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Top 10 PC stories of 2017

It has been a good year for the PC business, which is starting to show signs of growth. From an end-user perspective, 2017 is also the year of new user interfaces

This has been the year when the PC market returned to growth and manufacturers started getting ready for the inevitable upgrade when enterprises refresh their Windows 7 estate to Windows 10.

While Microsoft sees augmented reality as the next phase of the Windows GUI, industry experts are looking at the rise of devices such as the Amazon Alexa, which potentially offers a more natural user interface. New devices making the headlines in 2017 included an update to Microsoft’s popular Surface ultrabook and the 10th anniversary edition of the Apple iPhone.

Here is Computer Weekly’s top 10 list of articles about personal computing:

1. Moore’s Law is running out – but don’t panic

The pace of microprocessor development is slowing as Intel works at developing 7nm and 5nm technologies to follow on from 10nm. Other companies such as Nvidia are taking performance in a different direction by using GPUs to accelerate processing, while others are using FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays) to speed up specific tasks. In this article, Computer Weekly looks at where chip technology is heading.

2. Gartner survey shows PC boost as businesses upgrade to Windows 10

Older versions of Windows, including Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, have limited support when running on new processors and chipsets from manufacturers such as Intel, AMD, NVidia and Qualcomm. This is set to drive a PC replenishment cycle as businesses upgrade to Windows 10. PC shipments are estimated to return to growth by the end of 2017, according to Gartner.

3. Build mobile experiences that drive engagement

By the end of 2020, smartphones will be in the pockets of 91% of global consumers. But the mobile channel is not simply another device for developers to support – it is the manifestation of a much broader shift to new systems of engagement that help firms to empower their customers, partners and employees with context-aware applications and smart products.

4. HP Inc grows business, but price hike hits commercial PC division

HP’s commercial PC business was affected by price increases. Margins have been pressured by industry-wide rises in component costs and currency headwinds, said CFO Cathie Lesjak. Responding to a question on the increase, Lesjak said: “In terms of price sensitivity, we see the greatest impact in the commercial space.”

5. Questions raised over long-term ultrabook support

A report from Greenpeace on e-waste highlights a growing problem in the maintainability of modern laptops. Apple and Microsoft laptops have been shamed in Greenpeace’s latest assessment of electronic waste (e-waste), scoring just one point out of a possible 10 for repairability. The assessment was based on iFixit’s repairability score, which considers the time required to repair the product, the device’s upgradability and modularity, as well as the availability of spare parts and repair manuals.

6. Microsoft shakes up Computex with mixed reality showcase

Leading PC manufacturers are beginning to support Microsoft’s vision of the extended PC, using virtual reality (VR) headsets for gaming and business applications. At its Build developer conference in May, Microsoft unveiled the mixed reality developer kit, supported by hardware from Acer and HP. These have now been joined by Asus, Dell and Lenovo.

In a blog post about the headsets, Peter Han, vice-president of partner devices and solutions at Microsoft, wrote that the PC suppliers were using Microsoft’s platform to enable a single and consistent user interface, standardised inputs and a universal app platform for developers.

7. Commercial PC sales help to reverse IDC’s negative forecast

During the first quarter of 2017, IDC said tight supplies of key components such as NAND and DRAM had affected inventory dynamics and led a number of PC makers to boost shipments to lock in supply ahead of further cost rises. Also, the market continued along a path of stabilisation that began in the second half of 2016, especially as more commercial projects moved out of pilot mode and began shipments in earnest. While growth in Q1 2017 was more or less flat, IDC said the result represented PCs’ first foray back into positive territory since Q1 2012, when many users still considered PCs their first computing device.

8. MobileIron: Corporate IT policy and mobile device security are mismatched

Research from enterprise mobility services company MobileIron has found that almost one-third of its customers have at least one outdated mobile policy. However, one of the areas where security has been improving is updating operating system (OS) software. The majority of regions and verticals saw an increase in the percentage of companies enforcing mobile OS updates. Security-focused industries – such as financial services (12%), government (11%) and healthcare (12%) – are enforcing OS updates at a greater rate than the global average of 9%.

9. Migrating to Windows 10 and modern management at the same time sounds nice, but is it practical?

The Windows 10 migration, while easier from an application standpoint, presents new challenges in the form of updates, branches, profiles and hardware requirements, not to mention security and a new file system – all of which should be learned before migrating to modern management.

10. Alexa speaks Amazon sales success

Amazon reported record sales of Alexa, its voice-enabled service, with Alexa-enabled devices being the top-selling products across all categories on Amazon.com during the holiday season. According to Amazon, customers purchased and gifted a record-setting number of devices from the Amazon Echo family, with sales up more than nine times compared with 2015’s holiday season.

The company’s CFO, Brian Olsavsky, said: “Tens of thousands of developers are building skills for Alexa, so the skills addition should continue. Just as importantly, tens of thousands of developers are also using the Alexa Voice Service to help integrate Alexa into their products, which then creates a great network effect. We’re doing that ourselves.”

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