Steve Jobs’ assertion that personal computers running Microsoft’s Windows operating system are in a permanent decline has been met with surprising agreement.
In an onstage interview at the D: All Things Digital conference on Tuesday night, Mr Jobs, chief executive of Apple, said Windows computers would decline in popularity as people used other means to connect to the internet, consume content and work.
He compared the PC with trucks, saying that the vehicles were pervasive when most people lived on farms, but faded in importance as most of the population moved to cities and suburbs. Some people still want trucks, and a fraction will still want PCs, Mr Jobs said: “One out of every x people.”
Executives and other technology and entertainment companies who heard Mr Jobs speak at the conference appeared to agree, pointing to the rapid spread of smartphones and internet-connected devices, including those made by Apple and Google.
“He is pretty clear about ‘it’s over’, and it is,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of DreamWorks Animation, who added that he himself had stopped using a laptop in favour of an Apple iPad and a BlackBerry, made by Research in Motion.
Mr Jobs cited security issues, poor battery life and difficulty in use as drawbacks to the PC laptop. The iPad has no attached keyboard and is not designed for creating material, but Mr Jobs said the device would evolve.
One senior technology executive at a large movie and television company said that as long as Apple’s operating system for the iPad and iPhone relied on finger-touches, instead of the precision of mouse clicks and cursors, office workers would do detailed work on other devices.
However, when asked whether the Windows world would eventually wither away, the executive said: “Yes. But it’s going to take a long time.”
Meanwhile, Dan’l Lewin, the Microsoft executive who manages relations with Silicon Valley allies, agreed that many more types of hardware would come into use.
But he noted that a more diverse environment did not mean Microsoft would earn any less money than to date.
Following on Mr Jobs’ transportation analogy, he said: “There are more trucks than there ever were.”
Apple last week eclipsed Microsoft in stock market value, completing a stunning comeback that Mr Jobs described as “surreal”. The company has aimed at consumers and has less than 10 per cent of the overall computer market.