Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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5/3/2013
08:55 PM
Michael Endler
Michael Endler
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4 Reasons PC Market Won't Rebound

PCs aren't dead, but laptops and desktops have seen their best days.

There might be hybrid devices that eventually meet a lot of users' needs by offering Windows 8-like access to both desktop and tablet environments. But these devices would still be used in tablet mode to a huge extent, so much so that it would be a stretch to refer to them as traditional PCs, regardless of how IDC or Gartner ultimately decided to classify their sales. And unless they can magically resize themselves and/or multiply on command, do-it-all devices will stop neither the multi-screen trend nor the need for different sizes of gadgets.

Put another way, the tablet market is poised to overtake the PC market, even without much help from Microsoft or Windows 8. The iPad is only three years old, and even if tablets have infiltrated only a fraction of companies, the fact that they've made a mark at all in such a short time is impressive. As the technology evolves, apps and workflows will arise that allow tablets to invade the workplace even further. PCs might retain a big chunk of their tasks, but all the small losses add up.

3. Tablets are just the beginning.

Tablets and smartphones are only the first wave of technologies that will eat into the traditional PC market. Widespread adoption of wearable technology, whether it ends up looking like Google Glass, is coming. It's also now possible to stick a sensor and processor in just about anything. Just as touch has changed the computing world, so too will developing technologies, such as voice- or gesture-based interfaces. TVs and computers will gradually merge together, becoming something that won't properly fit either of those categories as we know them today. The list could go on.

The implication for PCs? These new technologies will absorb a few more of the tasks for which we currently use other devices, not only laptops and desktops but probably smartphones and tablets, too. But the most profound impact won't involve the re-appropriation of earlier devices' duties but rather a new breed of apps. Such apps could rely on anything from augmented reality to analytics derived from pervasive sensors linked via the cloud to big data backends. It's difficult to predict how such bleeding-edge technology will develop, but one thing is certain: new categories of apps and devices are unlikely to kill the PC, but they won't do it any favors, either.

4. The tech powers have already conceded the future.

In their decisions, the major tech players have already conceded the low likelihood of a PC resurgence. Microsoft's increased interest in mini-tablets is one indication. The diversity of devices that will use Intel chips, once virtually synonymous with Windows and PCs, is another. OEMs such as Samsung, HP and Acer are no longer building devices around a single platform but rather producing options that run the gamut: Chrome OS, Android, Windows and so on.

Dell's decision to go private is another sign; the move was presumably compelled by a need to shift its revenue balance away from PCs, which are still lucrative but not to the extent that they can support a big company. Dell is also among a growing number of companies investing in virtualization and cloud products to mitigate the need for enterprises to standardize their infrastructures around a single operating system. Industry powers are demonstrating, in short, than an era of diverse computing has dawned.

Indeed, Gartner projects that half of all companies will implement mandatory BYOD programs by 2017. Not all of these programs will be motivated by business use cases or leaps in productivity, but they reiterate the new prominence of consumer choice.

These choices are only expected to increase, and 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. That won't kill the traditional PC any time soon. But it guarantees that the PC won't rebound either.

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Terabyte Net
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Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/23/2013 | 2:56:01 PM
re: 4 Reasons PC Market Won't Rebound
Michael, research firms put out data they can sell. It doesn't matter if they're IT research firms or political research firms. The public is too stupid to think for themselves anymore so they just believe what Gartner, Harris, or even Informationweek says is the case. If you're going to cite 3rd party "research" firms you need to cite several that have come to the same conclusion as well as how they came to their conclusions. Citing one is just like making something up and not checking Snopes first.
rdecker926
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rdecker926,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/8/2013 | 9:21:00 PM
re: 4 Reasons PC Market Won't Rebound
The PC is not going away anytime soon. However, other "personal computing" devices are appearing that are augmenting the tools that the current worker uses to accomplish their everyday tasks.Tablets are great for meetings but don't handle those huge spreadsheets, databases or large graphics files very well. Smartphones are great communication tools but I've yet to see one able to produce even the smallest CADD project.

