.
Yesterday, when I was having trouble sleeping, I did a search on a few Legacy Technologies that you might not remember. Does anyone remember the HP e3000 family of computers, and its accompanying MPE/iX operating system?
Imagine your business ran on these boxes:
Then imagine you got a letter from HP saying that they're ceasing production of this hardware you rely on, and the software that runs your entire business on it. They politely suggest you transition onto Something Else. Your compilers are no more good. Your source code is no good. Your tools and your skills are no good.
Okay enough fear mongering. Such a thing is very unlikely to happen in the WinTel PC world, at least not before 2099, which is long after I've left this planet, and you too, probably.
But we're creeping ever closer to the era in which Windows applications on a Windows PC are a niche object, something not everyone wants anymore. Businesses will continue to use them until there are no more bits of hardware left that run them. But the days of PCs getting twice as fast are already hard up against the nanoscale physical limits of the universe, and the days when the R&D budgets that drive this Moore's Law growth are going away too.
Soon, very soon, within ten years, Windows will be a shadow of its former self. This, my friends, is why Microsoft is scared, and is reacting with Windows 8.0 and 8.1. You and me, ordinary developers who target Windows are going to be fine, just fine. In 2200, there will probably still be virtual machines running some of the Windows software that you and I are building now.