The PC Is Not Dead; Long Live PCs
First, let me pose a question: Why don’t other industries have the same black/white me
It seems like once a year an article or blog gets posted re-igniting the debate on the future of computing devices. Because I often speak about the future of technology, the topic is of great interest to me — especially when it comes to the future of PCs.
First, let me pose a question: Why don’t other industries have the same black/white mentality?
- Mutual Funds are dead!
- The car is dead – SUV’s will take over!
- The toaster is dead!
Perhaps other mature industries, with more than 30 years of history, see changes as trends versus end results. To illustrate, yes, SUV sales have increased over the past 15 years, but is it really the end for cars? Absolutely not. Cars sales are growing and evolving geographically (China and other emerging markets), by style (coupe, sports, etc), by price point, by usage, by target market (eco friendly), and dozens of other ways.
Looking at some of the sources of the “PC is dead” mantra, it is usually a new technology that inspires the prediction:
- Internet in 1994
- Thin Clients in 1996
- Smart phone in 2002
- Virtualization in 2005
- Cloud in 2007
- Netbook in 2008
- Slate in 2010
Interestingly, if you look at thin clients, virtualization, cloud computing, netbooks and slates, all very newsworthy and loaded with mountains of hype, none of them have taken over 11% of the end user demand in business and government spending.
What makes the PC so resilient?
Interestingly, many of the original PC decisions that were made in Boca Raton, Florida in 1980 created the longevity of the platform. IBM deciding to use third parties for things like the processor, operating system, and BIOS in their first PC created a truly open, non-proprietary sand box. Other decisions like plenty of internal and external ports created a platform that would grow and evolve with the technology world around it.
No one in 1980 could predict the importance of connecting PCs together. In fact, networking didn’t become popular until years later. Things like high level gaming, multimedia, graphic arts, communication and social interaction were also significantly beyond the vision for the PC.
The PC has always been an open and configurable device, with a very low cost of entry for any organization to add value. Thus, its ability to evolve is core to its continued success.
It is the central device that you will continue to rely on as companion devices grow, such as smart phones, slates, WiFi toothbrushes, treadmills and thousands of other devices come to market.
Now, the facts:
The good news for VARs, Managed Service Providers and other hardware resellers is the growth of the PC market has rebounded very quickly from the economic downturn. In fact, NPD just reported that US Distribution and Commercial Reseller categories increase both Notebook and Desktop almost 50% year over year.
Globally, IDC reported that PC growth last quarter was over 20% with strong results across the globe. This happened to be the first quarter of sales for the Apple iPad. This was a very similar story to the rapid growth of the Netbook two years ago – very little impact on PC categories.
What does this prove?
The facts are pointing to a new reality in computing. Users are looking for companion devices where they add value, but rely on the PC as their home base. Interestingly, configuring devices for the first time, whether it is a BlackBerry or an iPad, requires a PC!
Pervasive computing is a concept where you will likely own 20 or more computer devices in the next 5 years. The PC appears to be the one central device that organizes, builds and customizes content for these other companions.
Based on the past 15 years, trying to predict the next 15 is next to impossible. Knowing that computing will continue to build ubiquity and new and exciting usage scenarios are around the corner, the PC is well positioned to adapt and thrive.
Jay McBain is director of SMB for Lenovo. Guest blog entries such as this one are contributed on a monthly basis as part of The VAR Guy’s 2010 sponsorship program. Read all of McBain’s guest blog entries here.