Hey, Maybe the PC Isn’t Dying

But it's about to get harder to categorize.

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Jared Newman / TIME.com

Despite the prevailing opinion that the the PC is doomed, things could be a lot worse–at least in the United States.

According to Gartner, worldwide PC sales declined by 10.9 percent year-over-year last quarter. That’s the fifth quarter of declining PC shipments in a row.

But in the United States, the situation isn’t nearly as bleak. Overall PC shipments fell by just 1.4 percent, the smallest year-over-year decline since the beginning of 2012. Lenovo’s PC growth shot up by 20 percent, and Dell managed to grow by 6.4 percent. Even HP, which had some disastrous quarters recently, was almost stable, with a 0.5 percent drop in PC shipments.

No one would argue that a 1.4 percent decline is great news, but it’s not as bad as previous quarters, when U.S. PC shipments appeared to be in a free fall. Last quarter, U.S. shipments were down 9.6 percent. A year ago, they were down 5.7 percent.

What’s going on? Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa thinks a lot of the growth is coming from professional users who are finally upgrading their old Windows XP machines. Microsoft will end extended support for XP next year, so businesses could be looking to replace their hardware before then.

That’s both good and bad news. It could suggest that businesses aren’t afraid of Windows 8 (though I wonder how many are exercising their downgrade rights). But it could also signal a temporary growth spurt that will cease after most of the Windows XP machines get replaced.

In any case, Gartner is sticking with its long-held view that the traditional PC market is sinking. Users are putting off the purchase of new laptops or desktops, and buying tablets for casual computing instead. The idea is that most homes will have one or two traditional PCs for productivity, but tablet use will become more prevalent overall.

It certainly seems that way now, but the future’s a lot harder to pin down. Microsoft is dead-set on knocking down the walls between PCs, tablets and phones, with one experience across all devices. We’ll continue to see Windows-based hybrid devices that blur the lines between tablet and laptop. (I’m still waiting for the perfect execution.)

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of interesting stuff happening in the low-end laptop market. Chromebooks offer an inexpensive way to access the full desktop web, and they seem to be picking up steam. Later this year, Intel says its processors will power lots of new cheap, touch-enabled laptops running either Windows or Android.

Those who do want a more traditional laptop will find that these machines are getting thinner, lighter and more powerful, with longer battery life. Apple’s new Macbook Airs are a great example, and Windows PC makers will soon counter with a wave of high-end laptops with high-res touchscreens and ultra-thin designs.

When you consider how much is happening right now, the PC doesn’t seem dead. It’s just breaking out of its traditionally clunky, heavy, uninspiring shell. Cheap tablets will continue to be popular, but there’s room for these other devices to fit in when a small touch screen just won’t do. That’s basically what the post-PC era is all about, and it’s going to get a lot trickier for Gartner to count.

45 comments
BuggyWhip
BuggyWhip

Nobody can do productive work on an IBM Selectric.

Signed,

The Typewriter

Patriot60
Patriot60

You can't beat a PC (or a Mac) for productivity or even "media consumption."

I watched one movie on a phone once, and one on a tablet. Never again. I'm sorry, but a PC with a robust sound card will blow away your phone or tablet when it comes to music.



WayneHarrison
WayneHarrison

Just replaced my old laptop which was running Vista Home Premium (never had any troubles with that OS, BTW) with a new laptop running Windows 8 -- which means it's the first laptop I've purchased in about six years.  The new laptop is way faster than my old laptop and cost about half the price of the Vista laptop.  My first computer was an Apple II+ in about 1980. My new laptop cost about $200 less than one Apple II floppy drive.

techslate1
techslate1

I doubt about his trend.  Without PC how do people do their jobs.  Don't you think it is strange.  It takes a lot of time to adapt to tablet and smartphone to do the job of a PC.

obdoqbopqo
obdoqbopqo

There is no one-size-fits-all model for the computing market.  Mobile devices aren't taking over PCs any more than they're taking over living room entertainment systems. 


