Wintel may suffer collateral damage from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as the PC industry's Dynamic Duo faces a shaken market at the very time they are pushing new keystone products.
Corporate allies that counted on Intel Corp.'s Pentium 4 marketing remake and Microsoft Corp.'s new Windows XP operating system to jumpstart faltering business may be hit as well.
XP is geared to streaming audio/video, enhanced gaming, image editing, home networking, you name it. The P4 is the processor that allows that all to happen. For the last year Wintel marketers have waxed eloquent about the coming Brave New PC World of enriched multimedia.
But this is now a different world, and it's uncertain how glitzy PC toys will be received by stunned consumers and economically stressed businesses. Even before the terrorist atrocities, it wasn't clear how fast the new PC technologies would take off. Now it's even murkier.
No one knows for sure how PC consumers will react. But if the public hunkers down for long, you can kiss holiday sales goodbye. PC consumers have been an unpredictable lot even in the best of times. Now it is pure guesswork as to what they will do.
The immediate shock of the Sept. 11 attack is still too recent to be able to gauge the market longer term. Computer and Communications Reports, New York, which tracks retail PC sales, said shipments to stores were still so chaotic last week given disruptions to the channel that supply problems were present even if consumers wanted to buy.
On another front, corporate PC buying will probably continue to bump along until the front office and IT chieftains get a better sense of what the economy is doing. It also doesn't seem to be a good time for Microsoft to try to hike corporate OS licensing fees. The software titan is going to a new program of automatically sending business customers the upgrade of each new version - but without the big corporate price discounts companies expect. If businesses don't opt for the automatic upgrade plan, they risk paying even higher fees to buy the individual software packages as they come out.
PC-related orders should start flowing from the government as it gins up its various anti-terrorist programs. But government-related PC procurement has always been a minor portion of the market. The War on Terrorism, although boosting orders, isn't enough to put PC sales back on track by itself.
This we know: a fall PC market hyped to support the next generation of electronic mock combat games is now being affected by the real thing.