Earlier this month major news outlets began trumpeting the news that the personal computer was dead. For the first time since personal computers were a trackable commodity, both PC and laptops have suffered the "longest duration of decline" in history. Reported figures from the research firm Gartner show that with 76 million units sold in the second quarter, sales are down by 10.9% from the previous year.
Mikako Kitagawa, principle analyst at Gartner, explains the perceived reason, "in emerging markets, inexpensive tablets have become the first computing device for many people, who at best are deferring the purchase of a PC." According to information reported by Gartner, during the period between 2012 and the project sales of 2014 where worldwide PCs sales drop form 340,000 units to 290, 000 units, the tablet market is expected to grow from 120,000 units to approximately 280,000 units.
Is this the end or something else?
Negative information continues to be reported about the declining PC market and Microsoft continues to do what it can to make matters worse, but I believe that the market is not nearing collapse. In my mind, I see the market recalibrating into a new paradigm that includes all digital data systems: smartphones, smart televisions, tablets, PCs, and laptops. In the last decade, the only way to access the growing ecosystem of the internet was through a decently equipped personal computer. Then the inexpensive competitors began to show up.
Lighter and more mobile laptops began to enjoy lower price points. Smart phones began to come into their own. Tablets are the last to join the party and take up the space between the small screens of the smartphones and larger and heavier laptops. The single product market now has many different products vying for a limited consumer base. This is a good thing for all of us outside of the focused sales programs. Why should a grandmother have to buy a desktop PC just to look at pictures of her grandkids and read email? She is better served with by purchasing a tablet.
College students who aren’t full-time gamers can bypass the desktop PC and revel in the flexibility of a lightweight laptop that can accompany them into class and still run the best productivity software. Why should this student have to purchase a PC that is left in a dorm room if the student does not have to?
Beyond the Desktop
What people have to recognize as we move beyond the desktop PC into a more flexible digital future is that the decline of a subset of products does not spell the end. While desktop and laptop sales are in decline, tablet sales are in a steep incline. In 2012 nearly 340,000 PCs were sold worldwide and 120,000 tablets for a total of 460,000 units. The project totals for 2014 are 290,000 PC units and 280,000 tablet units for 570,000 units. That is a total combined market increase of 110,000 units. With growth figures like that, you can see that the industry is fine overall.
Once consumers get over the shock of seeing less PCs sold year to year and recognize that the market is stabilizing around the new product paradigms these doomsday reports will quickly disappear.