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Wintel PC becomes the iPad, Nokia MikroMikko becomes the Lumia

Yesterday I bought my first desktop PC since around 2005. I felt really nostalgic clearing up space under the desk to fit the black box, and also to notice that they still make computers without built-in WiFi adapters in the year 2012. Oh well, I bought it purely to get a piece of that SSD magic – and boy, is it fast! I can barely see a difference between installing a local app or opening a web app.

Anyway, back in the late 90’s when we all were buying those beige boxes and living the golden era of Wintel, would you have ever thought that Apple could make a comeback and overthrow the PC market? Well, they have now done just that. iPads are outselling desktop PCs and are now equal to 17% of the PC market.

Of course there are still more Windows based computers sold than Macs or iPads combined. The thing is, Wintel was never really the king of the mobile computing era, which started when we replaced desktop PCs with laptops. Sure, you could carry around an XP equipped machine in your backpack and boot it up whenever you had some half an hour to invest in nursing your PC on and off, connect it to the network, balance with the battery life and all that.

At the end of the day, what you had was a portable desktop PC, not a true mobile computer. We had to wait for the iPad to reach a point where computers are just like magazines in our bags or on the kitchen table. You don’t manage a magazine, and similarly you don’t have to think about the iPad when you pick it up. It’s ready for you, it stays in the background as much as it can, and 90% of the time it delivers you all the computing power you need for the occasion.

It’s not just the hardware, of course, but the whole Wintel^3 experience that Apple can deliver because it can design everything but the last mile of UX (the app). Why is it that when you buy a laptop PC from Acer, Sony or whoever, the first thing you want to do is get rid of all the crapware applications that came bundled with the machine? How can it be that when a single company gets to choose what to include in the end product, the result in the PC world is pure garbage? Seriously, no one ever chose the Sony laptop over the Acer one because of the software that came with the Vaio. In a Wintel world the only true difference the manufacture was able to promote was the physical design of their physical product, since all the software available for PC’s was the same anyway.

Hmm, come to think of it, didn’t Nokia just release their first quarterly results as a Windows Phone device manufacturer? Yes, they did, and reports indicate that they’ve sold over 1 million Windows Phone devices. That’s not a bad start, considering the phones are not even available in their home market Finland yet, let alone many other significant markets, like the US. Sure, the smartphone sales are dramatically down from one year ago, but that’s not really relevant, since Symbian always was a burning platform anyway.

I’m sure the numbers will improve as a result of Nokia+Microsoft joint effort in pushing their 3rd ecosystem to the market, especially the enterprise market. It’s not as significant anymore as it used to be, thanks to the BYO trend of employees choosing their own iPhones over corporate RIM’s or whatever. It may not be the market that sets any trends, but it’s a world where no one can really challenge Microsoft when it comes to luring in the IT departments. No one loves Microsoft there either, but it’s better the devil you know, and the devil that knows you.

Where does that leave Nokia then? Isn’t this the Wintel story playing all over again on mobile phones? Well, yes, it is. Sorry. The best Nokia can hope to achieve is that the Lumias become the Vaios of the new mobile computing era. Given how Windows 8 is heading towards the Windows Phone 7 model in terms of UI and app distribution, it’s actually not very outlandish at all to assume that Nokia will soon be competing head on with Vaio laptops. Give me one reason why they wouldn’t? Of course we won’t be calling them laptops anymore, since that’s the label for portable desktop PC’s. They will be called tablets, slates or whatever combination of letters the biggest marketing departments in the world can come up with.

In the 80’s we had Nokia PC’s, called MikroMikko, being a clone of the IBM PC, running Microsoft DOS. In the 2010’s we’ll see Nokia mobile computers, called Lumia, being a clone of the Apple iPad, running Microsoft Windows 8 / Windows Phone 8, depending on the form factor. History comes full circle, only to repeat again.

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