Is Microsoft Killing the PC Industry?

There's a wide range of opinions when it comes to the fate of Microsoft's (NAS: MSFT) upcoming Surface tablets.

Naysayers think it will flop. Apple's (NAS: AAPL) iconic iPad has been able to withstand the onslaught of cheaper Android devices, they say, so why should a Windows tablet stand a chance? However, believers think it's the Surface's advantages over Apple's iOS -- among them Flash support and native support of Microsoft Office -- that will make it stand out.

If you're Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) or Dell (NAS: DELL) , you'd better hope the skeptics are right. After all, it's many of the same Surface advantages that have led consumers to desktops and laptops instead of plunking down perfectly good money for the "good enough" computing abilities of the iPad.

Jefferies & Co.'s Peter Misek has it right. He thinks the world's largest software company's push into putting out its own tablets will find it competing with its partners and confusing consumers.

Analysts are already skeptical about the state of the PC industry. Many see a small year-over-year decline for the quarter ending this week and a bigger decline in the third quarter. Misek's comments are directed primarily at companies planning on making Windows 8 tablets, but the Surface is really going to freeze sales of desktops, laptops, and especially Ultrabooks.

There will be fewer reasons to buy a laptop after Microsoft's Windows-fueled Surface tablets hit the market with their decent-sized keyboards on the covers. HP and Dell combined for 51.3% of the PCs shipped in this country during the first quarter, according to Gartner. Will HP and Dell feel as loyal to Microsoft once Surface sales begin gnawing away at their sales? Will the response be to put out more Android gadgetry?

The next few months will be very important for the PC industry, and it's OK to be worried.

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