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Top 10 desktop, tablet, smartphone and mobile device stories of 2016

2016 was the year Microsoft pushed out a major Windows update, Linux celebrated its 25th anniversary and female personae took over AI

It was also the year Samsung illustrated explosively that no matter how smart the device is, the laws of physics still apply.

There has been a lot of change in IT this year, but the one constant has been the continued decline of the PC industry.

In March, Computer Weekly reported Windows 10 had done little to stimulate upgrades in business. According to analyst Gartner, the annual selling price of ultramobile premium devices will have a negative 5.3% compound annual growth rate of 5.9% until 2019.

And in this highly competitive market, the strong US dollar combined with Brexit has meant IT budgets were squeezed as some device prices increased, rather than fell.

Looking at the major IT companies, this was the year of the Dell/EMC merger, making the newly formed Dell-EMC a strong player in the datacentre market. But it remained the third largest PC manufacturer, according to IDC’s Q2 2016 market share report. HP Inc, the PC and printers arm of post-split HP, was second, with a share of 20.8% while Lenovo was the biggest PC maker, with 21.2%.

Chip technology has continued to follow Moores’ Law, but, given the current state of the PC market, it was no real surprise to see Intel expanding into new areas such as IoT during its annual IDF conference in August.

The PC industry appears to be shifting towards “personal systems”, which covers any device used for computing; from smartphones and tablets, to laptops, notebooks and hybrid devices.

USB C made headlines at CES this year in Las Vegas, promising a universal connector for all devices, including those from Apple. It has the potential to make a radical change to the way office work space is organised. As Computer Weekly noted in January, a single cable for monitors, keyboards and mouse simplifies desk clutter.

From an operating systems perspective, Microsoft released the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, and the open source community reflected on 25 years since Linus Torvalds released the first Linux kernel.

What has been truly remarkable about Linux is not the operating system itself – although most web-scale organisations probably run their infrastructure on Linux systems – but the fact that it opened up the possibility of open source, as an alternative model to commercial software licencing.

Apart from Canonical with its Ubuntu Linux distribution, Linux has not really made a massive direct impact on the consumer and desktop computing. But Android, currently the most widely used operating system, is derived from Linux, and many popular websites are powered by Linux back-end systems.

It may have started with Siri, but the true artifiicial intelligence star of 2016 has been the recently launched Alexa voice-controlled assistant from Amazon.

The idea of a personal digital assistant harks back to early 1990s, with classic devices such as the Palm Pilot and Psion Organiser. But artificial intelligence offers the potential to revolutionise smartphones. “Alexa is the future of search, and smart agents have the potential to be the main user interface,” said Gartner research director Roberta Cozza.

Smartphone makers need something to boost sales. Apple released iOS 10 and the iPhone 7, and introduced a professional tablet with extras that include an add-on keyboard and smart pencil aimed squarely at the niche Microsoft has forged with its Surface Pro hybrid device. But many experts believe iPhone users will delay upgrading until next year when the iPhone 8 is released.

Samsung, which seized market share from Apple to become the dominant smartphone player, has had a terrible end of year, thanks to its exploding Galaxy Note 7 smartphone devices.

In the summer, Samsung was forced to recall 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 smartphone devices worldwide because a number were found to have faulty batteries that made them vulnerable to overheating and catching fire.

In the coming year, IT departments will need to come to terms with aging Windows 7 desktop computing, and the dilemma of whether to invest in another major PC refresh or try something else.

Windows applications are the mainstay of desktop IT, but corporates are increasingly turning to Saas, delivered as mobile apps or browser based. Apple set about to change end user computing in 2010, with the first generation iPad. This has been joined by a multitude of Android tablets at different price points and hybrid PC devices like Microsoft’s Surface. At the same time, cloud-based software has meant applications can lean on powerful servers to do the heavy lifting. This means devices do not need to be as powerful from a computational perspective.

So the manufacturers are focusing instead on areas like collaboration, offering features such as Skype for Business and integration with Intel’s RealSense cameras. 

1. United Utilities protects field engineering deployment with AirWatch

United Utilities deploys mobile device management software AirWatch to secure Samsung devices running a SAP workforce management app.

2. User devices require careful orchestration

Options for access to IT have soared since the desktop PC’s heyday, and organisations must conduct a balancing act.

3. Manufacturers must shift to smarter software to stem smartphone decline

Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa illustrate a shift that phone makers must make to continue adding value to devices.

4. Windows Mobile shrinks as Microsoft prioritises productivity and platforms

Microsoft prepares to axe 2,850 jobs as it culls smartphone business and majors on productivity and platforms.

5. Evolving Glasgow’s Future City

It has been two years since Glasgow was awarded £24m under the Future City demonstrator programme. We find out how it has evolved.

6. Microsoft and LinkedIn: Nadella spends like he means it

To pay $26.2bn for a social network that has failed to grow its income may be poor judgement – but Microsoft’s plans are far-reaching.

7. PC market pauses while enterprises prepare for Windows 10

Windows 10 is set to drive sales of high-end PCs, but businesses are not ready yet, says analyst house Gartner.

8. Microsoft sets out to woo iOS, Android and Linux developers

Build is not just for Windows developers – Microsoft is keen to attract iOS, Android and Linux coders too.

9. Rebooting desktop IT

Following years of decline, the PC industry is being reset. Windows 10 and an evolving range of PC devices are refining the user computing landscape.

10. PCs will redefine the workspace

The PC market has been in decline since 2012, thanks in part to the popularity of tablets – but, with Windows 10, the PC is set for a comeback.

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