You can't build a track of houses with a hand ax, no, you need to use the right tool for the right job. A smartphone is the right tool for some, and for others, it ain't! So, as much as you would like to see it happen, and as many times as I have read about the demise of the PC, it isn't going away anytime soon......
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
5/7/2013 | 5:30:07 PM
re: 4 Reasons PC Market Won't Rebound
I find the 'mandatory" part of this just as debatable as you do. i find the MS attention to mini tablets, however, quite instructive about the future of the PC market.

Laurianne McLaughlin
InformationWeek
jqb
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jqb,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/7/2013 | 1:51:25 AM
re: 4 Reasons PC Market Won't Rebound
No, we don't bother with any of them. We now prefer to just do our own research to the extent we can, and find it more usable and actionable than the wild prognostications we had gotten from the "research firms".
For example, just take the word "mandatory" out of the sentence in question, and it becomes 75% more believable. It's a bit of a stretch to believe half of all companies will have a formal BYOD program of any sort by 2017, to add "mandatory" takes it out of plausible right into laughable.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
5/6/2013 | 11:34:39 PM
re: 4 Reasons PC Market Won't Rebound
Thanks for the reply. Sorry, I'm running around Interop, and I typed in the comment in a moment of distraction. You said Gartner, so I'm not sure why my brain said Forrester. Anyway, the BYOD figure is bullish, to be sure, and I don't have much basis for agreeing or disagreeing with any particular figure-- except that 2017 will have a lot of companies that offer BYOD, and a lot of companies that don't.

I don't think the Gartner reference changes the overall argument; the argument doesn't rely on one set of data or another, and the existence of BYOD on any kind of large scale reinforces what I'm writing about. But analysts aren't any more infallible than the rest of us, and they sometimes prove themselves more so. So I appreciate that you're skeptical about them as sources.

Out of curiosity, have you found some of the other research firms more helpful?

- Michael
jqb
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jqb,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/6/2013 | 11:15:29 PM
re: 4 Reasons PC Market Won't Rebound
Michael, first off it's Gartner, and yes their statement that "half of all companies will implement mandatory BYOD by 2017" is ludicrous, like most of Gartner's predictions. I find Gartner to be "wave surfers" who are more often dead wrong than even close. That's why I no longer subscribe to their services.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
5/6/2013 | 10:03:39 PM
re: 4 Reasons PC Market Won't Rebound
Did Forrester say something in this instance that you find particularly questionable? The argument that the tablet market has fragmented seems pretty reasonable to me, even if one disagrees with Forrester analysts in general.

Michael Endler, IW Associate Editor
jqb
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jqb,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/6/2013 | 9:51:02 PM
re: 4 Reasons PC Market Won't Rebound
If you want to sound authoritative, don't quote the potheads at Gartner as your source...
fyrelab
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fyrelab,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/6/2013 | 8:56:50 PM
re: 4 Reasons PC Market Won't Rebound
The dumb'ed down public finally found games they can play like Angry Idiot Birds and Cowpatty Farmville while they text in their cars. They couldn't play Everquest or WoW which require brains and tenacity along with state-of-the art video cards that cost as much as a tablet "pc."

Sigh, this is the future. For me, I will continue to use desktops with fast processors and video cards that use the best technology available. I see kids absorbed with their 4'' screen phones totally absorbed in their social media, and I also see a generation of nitwits, lol. I'm venting. Each to their own, but I choose high-tech over the bubble gum products.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
5/6/2013 | 7:58:03 PM
re: 4 Reasons PC Market Won't Rebound
I own desktops, laptops, and tablets. From my experience the ones that will drop off are the laptops. Anything that is lightweight and requires no data entry whatsoever is done on a tablet, everything else on a beefy desktop. I keep a laptop around as it comes in handy to update wireless devices and for the off chance than all three of my desktops kick the bucket at the same time.
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