Yes, you can watch the Sopranos on a smartphone.  But people still buy 60-inch TVs.  Because when you get home, it's a different environment.  You don't have to accept spotty connectivity, short battery life, and smaller screens.


What's true about big-screen TVs is also true about PCs.  Because you're home, there are fewer compromises that need to be made.  You can get more power.  That will always, always, always be true for physical reasons.  And psychologically, people accept the difference.


Microsoft can try to smash the smartphone interface and the desktop interface into one version of Windows, but it'll be a colossal failure.  It won't do either well.  I understand that they might think that this strategy allows their software team to focus on one thing, but it won't work.  They should take a tip from Apple, who isn't trying to merge Mac OS X and iOS.

AsokSmith
AsokSmith

Indeed the PC isn't dying. Never was. It's just that the market has finally matured, the machines last longer, the excrable Windows 8 killed any nascent inclination to "upgrade" to get the latest thing, and nearly bullet-proof iOS and Android devices came along that satisfied the simple needs of a large number of people and freed them from the horrible Windows problems that they had endured for decades.

Of course, the enterprise and SMB still need the industrial capabilities of PCs, since tablets and smart phones are essentially just capable toys. Steve Jobs once said that PCs were the pickups of the IT world. And he was correct. We still need pickups for doing "real work", it's just that we don't need that many of them compared to automobiles, and pickups tend to last longer than cars because they are built tougher.

False_Believer
False_Believer

Tablets and smartphones are fine so long as you control them and not the other way round. But let's put in a pitch for making more use of the cpu between your ears. Is all that babble really so important that it can't wait until you reach your destination? Governments everywhere love the idea of a population so tranquilized by a drip feed of commercial drivel that they do not and eventually cannot think for themselves. Tablets and smartphones are great opium for the masses, and a way to keep track of them, so let's make more use of the off switch -if there is one. As for PCs, build your own is the way to go. Everything you want and nothing you don't.

Ajax
Ajax

Any time HP has a problem, it's fine with me. I'm still mad at them for their atrocious behavior during the Nvidia debacle. If PC manufacturers were smart they would be dumping spinners for anything except storage and start offering SSD's as standard for the operating systems. The incredible increases in speed would attract customers back to the benefits of big, very fast, powerful machines with massive storage that can run everything  you could possibly imagine with ease. If you want to trust your stuff to the lack of integrity and privacy of "clouds" ....good luck.

scottyisgaga
scottyisgaga

The PC is dead, the Mac is the productivity machine. PC's are for gaming and Macs are for science and math and creativity.

scottyisgaga
scottyisgaga

iPads are PC's. So are android tablets. PC. 

obdoqbopqo
obdoqbopqo

No one will ever design a smartphone on a smartphone.   For industrial-strength business work, you need the big, ugly desktops and servers.

MichaelWPaul
MichaelWPaul

I like change.  However, some changes shouldn't be made.  Like trying to get server-like jobs done with things like laptops and pads and such.  The fan in my laptop is shot now, after I tried to treat it like I treat a PC.  At least with a PC, I'd have an easy time replacing the fan.  

I built the PC that I was using, and when I get my act together I'll fix it so the laptop can go back to simple jobs.  Ones that won't break it as quickly.  Seems like the best way to go...

Drooski
Drooski

This is not a surprise to anyone with half a brain. You people have been claiming the death of the PC, the mouse, the keyboard, etc, for years, yet they still go on. If they counted the number of home brew PCs, they would find that growth is INCREASING. More and more of todays teens, 20s, 30s, build their own systems rather than buy off the shelf boxes.

MaxFlynn1
MaxFlynn1

The PC isn't dying and isn't going to die.  Stop trying to make one OS for phones and PC's Microsoft.  You managed to wipe the egg off your face just long enough to smile and put it back on with this latest mess.

