In looking around at the various tech and business sites or blogs, there’s discussion about how the personal computer seems to be “on the way out.” They’re basing that on sales figures from various manufacturers, as well as the sales of Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 8. The thinking is that “obviously” the market has shifted, and people are purchasing tablets and smartphones as replacements for their personal computers.
I think that’s … premature. Besides the fact that we’re just coming out of a recession, I don’t see the PC going away anytime soon. What has often been overlooked is that personal computers, as most people think of them, have become a “mature market.” That is, people aren’t running out to buy new ones, they’re using the ones they already have and are buying tablets and smartphones as an addition, rather than as a straight replacement.
The problem for the PC market is that in terms of capability, they’ve plateaued. That is, existing desktops are adequately powerful for most people’s needs. The computer I bought a few years ago as a “higher end” computer is still more than powerful enough to run any of the new operating systems without skipping a beat. There’s no “killer application” that makes me need a new one, and what I do use a computer for, even at the most “intense” doesn’t really stretch out the processor or memory capabilities. Sure, every now and then I drool a bit at the thought of a new one, but unless – or until – this one decides it’s had enough, I don’t have any real need for one. Even then, the actual “capabilities” of a new one aren’t exactly a major leap forward from my current one. Yes, the processors might have a few more cores, their speed might be a bit higher, the disk drives bigger, but in terms of “got to have this in order to really run!” … they don’t.
Which is what drove the market for upgrading in the past. If you wanted to run the hottest new game, you were talking about a high-end new computer. If you were running graphics or calculation intensive software, the newest operating system, or office software, you had to get a new one to make them useful and productive. But for the past few years, that hasn’t been the case. The computer I bought which was designed for the upper end of Vista (I had XP on it) will run Windows 8 and any associated software with no problems. Games? Well most of them have migrated to consoles or to online, in which case I need the particular console or a really good internet connection, instead of upgrading the computer.
So the PC isn’t “dead.” It’s moved into a new phase, one where the market for new ones is replacement as older ones gradually wear out, and where the former expanded market has shrunk due to specialists like consoles, smartphones, and tablets. The problem I see with the technology analysts is that they’re still stuck in their previous assumptions of “market growth,” and seeing that as meaning the PC is “dying.” Well, it’s not dead yet, and not likely to be.