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Article from Issue 141/2012

I’m waking up today to headlines heralding the end of an era. This era, of course, will be over somewhere between 4 and 10 weeks by the time you read this, but something as important as an era deserves a little time for mourning and reflection. The reason why this era is ending, according to the newsphere, is because Microsoft just announced a new tablet computer, which they are calling the Microsoft Surface tablet. The reason this new tablet ends an era is because Microsoft has never before embraced this role of selling PC-like hardware.

Those who have lived through the entire PC epoch remember well that Microsoft built its whole empire on being the company that did not market PC hardware. They got their start as IBM’s special little friend, shipping millions of MSDOS instances with early, iconic IBM PCs. Then when IBM tried to swallow the whole sandwich, by pushing out Microsoft and bundling their own OS/ 2 system with consumer computers, Microsoft quickly made IBM irrelevant – and dealt a blow to the very concept of a PC brand – by making their own deals with OEM vendors, who thus had access to a gigantic market that soon exploded into the consumer PC industry we know today.

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