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Insight: Smartphones Have Led, and Desktops Will Follow


These days much of the action in the world of gadgets is happening in smartphones — like their sophisticated design and the apps that run on them. That has left desktop and laptop computers looking a little dull in comparison.

So computers are suddenly getting more phone-like.

Microsoft and Apple are leading the charge in this area. On Wednesday, Microsoft shared its latest operating system for computers and tablets, Windows 8, which mimics the look and feel of the company’s new software for phones. And Apple recently offered a preview of its next operating system for Macs, incorporating familiar elements from the iPhone and iPad.

“All of the major innovation for PCs is coming from the mobile phone,” said Tim Coulling, an analyst at the research firm Canalys.

The companies hope this strategy will give them added leverage in the market for tablets and smartphones, which is growing to rival the market for personal computers. And it could also help them sell more computers or, in Microsoft’s case, software for computers.

People who buy an iPad or iPhone, for example, might be more inclined to also buy a Mac computer if they work together seamlessly and have features that operate the same way on both devices. For Apple, which still has only a small share of the computer business, that could be a big advantage.

In Microsoft’s case, it needs to defend its traditional dominance of the PC operating system business with software that is versatile enough to also run on tablet computers.

This idea of a “continuum of computing” across various devices has long been “a promise of the future,” said Carolina Milanesi, a research analyst who covers the mobile industry for Gartner. “But now it is critical for success among consumers.”



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