The PC isn't dying and it's not going to die.  Believe it or not a lot of people prefer to do things on a screen bigger than 3 inches across.

salbm
salbm

Search Ubuntu for Android.   The traditional PC will continue to shrink as consumers will plug their phone into a traditional keyboard/mouse/display.   More professionals are working on the go or on the road.  Those who bring their work home won't want to maintain multiple desktops, software licenses, and file systems.  It will be mobiles, the cloud, and docking stations (in your vehicle, office, home office, and entertainment - one device) for all but the most demanding users.   Once again we have to look toward 'nix technology for innovation. 

Solarian
Solarian

The PC isn't dead - people purchasing tablets instead of PC's simply have different needs than the people using PC's. Professionals who work with software and devices that require PC's will not be using a tablet for those needs, while the PC offers more performance and utility that industries such as eSports, gaming, and media/entertainment require. The tablet device is a much more elegant solution than requiring a full PC the for the widespread need for access to digital media - the tablet has what the mainstream consumer would need for access to digital media without paying for the extra things a PC provides that they ultimately don't make use of.

kory.tarr
kory.tarr

My pc will be dead when my smartphone is powerful enough to run all the software my pc does and can "bluetooth" to a keyboard, mouse, and display and has adequate storage.  I think I will call this new smartphone a pc.

fjawodfc
fjawodfc

The PC was never dying and never will die.  Many tasks work poorly or not at all on a tiny phone or tablet screen and touch-screen keyboard.  No amount of innovation will change that.  I don't touch my smartphone unless I'm away from home.

Hannover
Hannover

Woops, I think CNN posted this article by mistake. It actually has some facts in it. 

HenryMiller
HenryMiller

"Microsoft is dead-set on knocking down the walls between PCs, tablets and phones, with one experience across all devices."

That's like proposing knocking down the walls between a knife, a fork, and a spoon.  Sure, you can do it, but the result is a piece of flatware that does everything poorly.

MarkDavis
MarkDavis

The Media: The PC is Dead.

The Media: The PC may not be dead afterall.

Whatever.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

My tablet is useful for when I'm out and about but it will NEVER replace an actual productivity machine sitting on a desk.

EnderWiggum
EnderWiggum

I walked around my office today and it appeared there were the same number of computers as last year.  One per employee.  Phones and tablets allow me to replace about 20% of those functions, typically poorly, but with more mobility.  The PC will be around for a very long time.  

schroeder.cary
schroeder.cary

Cell phones are miniature computers and tedious to use.  I have to have a large screen with key board and a printer to plug in with, good speakers and plenty of memory.  I'm not going to plug all that in to a computer when ever I want to use my computer.

Brian Barua
Brian Barua

i'd prefer pc or laptop over tablets anytime

TuroOrvel
TuroOrvel

@scottyisgaga

No. Macs are made for people that don't really know how to use computers. The os is designed so that you can't really do any harm to the device. For power users and professionals this can be very limiting. I'd say that more "creative" people use PCs than macs. PCs allow more freedom to do your own stuff than macs because they are a open environment. They allow you to customize the device just like you want it. With macs, you have to settle to what apple thinks you need.

Also, gaming.

obdoqbopqo
obdoqbopqo

Science and math run on Linux.  Supercomputers run Linux.  Google runs Linux on the inside.  The big, blue-chip printed-circuit board design tools run on Linux.  The big chip design and logic simulation tools run on Linux.  They don't run on Mac.

Macs are designed in Linux on PCs.

NamecNassianer
NamecNassianer

@scottyisgaga

I have not bought a PC in the last 15 years, but I have built and upgraded more than I can count.  My builds are not counted as PC sales; thus, from my pov at least, declining PC sales.  I am certainly not the only person who builds their own computers.

BTW, the Mac seems to be for people who do not understand computers (and apparently do not want to).

Ajax
Ajax

@scottyisgaga It's great to be loyal to a product that you are happy with and that has been clearly good for you but for the sake of your own integrity stop saying stuff that is not true or accurate. It just causes unnecessary strife. You know better.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@scottyisgaga No.  They're not.  They are consumption computing devices designed primarily to separate the weak of mind from their excess cash and bolster manufacturer profits.  They are not PC's.  They can not replace PC's.  They lack the power, speed, customization and capacity of the average PC.

