No, Windows is not dying (although Microsoft is strangling it)

On the heels of Gartner's latest gloomy predictions for the PC market, it's amazing how people can twist numbers around.

It's always amazing how people interpret the stats from the market research firms and tell you what to think of them. Today is a pretty good lesson in lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Gartner issued a report that predicted worldwide devices, which includes PCs, tablets and mobile phones, will grow 9% this year to 2.4 billion devices, and will reach 2.9 billion by 2017.

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Not surprisingly, that growth will come largely from smartphones and tablets. The two will account for 2.07 million devices sold this year and 2.6 million devices by 2017, which makes for 57% compound annual growth.

PCs and Ultrabooks, which are split into two groups, will enjoy a CAGR of 20%, with Ultrabooks poised to really take off in 2017 and make up for decline in PC sales.

So, of course, out comes the doom and gloom. "Microsoft Could Be Obsolete By 2017: Gartner Report" said an irresponsible Yahoo Finance article. "Microsoft threatened as smartphones and tablets rise, Gartner warns," claimed The Register.

Really? Where did you see that in Gartner's report?

The fact is, Gartner expects Microsoft to be second to Android devices come 2017, mostly on the strength of PC sales, not smartphones. It will go from 354 million devices this year to 504 million devices in 2017.

I don't see obsolescence, I see growth, just not as fast as Android. And Android is growing because it's free. Slap it on a white box phone or tablet from China and it's one more to the pile.

The report doesn't take into account two major threats to Android: 1) fragmentation, which is driving developers crazy, and 2) Tizen, the Samsung/Intel smartphone OS project. I don't know if it will set the world on fire, but it sure has the potential to fragment it.

The PC market is a mature one. These days, almost every household I know has more PCs than people, but fewer phones. Most people only need one phone line. Still, feature phones are about half the market in the U.S. and most of the market worldwide, so of course there is room to grow that PCs don't have. And it's very hard to sell people on upgrades when PCs are working fine, and Windows 7 seems much more palatable than Windows 8.

None of this excuses Microsoft. It seems to have blown its relationship with Samsung, which was not a good move, and the Asian PC suppliers are near open revolt over Windows 8. Windows RT appears to be stillborn and Windows Phone 8 is loved by the people who have one, but too few to make it a success.

Plus, there is growth to be had in the PC market if you chase it. A few weeks back, Gartner issued its Q4 PC sales report, and Lenovo was up while the rest were down. Lenovo competes aggressively on price and margin, but it also offers a full warranty for people who downgrade to Windows 7, and they created their own Start button software for Windows 8 customers. So there are some vendors who know how to sell a PC.

The slowdown in PC sales is undoubtedly in part due to Windows 8 leaving a bad taste in people's mouths. There are other reasons that are beyond Microsoft's control, but competition is not one of them.

Microsoft's greatest enemy is Microsoft. Not Apple, not Google and not Samsung. And it's doing a pretty good job of hurting itself with its misguided Windows 8 policies. But it also has the ability to stop it.

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