While we wait with breathless anticipation for the sure-to-follow deluge of articles reporting “the number of people who watched the Super Bowl using a tablet or smartphone” (the death of pay TV, blah blah blah, etc.), we wonder why people don’t talk about what’s happening to that “other” device – the personal computer.
Remember the PC? That big-ass box on your desk circa 1992, that took what now seems way too long to morph into a more usable and mobile format – the laptop. After a recessionary tumble in 2001, U.S. sales of PCs grew to the sky.
Until the second quarter of 2012. And the third. And the fourth. Double-digit percentage declines.
Windows 8, iPads, the economy – there are many reasons for the PC’s tailspin. But there is really only one thing dying here: the “Death of the Consumer PC User.”
And here’s the funny part of this story – 90% of the consumer PC market should never have existed in the first place.
For the 170 million or so U.S. citizens outside of the formal workforce, the need for “productivity” software is unnecessary. Word? Excel? Wouldn’t know PowerPoint from Tipping Point.
Here’s all they need – a connection to the Internet, an email host, audio and video play capabilities, and games. Lots of games.
They never really needed a personal COMPUTER for those things, but the alternatives – such as DVD players – were suboptimal. Even netbooks, which suffered one of the fastest cycles of growth and flame-out in tech, were vastly overengineered for this cohort.
The PC itself won’t die, because almost all business users have found – many of them the hard way – that a tablet alone won’t suffice. Dell, HP and Lenovo can battle over the remaining enterprise-user market – in two years, one of the three will cease to exist.
The current range of price points for the tablet marketplace is a great tell on just how well Apple, and its competitors, are delivering against the needs of consumer users. And that includes the “consumer side” of the business user, who now carries a tablet and laptop in his or her briefcase. This market has a long way to go – many cycles of refresh and innovation – until maturity.
In the meantime, some strange initiatives are underway. Tablet manufacturers are working diligently to make their devices work like laptops. And laptop manufacturers are pouring millions of dollars into ways to make a PC work like a tablet.