Microsoft wants OEMs to build these kinds of PCs

The PC market needs a jump-start, and Microsoft has some ideas

Microsoft held the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in China last December, but it has just released a very interesting video that highlights where it would like to see the PC market head in the coming years. 

The video, from the session "Next Generation of Windows Devices," isn't all that surprising, as Microsoft has already been advocating for things such as Ink and Hello. Its description of the Modern PC falls into three categories: Cool Designs, Better Performance and New Experiences. 

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Microsoft had an interesting factoid. It said that there are over 600 million Windows devices in use that are more than 4 years old. Those are pretty much all Windows 7 and perhaps Windows 8 machines, since Windows 10 is only a year old. That's 600 million people Microsoft wants to upgrade. 

The kinds of devices Microsoft wants to see hasn't changed: 2-in-1s, all-in-ones and ultrabooks. Microsoft would also like to see FHD, IPS or better screens, precision touchpads and some OEM innovations, such as borderless displays. 

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Under New Experiences, Microsoft wants PCs to have two or more "hero features," such as Windows Hello, touch and pen and Cortana. Under Better Performance, the company talks of battery life, image quality and app load time, but not overall CPU performance. Perhaps because there isn't any to be had. 

Microsoft is also dividing up its promotional efforts behind the "hero features." During the 2016 holiday shopping period, the company emphasized Windows Ink in its Windows promotions. For this period through March, it will focus on Windows Hello and security, and from April to June, Cortana will take front and center. 

Plans for 5 types of devices

Microsoft is already getting ready for Christmas 2017 and has plans for five types of devices:

  1. PCs for the modern creator, which include two-in-one detachables or convertibles with pens, making use of cameras and Cortana. 
  2. Modern peripherals like keyboards and voice command devices that are Cortana-, Hello- and/or Ink-enabled will get the "special logo/branding treatment." 
  3. PCs to power mixed reality. Microsoft is planning on a cheaper HoloLens-like headset by the holiday, and Windows 10 Creators Update will have support for virtual reality and augmented reality. 
  4. PCs for the gamer and media fanatic. These are high-end PCs, and Creator's Update is supposed to get a "Gamer Mode" that shuts down PC services so maximum power can be given to the game. Microsoft also seems to be blurring the line between Xbox and Windows PCs, which isn’t surprising because they both use x86 CPUs and DirectX12 GPUs. 
  5. IoT devices for verticals. Microsoft envisions new devices running Windows 10 IoT for vertical markets, such as manufacturing, retail and home.

What's clear is Microsoft sees a new direction for the PC that's not just the black tower with the usual hardware inside. The company wants to make the PC do more and do different things, requiring more hardware and software integration than in the past. That was always easy for Apple to do, since it controlled both elements. For Microsoft, it will be more of a challenge.

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