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The PC is one step away from extinction

Rodney Byfield | Nov. 21, 2013
One of the worst tech industry predictions of all time may turn out to be true, argues Rodney Byfield.

In 1977, Ken Olsen, founder of long gone computing giant Digital Equipment Corporation, made one of the all time worst tech predictions when he said, "There's no reason anyone would want a personal computer in their home."

Strangely enough, his prediction may actually come true.

While it took a couple of decades for that prediction to do the rounds, people are now questioning why they should have a PC at all when a smaller, more convenient mobile device will do.

For quite some time now, mobile devices have competed directly against PCs for market share across enterprises. Now it seems, it's no longer a fair fight, more of a total beating thanks to a market that is awash with innovative mobile devices perfect for corporate use.

Poor old man PC will continue to lose until it eventually becomes a business niche product. This will result in a short term drop in PC pricing to move existing surplus, but the longer term result could well see PC prices going back up.

The last five years has seen an unprecedented shift of power from PC to mobile, and from operating system vendors to software developers. The PC, at least in its present form, may well be dead.

Several years ago, IBM was criticised for selling its PC business to Chinese giant Lenovo. But now it seems that was the right thing to do.

Around 1.07 million PC were sold in Australia in Q1 this year, a 21 per cent year-on-year decline, according to IDC. In July, IDC predicted the pain would continue with a decline of 15 per cent this year over 2012.

Compare the PC market decline to the rise of smartphones. By 2018, Frost & Sullivan believes most of us aged between 15 and 65 will own a smartphone. In fact, 73 per cent of us already do.

Every week, there is a new mobile, cloud-based device moving into the market, shifting the focus of the traditional PC/software consumer. More than 80 per cent of a PC's functions are available on a smartphone. Many people are only keeping the PC around because they need it to update their mobile device or edit media. So why upgrade or buy a new PC if it only caters for 20 per cent of my functional use?

Even the workplace is evolving into a more mobile environment, with tablets and smart phones changing the way we operate in the information industry, and PCs moving away from traditional storage and applications into more cloud-based products.

Obviously, there is still a requirement for high-end computing. In the corporate world, graphical requirements, media management, document creation and control will help PCs stay around a little longer.

 

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