With competition from more convenient, less costly mobile computing devices like smartphones and tablets taking its toll on PC sales, will Microsoft's latest Windows operating system help get the PC market on firmer footing?
Worldwide PC shipments are now projected to decline in 2012 for the first time in 11 years, according to market research firm IHS iSuppli. In its latest forecast, released Wednesday (Oct. 10), IHS said it expects PC shipments to decline 1.2 percent this year to 348.7 million units.
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To put this in perspective, the last time PC shipments contracted year-over-year was 2001, the year the dot com bubble burst.
PC shipments are widely expected to get a boost from the release of Windows 8, set for Oct. 26. But it appears unlikely that the release of the new Microsoft operating system will provide enough bounce for the market to avoid contraction this year.
IHS points to a number of culprits responsible for the projected decline, not the least of which is ongoing economic malaise throughout much of the world. But PC shipments appear to be suffering at least in part due to the tremendous growth in smartphones and tablets. In the past two weeks, IHS and others have blamed changing customer preferences brought on by the success of a new kind of mobile computing.
Simply put, tablets and high-end smartphones offer consumers and businesses much of the computing power they need for many tasks. And they are more convenient, lighter, less expensive and, well, more fun than a stodgy old PC.
Steve, I agree with you on both counts. The graphic does look pretty foreboding. Still, the first decline in 11 years is significant. Not a collapse, but as you say, this may well mean PC shipments have peaked.
The IHS graphic is indeed visually misleading - it sure looks foreboding, but in fact the "decline" is merely 1.2%.
The real story is more that the PC industry has hit it's peak in shipments... which is a totally different message than an industry "collapsing".
Agree fully with the previous poster. The death of the PC has been mis-characterized ever since the iPad came out.
That IHS graphic presents a distorted picture, in that it shows bars starting from something other than zero. People visually integrate the change on a bar chart, and the graphic violates some basic principles of presenting data. Very non-Tufte, and a pretty poor graphic to boot. To paraphrase Dona Wong, a bar chart starting at something other than zero is like a misspelled word in a headline. Paint the picture correctly and the situation doesn't look so dire, it looks like noise in a flat market.
There are two questions here: (1) whether Win8 would help boost PC sales, and (b) whether tablets and smartphones are taking away from PC sales.
For a laptop or desktop PC, everything I've read about Win8 says that it offers no improvement over Win7. On the contrary, if anything. One problem a lot of people seem to have is the lack of the "start" button. Then again, there are third party apps that restore that start button, in Win8. Win8 appears to be tuned for touch screen type devices, and everything I read says that when used with keyboard/mouse and more distant screen, it is or feels compromised.
As to tablets and smartphones, my take is, only the Surface or similar, which can work like PCs, would potentially take away the need for PCs. Or the smartphone/PC hybrid concept:
Aside from these hybrid devices, which IMO could take away from bona fide PC roles, if PC sales are slacking off it is because people are spending their holiday money on portable toys instead, and/or because the PC market may be reaching saturation?
I'm curious, actually. Is the rate of toaster sales increasing rapidly? I doubt it but don't really know. And yet, few people would conclude that toasters are no longer in demand! (My wife likes "toaster ovens." So maybe that's a wrinkle, similar to comparison between desktop and notebook PCs? Overall, I doubt the sales of these devices is increasing.)