Despite Bill Gates assertion that Windows XP, PCs and related gear will generate $100 billion in sales during the upcoming holiday season, PC industry big shots do not see restoration of double-digit growth any time soon. That $100 billion has to include everything down to the plastic insulation on power cords.
PC industry CEOs, speaking at an XP launch panel last week in New York, claimed that, if anything, the music, imaging and video features in XP will help their industry out of its funk. About 10 minutes of the 1-hour panel was devoted to talking about XP in business.
At the Gates event, a few enterprise customers were flashed across the screen, but make no mistake, XP, despite the professional version, is being targeted at consumers. Lets narrow that down. Its for teenagers and college students who have the time to mess around with video and audio.
OK, thats an exaggeration. Heck, Im going to run it, and XP will surely accelerate the music and video revolution. But draw your own conclusion from the fact that not a single IT person shared the stage during Gates launch presentation. Perhaps it was one of several launch oversights. After all, IBM, the biggest tech player in the enterprise, didnt have anyone of note on the XP launch stage.
What does Gates think will reignite the PC industry? "Innovation," he snapped, inhaling the defiant New York air. "Thats whats always driven the PC industry. People have underestimated it before, and they are underestimating again."
HP CEO Carly Fiorina was very measured in her assessment. "Windows XP is not going to change industry fundamentals. Were not going to see the torrid growth in the United States," Fiorina said. "A faster processor is no longer what is relevant to consumers."
If not XP or faster processors, then what will it take? Gates thinks it will be technologies such as imaging and speech recognition, imperfect as they are. It took several tries to get the speech demo to work during the launch, as Regis Philbin, playing the computer neophyte, gleefully looked on.
Gateway CEO Ted Waitt, cornered in New York on the eve of the XP launch, avoided the topic of technology entirely. "I think the press [should] come out and say this is a great time to buy a PC. But no one is going to listen to what Im saying," Waitt said. "Its been a rough year."
Alas, Windows 95 six years ago quickly predominated and probably XP will, too, even in business.