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Death of the PC era, or just a load of garbage?

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Many have been (and continue to do so) predicting the end of personal computing as we know it today. But it's a bit like global warming - a controversial topic. Windows 8 has been available on the market for a number of months and while sales haven't been as strong as one hoped, it's not the sole reason the PC being in a potential situation. A new article on the Forrester blog really goes into some detail about why such thoughts should stop.

Sure, we're seeing a decline in PC shipment numbers, but Lenovo has reported an increase in sales. OEM partners can't simply blame the software vendor for a drop in numbers, since they also add to the overall experience. Then you have to take into account the advance of the smartphone and other form factors. The birth of the iPad created another category for consumers to invest in. Sure, many don't like Windows 8, but it's not the only reason.

The blog article refers to recent reports published by the firm, including "two thirds of US consumers go online from 2 or more devices," which covers computers in multiple cases. A second is "53 percent of global information workers use 3 or more devices for work" with computers playing a prominent role. Also, computers simply won't die out, but wear out. Machines need to be either upgraded or replaced.

Many consumers can do both at home. Opening up the computer case, or ordering components off the Internet is no longer a daunting task for many. While OEMs still make their buck from laptops and other form factors, the PC market will undoubtedly shift from pre-made builds to custom construction - and much like many other products, consumers have individual needs and requirements.

The replacement cycle of computers is noted to be longer, with a possible 6 years (instead of 4) for home owners to look and replace an old machine. It's well worth reading up the full blog article for a quick insight into why the PC market isn't likely to go anywhere. As for OEMs, it's down to the companies to innovate and offer machines at competitive prices.

What are your thoughts on the PC market?

Source: Forrester; thanks, Stephen, for the tip!

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Reader comments

Death of the PC era, or just a load of garbage?

215 Comments

PC's dead? More likely the Mac is dying/dead. Are we counting Windows 8 tablets like Surface as PC's... Or are we counting them as what they truly are... The FIRST "Personal Computing Devices" that run BOTH traditional software AND Apps. Just deployed the Surface Pro to one of our medical clients who had tried to run on iPads, which it even with a dedicated app was a failure (I've seen this a lot in the business IT world, where the "dream" of using iPads meets the harsh reality of "oh, it can't run programs". Meanwhile, the Surface Pro units, along with docking stations, fit the need PERFECTLY. It's been a true demonstration of why these types of devices will slowly overtake the iPad in the business world. Surface Pro is just the first really marketed drop-in-the-bucket, per-say. So, PC's dead? Not quite. PC's transforming? Big time. Apple, the bell tolls for thee in the business world!

Lol. Could you be even more obvious with your MS bias? Man you must be working for Microsoft's PR department. Since when did the iPad every replace any serious and heavy duty computing? It's there for its simplicity and ease of use. There are custom apps written specifically for it, to perform a small set of functions. It's not replacing a workstation. The iPad is exploding in sales in the corporate world, whereas Windows 8 so far is a complete dud. It's completely awful on laptops and desktops. So awful that Newegg advertises that PCs can be downgraded to Windows 7 on every search result. The Surface doesn't have the breadth of apps nor the support like the iPad, and it fails as a desktop/laptop, so its subpar in both instances. This hybrid experience really is a true compromise. The biggest indication is the poor sales of the Surface tablet, and Windows 8 in general. Microsoft didn't turn it around with WP7, and they aren't doing it with WP8 and Windows 8 either. It's just the cold hard facts, governed by their sales numbers and marketshare. If Microsoft is synonymous with the PC era, and they continue to flounder around like they have been doing, it really will become the post-PC era soon.

Ah, I figured on at least one "straw man" argument in response to me pointing out that it's not the PC that's dying, but rather what we think of as a PC. That's a nice straw man that you've built for yourself piece by piece on various replies on this thread alone. I'm guessing you believe in fairies and unicorns as well if you are just dismissing all Microsoft products out-of-hand. Windows 7 a "dud"? Must be sarcasm, because it sure isn't based in reality. Do we in IT have a Microsoft bias? I don't know about that, but not many of us work in this industry very long before we develop a "Best Product for the Task" and "Most Manageable Product" bias. In the business world, that answer more often than not comes up Microsoft. To deny that is laughable. See, we touch and manage all of these devices, from Microsoft to IBM to Apple (very few Android). We know where the wind is blowing and unfortunately for Apple, it was a good run while it lasted.

