Is the PC Market Really Dead?

by Sam Dean - Apr. 19, 2011Comments (2)

The world of technology moves so fast that it often breeds rumors of death that are greatly exaggerated. No sooner does a particular market pick up--like the ones for smartphones or tablets--than various pundits pronounce that previously dominant markets or dead. This tendency didn't begin with the transition from mainframes to personal computers, but that transition is as good an example as any for why people are son prone to pronouncing big market players dead before their time. In the latest spin on this phenomenon, many are wondering if the PC is dead. The answer is that it isn't.

A number of hardware makers in the PC industry--most recently Acer--are seeing poor PC sales, and the slumping PC market has even caused many analysts to question Microsoft's prospects. Of course, the problems are being pinned on the latest hot technology: tablets. ZDNet reports, in a story titled "Is the love affair with the PC over?" that "the PC market is showing significant signs of contraction thanks to weak demand by consumers and pressure from tablets (in particular, the iPad)."

In his excellent book The Black Swan (no not the ballet movie...the book), Nicholas Nassim Taleb argues that many trends that we try to interpret are much more random than we think, and that journalists are among the leading purveyors of questionable interpretations of market-based data.  He notes that finanancial journalists, for example, will find something--anything--to pin topsy-turvy market data on, whether it is poor employment data or any other easy target. Taleb also notes:

"When you develop your opinions on the basis of weak evidence, you will have difficulty interpreting subsequent information that contradicts these opinions, even if this new information is obviously more accurate."

Are tablets really threatening the entire PC market, and Microsoft's dominion? Hardly. One might as well pin the decline in the PC market on terrible economic times. Yes, the iPad has sold in the millions of units, but the number of iPads out there represent a drop in the bucket compared to the installed base of PCs. Mission-critical applications that businesses use PCs for are not yet threatened by the iPad.

I use the iPad and multiple PCs, and I couldn't do without any of these devices. They are not interchangeable. The old-school PC combo of keyboard and mouse works very well for many of my most common tasks, and that won't change.

Especially as open source competitors to new technologies like the iPad proliferate, it's good to keep a level head as analysts quickly pronounce old platforms dead, and new platforms promising. PCs aren't going anywhere soon, and they will co-exist with new platforms like tablets. Bet on it.


Mark Hinkle uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


Your arguments make a strong case that people won't throw their PCs in the trash. (Because they are running critical functions that continue to be critical.) What most people mean, however, when they say the PC is dead is that sales will not continue the explosive growth they have had the past 30 years.

The mainframe didn't cease to exist in the eighties. The PC stole its explosive growth, and the mainframe transitioned to incremental growth. That's what smartphones and post-PC tablets are threatening to do to PCs.

I agree with you that PC will continue to exist and the installed base will continue to grow incrementally. But explosive sales growth, developers, exciting start-up companies, and consumer dollars, are moving to ultra mobile devices.

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Really the big change is being missed. More and more businesses are using open source. The difference between a closed source and open source programmer is becoming mostly what project they are working on.

The PC is not dead yet but the tides are changing.

Will android remain only phone and tablet? Who knows.

Will the extra funding from android change Linux? Yes it will.

Will other new markets open up? Maybe youview is one of those possibilities.

Each of these things alone seams like nothing. Combined I would be worried as MS.

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