Saturday, April 6, 2013

The PC is Here to Stay

by Dietrich Schmitz

Oh the proclamations continue to amplify and the pontificators pontificate taking information repeating it, sometimes distorting it along the way and it takes on a life all its own.

Lets examine the Post-PC era.  Would that suggest that at some point there will cease to exist a demand for Desktop PCs?  Will the PC go the way of the VHS Video Player, LP records and Cassette Players for example? If so, I refuse to believe it.  And I don't care if Steve Jobs (rest in peace) predicted it.

The fact is, nothing is constant.  Everything is in a state of eternal change.  You see, every business has its ups and downs.  Every economy too undergoes fluctuations and new events and technologies lead to growth spurts resulting in stronger demand for production.  The key here is that it is cyclical in nature.

Reading in an October 30, 2012 report for example from

If this is the dawn of the “post-PC era,” then the economy never got the memo. While the tablet segment is finally growing (thank you, Apple), the five-times-larger PC segment is actually growing faster in terms of units, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future....
...Industry analysis firm IDC predicts worldwide growth in tablet shipments from 2013 to 2016 to be about 32 million units per year. In the same period, the rate of PC shipment growth will be about 38 million units per year.

As if in a display of multiple-personality disorder, IDC recants its previous position according to this InformationWeek report on March 5, 2013:

The global PC market will shrink for the second consecutive year, IDC said on Monday. The research firm had previously predicted that PCs would achieve modest growth in 2013, but reversed its forecast due to slowing momentum in emerging markets, limited growth potential in mature segments and consumer indifference to new and expensive hardware.

Yet, reading just a paragraph further in the very same story reveals:

In the meantime, the firm's analysts expect PC shipments to decline by 1.3% over the rest of this year, dropping from 2012's 350.4 million, which itself was a 3.7% setback, to 345.8 million. IDC anticipates that desktops will suffer the biggest slowdown with not only a 4.2% downtick this year but also continued, albeit slower, declines through at least 2017. The outlook is somewhat rosier for portable PCs; IDC projects shipments for these products will increase almost 1% in 2013, and that emerging markets will push this segment to 241 million units by 2017, a 19.3% increase from 2012.
So, you see, this business of sales forecasting, predicting the future if you will, is rather tricky and, often, analysts just get it wrong, correct themselves, and then go further by hedging in the opposite direction.  This IDC analyst predicts PC sales will remain strong in 2013 (a bit negative year over year), but, years going forward through 2017, portable PC sales will see positive growth by as much as 19%

What can be believed?  As for myself, I don't see tablets replacing Desktop systems in the Enterprise or SMBs.  They simply can't perform production tasks as well and IT Managers aren't going to risk a wholesale shift to tablets regardless of how much the media might say the PC is dead.

You can be sure that Lenovo, HP, Dell will continue to build PCs for a long long time.

Make peace with that.  The PC is here to stay.

Oh.  By the way, I just checked my Driver's License and, can confirm, I wasn't born yesterday. ;)

-- Dietrich

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  1. You're right, but I think the reason is due to the interface, not the raw power of the devices in question.

    PC means personal computer as we know - a tablet is just as much a PC as is a desktop workstation running Linux, or a MacBook Pro.

    It is an enclosed box, containing a CPU, GPU, memory, storage, with inputs and outputs.

    What's different?

    The interface.

    The display, and how you control it.

    Sure, some are more powerful than others, they may run different applications, but for many people a tablet does have enough power.

    Sure, the touch interface may not be optimal, but add a keyboard and mouse, and an external display, and it would be equivalent to a desktop for (say) writing your blog post.

    Why bother, people ask, if I have to add a keyboard and mouse to a tablet to be truly productive?

    Well... At least you have the option to work with or without them.

    A traditional desktop PC is a giant paperweight without them and cannot be used at all... :-)

  2. It's all based on the number of the number of (new) units (PCs) shipped per year which, as IDC stated, the number apparently dropped due to the consumer indifference to new and expensive hardware.

    Very true.

    Not blowing my own horn here but years ago, shortly after the beginning of the new tech "wave" (early to late '90's) when each new PC CPU was a major breakthrough, I mentioned to a co-worker of mine that eventually PCs would become so powerful that the average user wouldn't have to think about buying new hardware for years as his/her current hardware would more than suffice for their everyday use for the foreseeable future. Even heavy duty use depending on the machine used.

    I believe we really arrived at that point around 2008. You can argue that it might have been a few years sooner but by 2008 a consumer could purchase an Intel Core2 Quad Unit for example with 4 to 8 GBs (or more) of DDR2, a large HDD and a dedicated video card for around $800 or so. By 2010 you could pick up the same unit for around $500. The point being is that very same hardware is still as viable today as it was then. It can run just about anything you throw at it and it's still very upgradeable.

    Kind of explains why the $1200 i7s aren't flying out the door?

  3. I think what is happening is the end of CISC and a RISC renaissance is underway on several levels, smartphones, tablets, PCs, mainframes. A new generation of yet more powerful pcs will emerge (cell and/or risc).

  4. I agree the PC is here to stay. I use my laptop for most of my social media, but my Big work I need my PC. Great article.

  5. I agree with your comments - with one nit: I think Jobs said that the PC was going to become more of the hub for other devices as well as the "truck" of the computing world - it would still do the heavy work. With that said, the "other devices" are needing the "hub" less and less... so I am not saying he was completely right (or at least my recollections of what he said).

  6. People seem to forget, all that CGI for movies, your Phone Apps and Games, and even the design of that Phone were all made with a Desktop Computer. Sorry, but no matter how much they wish and pray, the Desktop is here to stay.

  7. I'll agree with the fact that PCs will be around for a while. But smaller devices (tables, smart phones and etc.) will take over some tasks done on desktops. For some that will be enough for some to forgo a PC entirely.

  8. Jon-Paul RaymondApril 7, 2013 at 7:08 PM

    The PC is here to stay.... :) .... funny. Of course there will always be room for a high-end box with the latest and greatest components that have yet to be compressed into a pocket size device as of yet, but the reality of the matter is that just as that antiquated box (known as the PC) and the dot matrix printer along with it, have both come and gone:

    So too will many other "PC" form factors go, rather than come, until the day final day comes where what you once recognized as a "PC" is no more and what I had on my desk I now carry in my pocket with 30 times more power, constant connectivity and at a cost of about half the retail price of that extinct dot matrix printer.

    So, to say "The PC is here to stay" I can agree with, but the context in which you seem to use the title leads me to say, I'm not sure how in touch with reality one can be to think that the actual "PC" is here to stay.