NEW ORLEANS -— The way to shorten upgrade cycles in the enterprise PC world is to sell product that is able to integrate devices as mundane as the telephone, according to Microsoft Corp.’s chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates.

Gates’s comments come at a time when Toronto-based IDC

Canada said Canadian PC desktop growth will be limited over the next five years.

He spoke during the opening keynote address from the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference. Upgrade cycles in the business market are on the order of three to four years, while the education market changes every five years or more, he said.

Ensuring that hardware, software and customer expectations are all maturing at the same level is a problem that has plagued Microsoft and many of its partners in the IT community, he said.

Product improves faster in the technology industry than any other, said Gates. He cited research that suggests that by 2007, processor speeds could easily reach 20 GHz. This will require parallel processors in order to keep the CPU’s heat levels down. “”We don’t have applications taking advantage of these improvements,”” he said.

Microsoft is gearing up for the release of the next Windows PC platform, code-named Longhorn. With that OS, Gates promises vastly improved graphics capability and a graphical user interface (GUI) that will be able to take advantage of it. The falling price of LCD flat-panels is putting a premium on graphics displays and large screens are becoming essential for enterprise users who have to view a variety of complex data on screen, he said. The release of Longhorn will coincide with the next generation of PCs jointly produced by Microsoft and HP. The Athens PC, as it has been code-named, is a large screen PC with a CPU that can also be used to dock a laptop. Attached to the screen is a camera and docking station for a cell phone. A USB key can be plugged into the machine as a file-storing device, but also to start up the PC as if it were a car. The road to shorter upgrade cycles for the PC market has already been laid by Microsoft’s most recent operating system Windows XP, according to Gates.

“”We made a faster transition to that version of Windows than any other version of Windows that we’ve ever shipped. The installed base of so-called Windows 9x has dropped dramatically,”” he said.

Microsoft is aiming to port the manageability of a desktop to data centre management with its Dynamic Data Center initiative.

IDC Canada’s Future of the Canadian IT and Communications Market Forecasts 2003-07 report offered another view. Eddie Chan, the firm’s PC market analyst, said desktops accounted for 78 per cent of total PC shipments in 2002.

“”On a total PC spend-basis, desktops represented 68 per cent in 2002,”” he said. “”Looking forward to 2007, desktops are forecasted to increase to 75 per cent of total PC shipments and 60 per cent of total PC spending. Compounded with the element of good-enough computing, desktop growth will be limited.””

Chan also noted mobile computing is changing the face of computing with both corporate and personal users. While notebook shipments are on the rise, it comes at the detriment of the desktop PC.

“”The mobile computing trend is definitely a big inhibitor as computing habits change with time,”” he said.

— With files from Liam Lahey

Share on LinkedIn Share with Google+