Trying to "replace" a PC with a tablet of any kind is exactly like replacing your running shoes with flip-flops and running a marathon in them.

I mean, if you like pain, great.  But tablets are essentially useless except for the revenue they generate for manufacturers and developers.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@Drooski I built a lot of boxes for my clients even before Windows 8 came out and build a lot more now because pre-built PC's HAVE to have Windows 8 (It's part of the MS licensing agreement with manufacturers).  Sales of "new computers" is going to be down because Windows 8 sucks.  But build it yourself PC's are going strong because you can get OEM Windows 7 to instal on it and get all the customizations you want from the get-go.  (Assuming you don't go Linux, instead.)

The last computer I bought that I didn't make was an "Adam".  People in their 20's today weren't even born the first time I built my own.  And I'll never buy a pre-built one again.

So, yeah, those who have been predicting the death of the PC have been so far off target, I'm surprised they didn't shoot themselves in the mouth.

Oh, wait...  Maybe they did.  Could this article be the beginning of an industry-wide mea culpa for cheering on the "PC is dead" hype without having any real foundation for it?

JereJohnson
JereJohnson

@MaxFlynn1 I agree with you. The fact is that the PC doesn't become obsolete as fast as it used to because programming doesn't use all the power a PC has as quickly as it used to and storage is easier to manage now that we have the ability to use Terabyte storage devices and Cloud storage abilities.


There's just not the same urgency to upgrade as there used to be in years past.

Ajax
Ajax

@salbm Nonsense. I have 6 pc's in my living room right now and each one of those people is spending 350 bucks to install an SSD, a new operating system and more memory because it will just make them faster and better in spite of the fact that several are 7+ years old. Sounds to me like they love their machines and want to keep using them.

SinanFeritTüzer
SinanFeritTüzer

@salbm that's not the people who want productivity. let me see how much office work you can do with a phone plugged into a keyboard and mouse.

obdoqbopqo
obdoqbopqo

@fjawodfc Agreed.  For those who know how to type, pecking with a finger or even both thumbs is a step backward.

Hugo_Lamange
Hugo_Lamange

@Hannover This is techland.time.com (brought to you by the company that prints TIME magazine), not CNN... and why does everyone hate CNN?

obdoqbopqo
obdoqbopqo

@MarkDavis Report:  Hey!  I don't use regular computers anymore!  Therefore nobody uses regular computers anymore!  Therefore the PC is dead!

mahadragon
mahadragon

Really? So if you're standing in line at the post office or waiting in a restaurant and want to check email, you'd rather lug your PC into the post office or restaurant, or break out your laptop to check your email?

SuperDooper88
SuperDooper88

@obdoqbopqo If you saying the OSX is built on Linux, then goes to show Apple don't even trust their own.

But yes, Above is true, Apple is a product for telling you what to use and buy, makes people who don't know how to use Computers give a easier life that from my accounts from others, turns grim. Surprising regret. 1 in 3 keep apple after 1 year in my group, could be 1 in 4, coz at times, they keep Apple due to how hard it is to convert back

Drooski
Drooski

@Hugo_Lamange @Hannover  Its not that people hate CNN. Its that CNN is an obvious shill for Apple. Every 6 months CNN runs an article declaring the PC/Mouse/Keyboard/Anything actually useful dead, and the article is usually written by some know nothing from their style or eatocracy branches. It is painfully obvious no one at CNN has any technical knowledge.

Solarian
Solarian

@mahadragon Tablets are nice for mobility with simple functions but they don't replace the productivity and utility of a PC with input devices. However, even though there's a lot that can't be done on touch screen, they're still useful if people need constant media connection when they're not at home or the office.

HenryMiller
HenryMiller

@mahadragon Preferring a PC doesn't mean he won't use other options.  I prefer my motorcycle, but that doesn't mean I won't use my car when it's snowing.