Finally a well balanced and thoughtful article on this topic.
I'd like to point out, though, especially in item #3, that these new supposedly different roles will often be filled by PCs. This may be a matter of semantics. If the CE companies ever figure it out, that new TV that merges with PCs will have a PC embedded in it.
PCs have been embedded in any manner of devices for years and years now. They don't HAVE to look like your traditional desktop or laptop. They can also look like a tablet (Surface Pro), like a control console, like a photo processing machine, like specialized diagnistic equipment in garages and hospitals, yes, even like a TV set soon.
When I dedicated a PC to my TV and stereo setup at home, the PC looks like just another component on the shelf. While it can do web browsing, e-mail, etc., most of the time its behaving like a TV set top box. It could (and should?) be embedded in the TV set.
The way I would phrase it is, PCs are evolving just like all other such appliances are. The boundaries get blurred, that's all.
While I agree that tablets and smartphones have provided us with another way to do things that we typically need a computer for, such as making social contact (including email) and browsing, I think there is another factor.
I've watched people in 'big-box' stores go up to a Windows 8 machine on display, play around with it until they realize that they can't even start a program, or if a program has started and is in the whole screen, don't know how to get out of it. After struggling for a bit, they walk on. I realize that it is relatively simple to learn Windows 8 or to make it look like Windows 7. But there is no overriding need for a new OS, so the initial bad impression is enough to put people off.
It used to be that Windows was so slow and unstable that you pretty much had to buy a new machine every year or two just to get anything done. Now Windows XP and 7 are stable enough and computer speed increases have stalled so that there isn't a big incentive to upgrade. Add to that the unfamiliarity with the new OS, and people are, as I mentioned, just walking away. I think it is telling that while most PC manufactures have seen reduced sales, Levono has seen increased sales (even with all the tablets and smartphones out there). They are the one manufacturer that has made an effort sell more Windows 7 machines and to pre-install software that makes Windows 8 look more like Windows 7.
Supposedly (unless they are completely nuts), Microsoft will make the next major release of Windows 8 in four months will make it boot up more like Windows 7. I expect PC sales to pick up after this. (Why they are waiting 4 months is anyone's guess--sometimes pride is bigger than the need for profits, I guess).
Good article. While I don't expect PC's to rebound, I don't think they are going away either. There are just too many applications that can't be done on a Tablet or Smartphone.
For instance, what college student would use a Tablet to do a 20 page Term Report? That is, unless he has it outfitted with an external keyboard and cover to prop up the screen - essentially turning it into a laptop impersonator.
It's true that PC's will never again be the first choice for college dorms due to their bulk and size, but I'm pretty sure laptops will continue to reign in that environment.
Tablets and Smartphones will fill in the gaps where a laptops don't fare well, that is, on couches, in restaurants and on public transportation.
PC's were once the only game in town. Now they are just one of four devices the public can choose from.
And eventually new novel devices will pop up making the choices ever wider thus even displacing Tablets. The evolution of computing.
I agree with your statement about this being a well balanced and thoughtful article.
But I think your point about PCs being embedded in other devices or customized for specific applications, is however, tangential to the topic of PCs making a rebound in the market. Yes, you have one that looks like and functions as a set-top box, and my local grocery store has them looking and functioning like cash registers -- but these are not the traditional or historically largest markets for what we think of as a PC in the home or in the workplace. To the majority of users, the PC has always been a multi-purpose, multi-function computing device that was used for accomplishing a wide variety of tasks. For many years, it was the only real choice most of us had in computing -- excepting the form factor choice of desktop or laptop, and limited choice of OS. For the overwhelming majority, the OS was the latest version of Windows, and we didn't have thousands of "apps," we had a relative handful of software programs we used regularly, some of which tended to be rather expensive.
But I think the author nicely captured the essence of why there will not be a rebound in PC sales with the following:
"a multi-device philosophy has become part of our computing culture. As a result, consumers and businesses will continue to find new workflows and new approaches to old problems."
The corollary to that multi-device philosophy is more OS choices, more applications choices, and more form factors.
Computing is evolving. The traditional PC is not.
"For instance, what college student would use a Tablet to do a 20 page Term Report? That is, unless he has it outfitted with an external keyboard and cover to prop up the screen - essentially turning it into a laptop impersonator."
Yes, but there are significant implications for the winners and losers here. That tablet that can be a laptop (PC) impersonator today likely does not contain an Intel microprocessor or run a MS Windows OS. That is a big change from just a few years ago.
Except that a Surface Pro is definitely a PC impersonator, not classified as a PC, and it does have "Intel inside" and Windows OS.
I'll reiterate that this amounts to semantics. It might be true that "the traditional PC" won't rebound, but this is only true if you define "traditonal PC" very narrowly. If instead you include super duper smartphones with docking station in that PC definition, or tablets a la Surface Pro, or perhaps the new smart TVs, or any number of new devices that will be getting a PC-like device in their guts, as they righfully should be, then I think you'll see an evolution taking place.
For all of the noise, the PC and the laptop still dominates the industry world wide. The tablets are nice toys, but you need a real keyboard and large monitor to do most of the normal office type work.
I agree that the PC sales has peaked, but it will remain a very lucrative market for a number of years to come. We all know how difficult it is to change the office environment to introduce a new way of doing buisiness.
The death of the PC is just wishful thinking and a scare tactic by the tablet people to sell more devices before people realize how useless they are to do real work.
Just my opinion.