Hardware

​Could Microsoft save the PC market by challenging Apple and creating a designer all-in-one?

Would it really be such a good idea for Microsoft to enter the struggling desktop PC market in 2016?

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Microsoft applied for a patent for an all-in-one PC last year.

Image: Microsoft / USPTO

If you believe the pundits, Microsoft will release an all-in-one PC to challenge the Apple iMac at an event in New York on Wednesday.

Believed to be a touchscreen all-in-one device running Windows 10, and with a hinged screen ranging up to 27 inches in size that can be laid flat on the desk, the machine is thought to be a flagship computer aimed at showing off Windows 10's creative capabilities.

While Microsoft hasn't confirmed the rumor, the firm applied for a patent for an all-in-one modular PC in 2015. There are reports the PC may be called the Surface Studio and coincide with the release of a new version of Windows Paint that is geared towards letting users create 3D objects.

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley has heard that the event may also feature updates to existing Surface tablets, but that Microsoft is unlikely to use it to launch the Surface Book 2 or Surface Pro 5, which aren't due until Spring next year.

SEE: Microsoft Surface Pro 4: The smart person's guide

Microsoft's track record on designing hardware to showcase its operating system has been rather mixed.

On the tablet front, Microsoft's family of Surface devices is widely considered a success, barring the failure of the ARM-based Surface RT, with already respectable revenues continuing to rise as businesses and consumers keep buying the convertible tablet/laptop.

Beyond the sales, the wider impact of the Surface has arguably been to encourage other computer makers to be more ambitious with their Windows laptop and tablet designs.

But Microsoft's recent foray into making smartphones has proved far less successful, with its first-party Lumia 550, 650, 950 and 950 XL handsets failing to meet sales expectations or to prevent Windows share of the mobile market from dropping below one percent. Microsoft is now believed to be focusing its efforts on making a Surface phone, which is expected to be released in Spring next year.

And does it make sense for anyone, let alone Microsoft, to make an entrance into the struggling desktop PC market in 2016?

The state of the industry looks grim, with PC sales having been flat or falling for years and forecast to drop a further three percent in 2016.

Even sales of Apple Macs, the family of devices home to the iMacs that Microsoft would supposedly be challenging with its all-in-one PC, were down 500,000 units in the third quarter of 2016 compared with the year before.

Given Microsoft's checkered history with devices and the perilous state of the PC market, making an all-in-one PC seems like a bit of a gamble. The machine could emulate the success of the Surface, but it could equally stumble like the Lumia.

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About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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