PC Makers Continue to Innovate to Jump-Start Weak Sales

Today's topics include how manufacturers plan to jump-start weak PC sales; Microsoft's commitment to support the new MacBook Touch Bar in its Office, Word and Excel applications; the fast approaching deadline for Oracle's acquisition of NetSuite; and T-Mobile's rebate offer to draw Google Pixel smartphone owners.

The numbers say the global PC market is still on the wane. System shipments have been declining for several years and that continued in the third quarter when they dropped by as much as 5.7 percent, according to industry analysts.

However, OEMs are still putting a lot of time and resources behind their PC development efforts, creating a highly competitive environment where innovation is thriving and emerging technologies—such as speech and gesture controls, virtual reality and augmented reality—promise to present users with desirable new models.

The latest PCs also include faster processors, high-end graphics, new form factors and new features in operating systems like Microsoft's Windows 10 that PC makers are counting on to convince consumers to buy the latest generation of desktops and laptops to shake sales out of the doldrums.

Microsoft is joining the many software makers that are supporting Apple's new Touch Bar. On Oct. 27 Apple unveiled three new MacBook Pros, including 15- and 13-inch models with an OLED touch strip in place of the traditional function keys. Dubbed the Touch Bar, this strip displays contextual controls depending on the application in use. Now Microsoft says Office for Mac will be among the first applications to support Touch Bar.

"Through the Touch Bar, Office intelligently puts the most common commands at your fingertips—all based on what you're doing in the document," Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Office, said in an Oct. 27 announcement.

Oracle has set a deadline of Nov. 4 for NetSuite shareholders to accept its $9.3 billion bid for the cloud software provider, and it may take that long to know for sure whether the deal will come off.

Oracle CEO Mark Hurd said last week in an interview on CNBC that the enterprise software giant had no plans to increase its offer for NetSuite, adding that the company was ready to walk away from the proposal if NetSuite shareholders chose not to sell their stakes to Oracle.

However, officials with T. Rowe Price, NetSuite's largest independent shareholder, sent notices to both Oracle and NetSuite that they wanted another $2 billion added to the offer before they would consider supporting the deal.

Google's popular new Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones may be available exclusively through Verizon and Google, but that's not stopping T-Mobile from offering rebates to get buyers to move their new phones over to the Un-Carrier's network.

T-Mobile is now offering any Google Pixel or Pixel XL buyer a $325 rebate—equal to half the cost of a 32GB Pixel smartphone—in equal bill credits over 24 months to switch their mobile service on their Pixel or Pixel XL handset to T-Mobile from Verizon. T-Mobile announced the offer on Oct. 27.

The offer is available to new and existing T-Mobile customers for first-time owners of a Pixel or Pixel XL phone who moves to T-Mobile's One mobile plans. Pixel phones are sold as unlocked handsets.

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