Because computer manufacturers whose business model depends on shifting ka-gillions of units, on very slim margins, are soon going to realise that people just don't need yet another black/blue/beige gamebox even if it the light-up translucent bits are red rather than blue.
As a quick illustration of where it's all going, John Gruber has a concise summary...
Jean-Louis Gassée:The center of financial gravity in the computing world—the Center of Money—has shifted. No longer directed at the PC, the money pump now gushes full blast at the smartphones market.
He backs this up with a striking financial comparison: Apple makes six times the profit from iPhone OS device sales than HP makes from PC sales — despite the fact that by unit sales, HP is the world’s leading PC maker, and Apple is not the leading smartphone maker.
HP’s purchase of Palm shows that they understand this opportunity.
Palm's WebOS got quite good reviews when it came out, but it was too little too late for a company that basically bet the farm on the PalmPre thrashing the iPhone in the market place. Yes, they did.
In March 2009, major Palm investor Roger MacNamee said... [Emphasis mine.]
Palm Inc.’s new Pre smart phone will lure customers away from Apple Inc.’s iPhone when subscribers’ contracts start expiring in June, Palm investor Roger McNamee said.
“You know the beautiful thing: June 29, 2009, is the two-year anniversary of the first shipment of the iPhone,” McNamee said today in an interview in San Francisco. “Not one of those people will still be using an iPhone a month later.”
How the mighty are fallen, eh? But, as has been pointed out, Palm has now been bought by Hewlett Packard (HP): speculation has been rife for some time that HP have been frustrated with Windows and desired to create their own operating system. With Palm's WebOS on board, they now have the foundations of an operating system in what is fast becoming the single most profitable area of the computer market.
Again, here's John Gruber, commenting on HP's purchase.
MG Siegler, interviewing HP senior VP Brian Humphries:“This is a great opportunity to take two Silicon Valley idols and put them together,” Humphries noted. That’s an obvious statement, but he quickly moved on to the meat. “WebOS is the best-in-class mobile operating system. Our intent is to double down on WebOS.”
I really do think this is a great move for HP. I don’t know that it’s going to work, but it certainly gives them better opportunities in the mobile space than they would have had otherwise. They should announce that the Windows 7 “slate” they pre-announced a few months ago has been canned, to be replaced by a version running WebOS. Just saying they’re “doubling down” doesn’t mean squat if they don’t act on it. The easiest way HP could screw this up is by not committing fully to WebOS for all mobile devices — phones, handhelds, tablets.
Only a couple of days later, HP did announce the death of the Slate—and Microsoft the death of its Courier slate concept. HP, it seems, has plans of its own for tablet computing—and I'm pretty damn sure that they don't involve Microsoft or Windows.
For some time, I have opined that Microsoft is over the hill and on its way out. Sure, it'll take a very long time, but the company is an utter irrelevance in terms of technological enhancements. The money is in mobile computing and—given the limitations of form factor in these devices—in "cloud" storage and services.
Cloud storage and services are led by built-in applications—such as the way in which the iTunes Store and the App Store are built into the iPhone—or though web browsers. And the simple fact is that in web browser technology too, Microsoft is way behind Mozilla or WebKit (which is fast becoming the de facto rendering engine for built-in mobile web browsers).
Although Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) will provide enhanced support for HTML5 and CSS3 (including rounded corners. Finally) it is unlikely to be released before the first quarter of 2011. And whilst many corporate set-ups still run IE6 or 7 (irritatingly), more and more people are switching to Firefox (Mozilla) or Chrome (WebKit) for home use.
Given this, web application designers like myself are no longer designing for IE: we are not even aiming to give IE users the same experience as those on more advanced browers—no, we are aiming only to make the applications work in IE.
Microsoft is dead: it just doesn't know it yet.