Re: Windows 7?
"This was doubly true for PC gaming which was an especially lucrative segment of the market back in the day. Gamers would spend vast sums on ever more powerful rigs to run the latest games which always seemed to need vastly more powerful hardware with each release. And while all this was happening more and more first time buyers were also joining this upgrade treadmill. They were halcyon days for PC makers that will never be seen again."
I believe this is what really drove the evolution in the PC market, your average corporate-targeted desktop could expect a 5-7 year lifespan before being replaced and with PCs being rather expensive in the Windows 95-98 days, I would expect average home users to hang onto theirs for about the same amount of time.
"In 2013 most people who can afford a computer already have one, and those that can't have access to older, second hand options, or bypass the PC altogether. The goldrush of first time buyers in the PC market is over. It's all about replacements these days."
In the 90s PCs were expensive and for those that could afford one there was "the family computer", internet access was (at least outside the US) expensive and slow pay-per-minute dial-up, forget about mobile.
In the early 00s PC prices dropped and laptops started becoming more affordable to the consumer, as was faster internet access and WiFi. Now it became much more convenient to have a smaller and portable laptop that didn't need to be tethered to the nearest telephone socket.
Mobile data services were still expensive, smartphones were geared to the corporate market (Symbian, Blackberry) and consumers by and large found them fiddly and complicated (power users are in a minority), in 2007 Apple launches the iPhone and in spite of the critics and cries from the power-user community about it's lack of features (some still absent) it was a huge hit with consumers.
Now where people would have to wait until they got home to update their Social Networks, look something up online, check their bank balance etc, suddenly they could have the internet in their pocket literally at their fingertips.
Is it really any surprise that the PC market is in decline and more to the point, is anyone really surprised given the direction things have been going up to this point?
"...For years they and their partners slopped out the uninspired and comparitvely [consumer] hostile Windows Mobile smartphone platform... with the only people showing any interest being large corporate [and power] users..."
And personally, I preferred a WinMo 6 device over the iPhone; I liked being able to chop and change things under the hood.
"Now we have reached the point that your typical household, who 5 years ago could be expected to have 2,3 or even 4 [computers], all loaded with MS software are now happy to reduce that down to a single PC and a fleet of phones and tablets, and none of them sporting Microsoft software."
And Apple saw this and acted on it aggressively leaving everyone else to play catch-up.
"Microsoft are suffering the consequences of their own success. I think they should consider the option of downsizing their business and expectations and focus on providing corporate and enterprise products into that market and cede the consumer market to those more able to succeed in it."
Microsoft don't need to cede the consumer market, there will always be a place for the Windows PC both for die-hard gamers, power users and even Mr Average who just wants to get some serious work done.