As I scanned the Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads and sales data, it dawned on me how drastically computing has changed in the past few years and why PC sales continue to decline. Somewhere along the line, the PC ecosystem forgot that the current generation of technology is supposed to be priced competitively with the previous generation.
PC bargains were once common during the holiday season. The average holiday sale prices of mainstream PCs, both desktop and mobile, continued to drop at least a few dollars per year. There was a sweet spot in the $299 to $399 range for the best deals. But the PC ecosystem appears to have abandoned that sweet spot to Chromebooks and tablets and retreated to higher ground.
I was amazed to see many "PC deals" in the $599 to $999 range for both laptops and desktops. There were the occasional low-end PCs below that range and a plethora of refurbished PCs, but the vast majority of systems with a high-end Intel Core i3 or Core i5 or AMD A6 processor were well above the discount price levels of previous generations and holiday seasons.
A few years ago, Walmart was selling mainstream Toshiba laptops for $199, which was about $100 below competing products and specials at the time. This had much to do with inventory levels and the economy at the time, but it is a reflection of the discounts that could be had.
Instead of becoming more competitive, the PC ecosystem has essentially given up the holiday pricing sweet spot to tablets. With retailers like Walmart and Target offering discounts and $100 gift cards when you purchase an iPad, it's clear that even the channel's preference is on tablets. So, is it any surprise that the focus of computing has shifted to tablets?
If you really want a standard PC form factor today, you have to settle for either a low-end system or you have to shell out more money for a mainstream platform. From one who really likes having a keyboard and is a fan of the new thin and light form factors, it's disappointing that I cannot buy a newer form factor for the same price as the previous generation.
— Jim McGregor is founder and principal analyst at Tirias Research.