However, they failed to deliver the "one device" that the iPad was supposed to be and the Surface and many other ultrabooks are. We all know that's an Apple-to-Orange comparison, so you're not adding any value to the conversation by saying that the iPad isn't a full-blown computer And crying foul. We get it... And that's the entire point-- And isn't it a pretty cogent point in an article asking if the "PC" is dead? Depends on what we're calling a PC. I just know this. What we are seeing in the real world are lots of budget dollars spent on iPads that end up on the shelf in lieu of laptops or at best as a 2nd device for quick consumption... And then eventually they end up at home... A task for which they are perfectly suited now that we have quick-to-start laptops and innovative products like the Surface Pro... And even their reign in the home environment is tenuous at best with the XBox and what's coming down the pipe there. Ah, but there's me showing my Microsoft bias again...

Global warming is not a controversial topic. It has never been. I can see that the writers at WPCentral are just as deluded with simple scientific facts as they are with smartphones. When 99% of the educated world has acknowledged global warming for decades and the mountain of accumulated evidence is unimaginable, with real life consequences and giant sheets of ice melting that can be seen in outer space and 60% of the US still in a horrible drought and gigantic forest fires that get bigger every year, only the biggest of fools on the planet can ever deny it. Those fools are lead around by even more foolish conservative politicians who still think the world is flat and spread any propaganda the big oil and gas companies spoonfeed them, along with an open hand for a fat check.

Global warming is not controversal, it is a fact, what might be causing Global warming is controversal. is it people (due to utilisation of natural resources) or is it just normal temperature cycle the earth is going through. And when scientists can't decide what the root cause is then i give up.

I think the PC decline is a clear and present situation.
- Most people have PCs so most will not buy one right now
- Tablets are popular as well as smartphone so people are buying it instead of PC.  Its cheaper and more mobile and if you only do email and social networking then a smartphone or tablet will do it.
- Is windows 8 to blame?  Yes and No.  Yes because most anti-Microsoft or anti PC are capitalizing on it they don;t like it so they spread the word that Win8 is garbage.  No because once you use Win8 you would not want to go back to 7 again - trust me this is true but because word of mouth that Win8 is not good is gaining ground most people defer Win8 to tablets
- Android is really cheap and I mean really cheap.  I found a Chinese brand selling a 7 inch tablet for $50.  Yes it is true, that cheap.  Of course, quality is really low but many people are buying it because its so cheap that even if it breaks down you won't mind it.  The cheapness of some android devices makes up for at least 50% of its market share.  True if you line up all samsung and branded android vs the cheap chine ones then you'll be surprised because those Androids reach majority of class D,E,F buyers and those numbers are huge.
- Apple will always have its followers
 
What can the PC do?  Well for now it has to weather the storm, I don;t think there is a single product that can turn it around that soon. I personally think PC will not die anytime soon but it will slow down and could hibernate for sometime.  It would be the biggest comeback ever!
Right now the battle is at the bottom going up and not up going down.  I'm hoping some Chinese do really cheap Windows RT devices to compete with Android.
 
That's my two cents.
 

As a consumer,piton device, the PC is dying. Clearly mobile devices are a more effective way to consume info. On the creation side, the PC is still king and will be for a long time to come. Good thing Microsoft is still ffocused on both; and all in one OS. This is the power of Windows 8. Sure they have to work out some kinks, but the idea is both relevant and unique (no one else is attempting it). This is why the survival of windows 8 is vital. 

i do agree that we are depending less on laptops for chaecking e-mails, viewing pictures, browsing internet, but all these tablets & phones can't replace a laptop, nothing productive can be done on a tablet or a phone, we do need laptops. I think one of the reason why people think that laptops/desktops are dead because they are looking at the sales of smart phones & tablets, sales of smart phones & tablets is lot higher than laptops/desktops due to 3 reasons.
1) Almost everybody replaces their samrt phones & tablets every 2 years.
2) Samrt phones & Tablest are new market segment so higher growth potential for initial few years.
3) I am sure most of us dont repalce laptops/desktops every 2 years, laptops may be 3 to 5 years & desktops are replaced may be every 6 years.
so people are looking at the data wrong. i do agree that some of the laptops sales are canibalised by tablets but not a lot.
i can imagine using surface pro at work may be 2 to 3 years down the lane (if i can get more than 6 hrs of battery life) but i can't think of using an android tablet or an iPad at work, never.

