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Dearly Departed?
The demise of the desktop computing platform and what it means for your business.

Aug. 15, 2013


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“Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” — Mark Twain (misquoted)

Dust To Dust

It seems like there’s been a lot of chatter recently about the desktop computer going the way of the T-Rex. First quarter PC sales are down 14% from 2012* Add to that other factors – such as a sluggish economy and ever-increasing smartphone and tablet sales. Then consider the rise in cloud-based storage and subscription-based software. Even the lackluster response to Windows 8 has been cited as cause for slowing PC sales. Given all these omens, the future of the desktop PC does indeed look bleak.

Not So Fast

But it might be premature to issue the PC post mortem. While it’s clear that the personal computer landscape has been undergoing a seismic shift, it is also clear that some things have remained the same. At least for the near future.

PCs are still omnipresent in businesses and offices.

Government institutions, schools, hospitals all are reliant on PC based in systems. Three-quarters of U.S. households currently own a desktop computer***.

What about laptops?

Surely every college student in is not abandoning that trusty notebook PC. Well maybe not yet. But sales of tablets are projected to outpace notebook sales by about $30 million in 2013.°

Meanwhile, people are hanging on to their desktop PCs for more years than they have in the past. Instead of upgrading that old desktop, consumers are investing in the latest smartphone or tablet. The role of the PC is shifting and becoming more like an appliance.

Yet there is still an enormous worldwide market for PCs. It is estimated that by the year 2015, 2 billion PCs will be in use worldwide.°° And when consumers decide to upgrade, they have some enticing new options. Taking a design cue from Apple, PC makers like HP, Dell, and Lenovo are bringing to market sleek new all-in-one desktop PC designs – some with nifty touchscreen technology. And consumers are responding. Sales of All-In-One PCs are increasing by 18% as home users replace their dusty old tower systems.**

Life Support

So is the PC’s condition terminal? Probably not. After all, everyone still owns a microwave oven. But when is the last time you bought a new microwave?

But what’s clear is, that tasks that were once only able to be accomplished on a PC – are now untethered from the desktop environment. Add to that the plethora of new tasks that mobile platforms allow a user to engage in, and it does certainly seem that the reign of the desktop PC may be drawing to a close.

PC sales will continue to slow and market share will continue to decrease. Blog articles just like this one will continue to be written for the foreseeable future. Yet PCs will continue to serve a valuable function. Professional, Industrial, and consumer applications will keep the PC industry alive for many years to come. And more than that, PCs are becoming ever more integrated into our home entertainment, utility or security systems.

Condition Upgraded

So what (if anything) does the non-death of the PC mean for your business? Well, if you are marketing to customers via the web it mean that you are marketing to an increasingly mobile user. Your website’s messaging, and functionality need to perform flawlessly whether a user views it on a smartphone or a desktop. You don’t want to simply hope that your 4 year old, full-size website is going to nicely scale down to an iphone’s screen-size – because it probably won’t.

Your will want to prioritize the goals, function and content of your business website. You will want to ensure that your website is completely scalable – for any device and any screen size.

You may also want to consider whether or not your business could benefit by having a mobile app. Do you provide information or services that clients want to access while they are on the go? Probably. How can that functionality best be encapsulated in an easy to use app?

Prognosis

Change is a constant – especially with technology. The role of the PC is changing. The ways people interact with the Web are evolving. And your business can continue to keep pace and remain relevant to every customer – all the time.


Sources

*”PCs hit by an ugly quarterly drop as Windows 8 flops”by Shara Tibken
http://news.cnet.com/8301-1001_3-57578914-92/pcs-hit-by-an-ugly-quarterly-drop-as-windows-8-flops/
**”HP’s new PC combines sleek design with legacy ports” by Patrick Thibodeau
http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9239952/HP_s_new_PC_combines_sleek_design_with_legacy_ports
***”Computer and Internet Use in the United States” by Thom File
http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/p20-569.pdf
°”The PC May Be Dying, But Computing Lives Everywhere” by Michael V. Copeland
http://www.wired.com/business/2013/05/the-pc-may-be-dying-but-pc-companies-arent/
°°Worldometers. Realtime world statistics – “Computers sold this year worldwide”
http://www.worldometers.info/computers/

References

http://www.wired.com/business/2013/04/ebays-path-to-escape-amazons-shadow/
http://www.fastcompany.com/1822971/why-pc-will-die-soon
http://www.forbes.com/sites/markrogowsky/2013/04/11/the-death-of-the-pc-has-not-been-exaggerated/
http://www.forbes.com/sites/markrogowsky/2012/11/16/facing-irrelevance-microsoft-tries-to-reinvent-everything/


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