Thursday, new data regarding PC sales are down from the same period last year, 25 percent to be exact, Macs are forecasted to be down 7 percent. Even with Windows 8 hitting the shelves and being heavily pushed through marketing and offering free copies to PC-buyers for the a good part of the year, sales are down. Windows 8 in itself is an admission of the death of the PC, with the heavily touch-based OS, Windows 8 is much more a tablet operating system as it is a desktop ecosystem (just try using a mouse to navigate around Windows 8, its just frustrating enough to make you want to upgrade to a touchscreen model). Sure, Windows 8 boasted sales around 40 million but critics and analysts point out these are mostly built-in enterprise sales that really don’t translate into a measure blip on the consumer scale. Everything, from the user experience, how you navigate, the apps that are built in the Windows Store (which is part Windows Phone Store, Windows RT Store and Windows 8 Pro store) are very touch-oriented and a drastic shift from traditional, mouse-point-and-click computing. Macs too are suffering from the same phenomenon, despite the steady flow of new MacBook Pros and iMacs that seem to get smaller, faster, better each year, are facing declines. Apple continues to amaze me with its sleek designs in its computers and I always pine to get my hands on the latest and greatest iDevice, but that doesn’t mean I will always have a need to have one. The fact is, most people dont need a traditional computer, since the tablet has quickly filled that void. You likely won’t see people lined up outside the Apple Store today, or this weekend waiting for a new iMac, they may for an iPad or iPhone, but the market for PCs keep getting smaller.
The Rise of the Tablet
The tablet has risen in terms of market share and status. The ease of use of tablets, lowered pricing, improved cloud computing and improved quality of tablets have increased adoption around the world. Apple may have revolutionized the market, but Android is catching up quickly. With cheaper options, less buggy Android OSs and better hardware selection. Android will take the lead in the tablet market in less than 6 months, not just at the cost of Apple, but also to traditional PCs. Laptops and desktop sales have been cannibalized by tablets as consumers move away from those type of computers because tablets are easier to use and allow for more casual computing. “There’s an app for that” has been a phrase that helps simplify the fact that tablets truly can do just about anything, which in my opinion has shown the versatility of the segment. PCs, in form and functionality have become the dinosaurs of consumer electronics. “Innovate or die” has always been and will continue to be a mantra of the electronics industry, in this case the PC is up next.
It is never a good sign when products become commodities where competition is reliant on pricing and cost savings. Apple has a slight edge in its business model because of its own operating system and the hardware is manufactured by Apple only. This makes it difficult for manufacturers to say their product is on par or better than Apple’s (just because they aren’t as easy to compare on paper.) But this doesn’t mean that Apple is immune from changes in consumer tastes. The newest iMac is nothing more than a sleeker design. Apple loves throwing around the phrase “The World’s Most [insert adjective here] [insert product type here].” The latest iMac is the thinnest ever and it does look gorgeous. There are some innovations that are embedded into the new iMacs, less reflective screen, faster processor, thinner design, but they don’t really change the status quo. Even mobile software development takes priority over PCs, Apple on Thursday released iTunes 11, the design elements and layout are features most iOS users are familiar with. PCs will always have a place, likely in the workplace, where accountants, designers, IT Managers, engineers, writers and the like will rely on those devices. However, tablets and mobile phones are viable just about anywhere, where a PC may not be as convenient. Convenience and user-experience will be bigger selling points rather than speeds and specs. As long as it works, where you want and need, all the other factors won’t matter.
Mobile has been the game for the last few years and it will be so for next generation. Apple years ago focused on the Mac being central to the way we compute. It is where you would connect your media player, camera and a place to distribute that content to friends or online. With mobile and cloud-computing, the concept of a hub-oriented computing went out of fashion quickly. The selling point of a rebranded Microsoft/Windows (under the guise of Windows 8 ) of being able to collaborate across mobile, PC, gaming, and cloud is nice and I think it’s great, but its only an interim state where consumers will soon realize there is no need for a pesky computer. Windows 8, to me feels like the gateway to full tablet computing. The convertibility (between tablet and desktop) shows that Microsoft understands where the market is headed, but also acknowledging that some users aren’t ready to abandon their PCs fully just yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if Windows 9 eliminates the PC entirely and shifts entirely to mobile computing.
I’ll continue to keep my Mac nearby, I need it for work, occasional video games, and probably a bit of nostalgia. But at home, I find myself relying on it less and less. Maybe the PC will lend itself to more like the landline home phone, its there but why need it when a more convenient alternative is available (cell phones).