MindBullets 20 Years


PC and Windows sales fall as game consoles take charge

If your middle-class home doesn’t have one then you’re in the minority, you’re no longer cool – and that’s OFFICIAL.

British Consumer Council research has established that the Sony PlayStation has beaten out Apple’s PodMaster and Windows PCs to become the center for home entertainment, gaming, gambling, shopping and the home appliance network.

Sony and IBM’s joint venture to create the new Cell chip platform was a critical innovation in the rise of Sony’s dominance of what used to be called the ‘game console’ market. Now, the computing power in the digital home is equivalent to that of a supercomputer of the 1990s.

Effectively the new Sony products are replacing home computers, integrating smart appliances and providing all the communication and media processing required for the family and home office, even connecting mobile phones to the net.

Microsoft and Apple were not available for comment last night, but are believed to be concentrating on internet services and corporate software.

ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be

The End of the Home PC

Every home should have one. What, a computer? No, that’s so last century! These days your average DVD player has more digital processing power than a three-year-old laptop computer. Convergence is no longer a concept, it’s reality. And the winner of the home entertainment and media contest is Sony’s PlayStation.

Of course, the old ‘home computer’ didn’t give up without a fight. In fact, it took an unlikely alliance of Apple, Microsoft and Intel to mount the final defence. But ultimately the market plumped for the Sony / IBM setup – two great brands, with performance and design to match.

With home workstations being used more for games, movies, news and communication than budgets and projects, it was inevitable that the company with its finger on the digital consumer’s pulse would triumph. Now that smartphones have largely replaced laptops, the demand for big-screen, powerful media and entertainment centers has dominated the home server scene.

2003: Apple iPod a big hit
Apple sweeps the consumer audio market – previously dominated by Sony – with the wildly successful iPod. Although little more than an electronic version of the Walkman, the iPod’s ability to store vast quantities of digital music in a portable format make it an instant hit. Combined with Apple’s cool design attributes and iTunes music store, it quickly becomes a ‘must have’ item with the techno set.

Sony’s PlayStation 2, introduced in 2000 is still the preferred game console, and gets a face-lift. The Xbox from Microsoft is almost as popular, but PCs still dominate the home computer entertainment scene.

2005: Windows PC rules, OK?
Despite the popularity of game consoles like the PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo GameCube, the personal computer still provides more versatility, flexibility and expansion capabilities for traditional home-based computing, music and video storage and playback, as well as computer games and broadband media access.

It turns out that the vast majority of iPods and portable media consoles, which need a host computer to download music, podcasts and pictures, and stay updated, are connected to Windows based PCs and laptops.

Apple takes a big knock as IBM spurns PowerMac in favour of Sony’s PlayStation for its new Cell processor. Apple turns to old rival Intel in response, and sees a slight improvement in sales.

2006: Console wars
With the launch of the PlayStation 3, featuring IBM’s Cell chip processor and advanced graphics, the ‘game console’ market really gets interesting. Not only does this device boast higher computing power than most previous generation PCs, but it has many of the peripherals entertainment PCs regard as added extras – Blu-ray DVD, Bluetooth, WiFi, broadband streaming and high capacity hard disks. Ignoring the fact that it plays games previously designed only for the PlayStation, it sounds more like a high-end multimedia computer than a game machine.

Microsoft counters with the updated Xbox 360i, and Nintendo announces its Revolution Advance. These variations on a theme are all seeking the home entertainment high ground, offering multiple formats, advanced graphic processing and inter-operability with other digital networks as key selling points.

But at the heart of all these systems are powerful processing capabilities. Just as the smartphone needs a decent processor and memory to do email and internet tasks, so the new generation consoles need serious computing power to deliver the consumer experience that will capture the market. Priced for the consumer, these devices make home computers redundant.

“Both next-generation console CPUs are exceedingly faster than any of the home-market CPUs that will be available for some time to come. When you couple this with the lack of multithreaded programs for the few dual core CPUs currently available, the consoles are a STEAL at the price point,” commented one enthusiast. “No doubt without the computer industry, the consoles would have no test bed on which to make the huge design leaps they have made in recent years.”

Apple still has ambitions to make the Mac the ‘hub of the digital lifestyle’.

2007: Microsoft bows out of the smartphone market>
With Symbian’s continued supremacy of the smartphone sector and threats from Open Source and PlayStation, Microsoft focuses on the ‘heart of the home’ – the Media Center. Microsoft merges Xbox technology with Windows Media Center PC and provides a generic software platform for the latest hardware devices, using best-of-breed standards for video, sound and networking. However, software expertise cannot compensate for ‘common denominator’ hardware capabilities, and PlayStation continues to dominate.

Apple sees declining market share for iPod variants as phones take over the role of portable multimedia devices. Samsung memory breakthroughs now provide smartphones with more storage space than a 2004 laptop, without the need for a hard disk! The savings in space and battery capacity are enormous.

2008: Cell chip vs Centrino
Microsoft, Intel and Apple get together in an ‘unholy alliance’ against the Sony-IBM-Toshiba triumvirate. Using Microsoft’s software, Intel’s latest Centrino chips (based on the Pentium-X ten-core processor) and Apple’s slick design and consumer appeal, they launch a multimedia home server designed to conquer the market. Unfortunately the software has bugs, the chips are more expensive than IBM’s and Apple’s designers sacrifice functional performance for cool looks.

The superior price-performance characteristics of the Cell chip and Sony’s entrenched market franchise lead to PlayStation supremacy in the home entertainment computer market.

2009: Apple terminates PC production
Faced with declining demand for PCs and almost all of its revenue coming from consumer entertainment sectors, Apple ceases production of computers and focuses on iPhones, media centers and virtual reality consoles. The online sale of iTunes and iMovies remains the core annuity revenue source for what was the originator of the home computer.

2010: PlayStation #1 Home Server
It’s official. Sony’s PlayStation 4 is the top selling home computer, media center and entertainment network server. The technical superiority of the Cell chip architecture, the Sony brand dominance, and the demand from consumers for a converged approach have won the day.

Market leadership and economies of scale make PlayStation the most affordable solution, and you don’t need expensive Windows software to run all those media and entertainment functions, while still being able to make the most of broadband internet and virtual reality. Automatic networking with smart phones, displays and household appliances seal the deal for a truly digital home.

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

Despite appearances to the contrary, Futureworld cannot and does not predict the future. Our Mindbullets scenarios are fictitious and designed purely to explore possible futures, challenge and stimulate strategic thinking. Use these at your own risk. Any reference to actual people, entities or events is entirely allegorical. Copyright Futureworld International Limited. Reproduction or distribution permitted only with recognition of Copyright and the inclusion of this disclaimer.