 
The "PC" it's dead.
Even if loads of people are buying big powerful Computers, the more versatile form factors are gaining traction: Laptops, NoteBooks, Tablets, SmartPhones - Virtual Machines.
It's all about Consumer Choice and Profit.
Mini Servers and Powerful PC's will become even expensive.
Cloud Storage, Virtual Machines and "Virtual Processes" will become even cheaper with <2ms lag.
In 5 years people will buy "Virtual Machines" and "Form Factor" and not OS and "Powerful Desktops".
We will buy Office for Linux, Solaris, Android... even MeeGo and Firefox OS... all because the process will live in a cloud... or in a VM on our 1GHz hand watch/ nCore Devices.

Pretty simple to me. The decline will even out because there will always be a market for PCs. Always. Tablets are replacing PCs of casual users, as well they should. What everyone seems to be forgetting is the need and want for real computing. Same goes for Microsoft stock.

The "end of the PC era" does not imply or mean the "death of the PC"
The end of the stone age was not the end of the use of rocks... it was the shift in focus to the use of metals.  Each step towards better metals was not the end the demand of the previous one, just a shift in focus towards what was new.  The end of the 'industrial era' happened quite some time ago, but we manufacture several times more equipment now than we ever did at the height of the industrial era, it is just not as important to the overall infastructure of our socieity as it was then.
So too is the end of the "PC era".  It does not mean that people will somehow stop using PCs.  PCs will continue to be extremely important for home and business users as a device for gaming, content creation, and serving up content to other devices.  But there should be no dobut that the 'PC era' is not only gone, but that it is long gone.  The focus of technology, the patterns of growth, and the usage model of computing technology going forward is in single purpose devices and portable devices.  For portable devices the evidence is clear in the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, and laptops, and in the demand for such things as smart watches and other wearable computer equipment.  But while these are computers, and many of them are highly customizable, they lack the flexability in hardware and software of traditional desktop PC devices.  On the other end we have a massive proliferation of single purpose or limited use devices.  These would be things like the computers used in your car, HVAC, TV, stereo, and other home appliances. These also include devices that are now being phased out such as GPS units, eReaders, dayplanners, and game systems that are strictly for gaming (note that the functionality of these devices is still used, but you find it in a multipurpose device rather than a single purpose device).  Sales of these devices, and their importance in having things run efficiently or smartly, absolutely dwarfs traditional PC and Laptop sales and importance.
Again, the PC is still a very important part of the modern work and home enviornment;  But imagine for a moment what the impact on your life would be if your PC or laptop was dead or broken today vs 5 years ago.  You have internet connectivity on your phone, game console, smartTV, and even on things like refrigerators.  If you have an internet connection then you have instant access to a wide varieity of things including streaming content, cloud storage, and even many bausiness and school based productivity suites.  5 years ago you would have been helpless without a PC for these typed of things,  while today a PC is mostly a matter of convienence (obviously not counting high end gaming and content creation here).
 
But what makes the PC more convienent?  Keyboard, mouse, and a proper monitor.  That is it.  Processing power and storage can be dealt with via a server on the network.  This has already been proven with Gaki, onlive, and other enterprise grade software.  What makes a PC useful and productive compared to other devices is merely the interface.  Give me a smart phone capable of connecting to a KMV (preferably with 2 monitors) and I can replace my work computer.  Give me one that can tap into the graphical horsepower and storage space of a server (and run a NLE) then I can replace my home computer.  It is not quite possible to do this all today, but I can see it happening in 10 years time.  My son is 2 years old, and I dobut he will ever need to have a personal computer in his lifetime.  He may need one if he gets into extremely high end gaming, or some sort of hefty content creation, but by the time he is old enough to really use a PC there will be other cheap but capable devices on the market capable of what will be 'mainstream' 4K gaming and video editing.  A 'PC like' device will always be needed in the house, but in the future it will be more of a server than an end user device for everyone but the highest end of power users.

The decline is because the PC industry is changing in a completely different way than it has in the past. Moore's Law was coming down like a hammer for the better part of the consumer PC era and developers were keeping up. We wanted faster computers so we could run the latest applications and operating systems. But we've shifted from being speed hungry to data hungry and power concerned. Look at the last three operating systems from Microsoft. The specification requirements haven't changed all that much. A computer that could run Windows Vista fine can handle Windows 8 pretty well. I don't quite recall that being the case with Windows 3.11 and Windows 98 (but I was young back then). Add in the fact that Windows 7 and 8 are pretty darn stable, and people don't have to replace their computer as often. They can keep running the latest apps (my fairly budget system I built in '09 runs SimCity pretty well) and they don't need to replace it because it's crashing all the time. PCs are selling like they used to because they're lasting longer.

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