HPC is a small fraction of the total computing market. The market in general experience forces from the state of the economy … in growing economic times, generally large portions of the computing market are refreshing and updating gear. Conversely, when we are treading water, or contracting as an economy, word from on high in IT organizations is usually “make do with what you have” for a while.
Many industries and economists have noted signs portending a downturn over the past few months. Purchasing has slowed, and this impacts IT, and HPC.
Intel and AMD, whose products are responsible for most of the HPC on the planet at this time, are noticing this market softening. The article casts this message in terms of the US presidential race, but regardless of whose in charge, or aspiring to be so, downturns suck.
Microsoft posted its first loss, ever.
There are several different things at work here, and not all of them are purely economic though.
Apple has posted massive gains. From everything I am seeing, reading, and hearing from people, lots of new “PC"s are being delayed in favor of pads and smart phones. If all you do is email and surf, a pad does the same/better job at a lower price. So to a pretty significant degree, I am thinking that those whom have been prognosticating the impending decline of the PC may finally be right (not unlike why a broken analog clock is right at least once a day, or twice a day if its a 12 hour clock).
Those are not Intel or AMD processors in the pads and tablets.
That is not Microsoft software on those tablets.
Clouds reduce the need to stand up your own gear, so you don’t have to buy more Intel or AMD gear.
Figuring out that part is “relatively” easy. But the economic downturn component is real. Its a real issue outside of IT and HPC. It will effect government sponsored HPC, as that has a funding which lags the economy as a whole, but does tend to track it. It will effect company purchased HPC, as people will be asked to make do with less.
Whether or not the article’s author is correct, I simply cannot see either major party candidate rubbing their hands together in glee over the prospect of a worsening economy. Which I think might be implied given the authors seeming fascination with Mr. Romney’s wealth (but apparent lack of fascination with Mr. Obama’s wealth).
For what its worth, during the last down turn, our growth was explosive. One of our mantras was to do more and spend less, and this does resonate with people. Especially in a down turn.
I don’t think this is lost on consumers of IT and HPC gear. I don’t think it is lost on companies. This is part of the reason I think M&A; activity is on the rise. Companies are looking to add talent, products, customers lists, markets by acquisition.
Intel and AMD, and to a degree Microsoft, are experiencing a significant market evolution. Intel looks like they are working on adapting. AMD is trying as well.
I am not quite sure where Microsoft fits in the brave new cloud + tablet world. I don’t think they quite get how serious this situation is for them. They’ve got this great big cash cow called office. They’ve also got some business units which have largely failed to deliver. Albatross would be a good description of them.
I am not talking about the one time write down of aQuantive. I am talking about their falling revenue from their cash cow.
I have a pretty good idea of what I’d advise them to do, but since they don’t pay me for my advice, I’ll keep it to myself.
Pretty soon (if not already) I’d expect Amazon to be making more money from EC2 and related than from being the marketplace on the network. Remember when Ebay was?
Nokia is providing a perfect definition of a cratering business … their recently hired CEO comes from Microsoft, and hooked his business squarely to a Microsoft platform which has failed to take off. Much like HP some month ago, I’d suggest Nokia’s board start looking for replacements. Nokia handsets have always been top notch. Symbian hasn’t been terrible. The new CEO? Mebbe a little terrible.
All this said, the market change to a cloud and tablet world has a pretty good chance of leaving Microsoft products in the purely legacy camp, to be purchased only when absolutely needed. This rotation is happening far faster than I had thought it might.
We do live in interesting times.
On the pad issue.
Recently, while returning from a vacation, I had my mifi device and a pad with me when a financial customer reported a problem. I sat down in a Cracker Barrel while ordering lunch, got into our VPN, sshed into the relevant machines, fixed the problem. No laptop needed.
This is not lost on me. I can provide an iPad and a mifi for much less money than a capable laptop to my team. Typing on a pad isn’t terrible, and I’ve got a bluetooth keyboard for it. Works nicely.
And its easier to carry, runs on batteries longer.