Microsoft, though best known for the Windows operating system, is no stranger to the world of hardware. Their line of peripherals are top sellers and generally well received by users, the Xbox is on top of the HD game console market, and other various hardware projects have done generally well. They have not, however, entered in to the market as a PC OEM. Here are a few reasons why I believe a Microsoft branded PC would be a good thing:
When you consider the various points made in the ongoing Apple vs. PC debate, one of the biggest arguments against Microsoft’s platform is the broad range of hardware and occasional incompatibilities associated with the incredibly wide range of drivers and standards that go in to building hardware for the Windows platform. Because Microsoft can’t possibly account for every variable manufacturers present, a single update can have a very negative impact on the end user until the OEM can revise their drivers. It’s easy to blame Microsoft for this, but this issue is often a two-way failure.
If Microsoft knows exactly what they have to work with in terms of specifications and power, they can build an OS around this. In the case of Apple, their operating system (OS X) is optimized for a predictable set of hardware giving them the ability to script how the software interacts with the physical machine in a more efficient way. This is why a video card with 256 MB of RAM appears to perform better than the equivalent on a Windows machine in many cases. This doesn’t mean that you can’t get better performance with more powerful hardware on a Windows PC.
Currently, Windows has a reputation for being very large and cumbersome. One major reason for this is a need for backwards compatibility not only for software created for previous versions, but also older hardware. When you consider how many hundreds of brands of products Microsoft currently has to consider when designing their software, it’s amazing the operating system doesn’t take up more space that it currently does. A lot of this was improved with the transition from Windows Vista to Windows 7, which broke much of the ancient and obsolete compatibility in favor of a more streamlined user experience.
There are several very important reasons that Microsoft will likely never actually create their own line of PCs. For one, it would be a slap in the face of their OEMs which rely on Windows to run their hardware. By competing with their biggest customers, they run the risk of losing a major part of their overall income as they look for other options. We saw this with netbooks when they were first coming out. Because Windows Vista was too cumbersome to operate on the underpowered netbooks of the time, manufacturers like HP and Dell looked to lighter and thinner Linux-based operating systems to fulfill their customer’s needs. Though this effort didn’t take off and dominate the market place, it (in addition to backlash from other PC platforms) was enough to push Microsoft to continue to support XP for an extended period of time.