Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about the future of technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:
Last week's Switched On discussed how Microsoft would go about creating a next-generation PC, but such a leap forward would likely have to be consumer-focused and incompatible with Windows. Why would Microsoft create a new computing platform aimed at the same usage scenarios as today's PCs?
First, there's a market. Nowadays, we have very high PC penetration in the US, and the kind of advanced technological showcase I'm considering wouldn't be suitable for developing countries like the One Laptop Per Child project, but surely there are enough early adopters who would flock to the state of the art for a PC that offered as radical a break with the past as the Mac did in 1984 -- even as a second PC.
Second, creating a new consumer platform would help alleviate outcries from Microsoft's existing hardware partners. Much of HP's and certainly Dell's bread is buttered by business users. Windows -- or at least its user interface conventions -- "work" for many of the productivity tasks that businesses need. In any case, there is tremendous infrastructure around them. Businesses are also slow to adopt new versions of Windows, much less a new paradigm of computing. However, some verticals can won over sometimes, the way Apple rose to dominate the publishing business (or at least the art and layout portions of it) once upon a time.