Don't give up on PCs yet. Here's why Soluto hasn't
It is very easy to dismiss PCs as an industry in free fall, helped along by the rise of the iPad. We're in a post-PC world now, and Microsoft's failures with Windows 8 haven't improved the situation.
But, as Kevin Kelleher pointed out last week, PCs are still a big business --up to 79 million machines will ship this quarter. Microsoft's business is losing relevance and shrinking, sure. But it is still massive and global. Despite the recent Gartner report damning Microsoft's future, a smaller, less vocal group of bloggers have argued the numbers aren't that bad.
"You can't kill something that is a billion or a half billion people big in a day, or even a decade," says Saul Klein of Index Partners (Disclosure: Klein is also an investor in PandoDaily). "Even if they leave and go to an Android or Apple world, some will want to stay in Windows."
"Its very easy for us to New York, London and Silicon Valley to buy the latest gadget," Klein says. "For the 99 percent, they don't move that fast." He notes that governments, small businesses and large businesses will be the last to switch from PCs to Apple or Android machines.
This premise is the basis of Klein's investment in Soluto, an Israel-based company which provides simple IT management and support for PCs. Index has backed a number of Windows and PC-focused businesses like Soluto, including Centrify, Cloud.com and Rightscale. To cover all bases, it is also investing in companies that serve people who are migrating away, including Dropbox.
Soluto has had five years and $18 million in VC money to prove its thesis -- that small businesses need better DIY tools for managing and fixing their computers. "Small businesses are spending $40 billion a year on maintaining these systems and have made an investment they cannot change," notes Soluto chief product officer Roee Adler. "Yes, Windows 8 is a flop, and yes, no one asked Santa Claus for a PC laptop this Christmas. But there is a multi-trillion-dollar industry that people are forgetting," he says.
Soluto has captured a small part of that market, with three million people using its tools to manage computers within their small businesses. These tools include remote notifications, proactive problem identification, and smartphone management (for example, you can update Adobe on a PC within your network from your phone.) Now, finally, the company has begun to monetize.
Soluto today introduced a service that costs $8.33 per month to support small businesses with up to 10 PCs. The free version for consumers with up to five PCs remains available with some feature limitations. The idea is not to disrupt third-party or in-house IT pros -- the system is designed to allow those professionals to use Soluto, too. It makes their jobs easier, says Adler.
Despite protestations that Windows is not as dead as we think it is, Soluto acknowledges that PC's won't always be a massive addressable market. Klein says that the next move for Soluto won't have to be from PC to Apple -- it'll be from PC to everything. As the "internet of things" increases the number of smart devices in our lives from cars to refrigerators. They'll all eventually need IT support. The form factor -- a PC -- will change. The need for help won't.