For most of us, there are two indispensable gadgets; one is our mobile phone, and the second is our beloved laptop/notebook. Laptops are one of the most under-recognized engineering masterpieces and are a benchmark of how to blend form and function. In my 16 years of use, I had a laptop crash only once. This reliability that most of us take for granted is due to the effort of some of the finest minds on the planet. I tip my hat to all engineers/designers who made this happen.
My current laptop is four years old and has nagging issues, and I want it replaced with a new one. In the current laptop, I had to remove a lot of pre-installed software aptly named bloatware to increase the performance.
I wanted to know if I am being fussy about this bloatware or do other people are also as concerned as me. I did a simple Google trend search using the term "bloatware" and the result was revealing. I am not alone as more people across the globe are concerned about this extra baggage, and their numbers are growing.
This time, my requirement is very simple, I want a laptop from one of the major manufacturers with just Windows 10 installed and the basic functions like video, sound, and Wi-Fi should be superior quality. That's it. I will install whatever software I need.
Finally, my search was over, and the place where I could get a laptop to my simple specification is from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) itself, and these PCs/laptops are called "Signature Edition" computers. In this site, I can get my laptop of choice without any of the bloatware. Its website clearly states how its computers are faster, better and efficient than the ones with bloatware, i.e. the ones laptop manufacturers sell.
One should congratulate Microsoft for pulling this kind of incredible deal from OEMs (original equipment manufacturers). I am at a loss to figure out what stops OEMs from doing this in the first place. Is it that they are addicted to adding bloatware and later realize their mistake and admit themselves to this Microsoft rehab center, sacrificing their margins to get cured. In other words, Microsoft has now become Cesar Millan to these errant OEMs. I do not know on what basis OEMs think that we are going crazy for their "Photo Album" software and the like.
I tried searching through Microsoft presentations in its website to understand the size of this business, but could not get enough data, and so tried the usual trick, the Google trend search. I searched for the term "Microsoft Signature Edition" and surprisingly there has been a significant jump in these searches in the last year.
The PC refresh cycle is long overdue, and there are reasons to believe that revival is on the cards.
PC functionality scores over tablets
PC sales have been down for four years in a row. Media is rife with stories of how tablets have killed PCs in the last few years and why PCs will never see the light again... so on.
We have two tablets at home. My children off late prefer using only laptops. When prodded, they gave the following reasons; a larger screen is easy on their eyes; typing is comfortable due to the keyboard, and they do not get neck strain (When using laptops people use a proper desk and hence this free-form-type viewing of tablets, which is not ergonomic, is avoided). I run many programs in my laptop that cannot run in tablets. I do not see my case as an isolated one, and like me, many will feel compelled to upgrade because one cannot do without a desktop/laptop.
Microsoft is upping the ante
One of the key reasons for the PC refresh not happening is that OEMs are not getting their act together. When users are screaming for fast and clean PCs, the OEMs irritate them by foisting their bloatware on them. As Microsoft's Signature line becomes prominent, these OEMs will be forced to change, because in this era, a business can move from one channel to another very rapidly, and OEMs will be terribly disadvantaged if Microsoft becomes the most preferred channel for buying computers.
The third reason is that the Windows 10 adoption will act as a tailwind and will accelerate PC sales growth.
Beginnings of bull markets always have these two classic symptoms. First, newspapers will be full of gloom, and public participation will be at its lowest. This analogy is apt for PC sales too, and I believe a bull market in PC sales is on the cards.
Finally, it is a win-win situation for MSFT, and no wonder it is the only old tech stock that is nearing its all-time high.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.