The PC Is Rising From The Ashes. What Are The Implications?

Radio is dead!

Cinema is dead!

Television is dead!

Restaurants are dead!

Retail is dead!

And, of course, we know that PCs and desktops are as dead as a doorknob!

I leave most of the obituaries to you to decide on. Sadly, the knee-jerkers will jump in to prove that all are in fact dead…

My readers know my view. All of the above are experiencing an incredible renaissance for which digital technology and applications are partly to be credited. But, frankly, in a people first world, it’s no real surprise.

We crave real experiences, authenticity, freshness, fashion, brand, inspiration, motivation, social company, great content…of all sorts, and on and on. I leave it to you to match the craving or cravings to the appropriate category.

We also crave utility—purpose and ease of use.

So, if you think PC’s are dead as a doorknob, think again.

In a New York Times article earlier this month, Natasha Singer reported:

Apple is losing its grip on American classrooms, which technology companies have long used to hook students on their brands for life.

Over the last three years, Apple’s iPads and Mac notebooks — which accounted for about half of the mobile devices shipped to schools in the United States in 2013 — have steadily lost ground to Chromebooks, inexpensive laptops that run on Google’s Chrome operating system and are produced by Samsung, Acer and other computer makers.

Mobile devices that run on Apple’s iOS and MacOS operating systems have now reached a new low, falling to third place behind both Google-powered laptops and Microsoft Windows devices, according to a report released on Thursday by Futuresource Consulting, a research company.

Read the article. There are a number of reasons for this shift. Price is one. Cloud-based programs is another. But, frankly, I found Singer’s following explanation the wake-up call to the Digibabbalist narrative and what that group has wrongfully given as the cause of death across so many categories and market segments.

Then there is the keyboard issue. While school administrators generally like the iPad’s touch screens for younger elementary school students, some said older students often needed laptops with built-in physical keyboards for writing and taking state assessment tests.

And, please, let’s be clear, the “older” students in question are true “digital natives,” much more so than any of the analysts who so confidently and wrongly opine.

You see, the stone-age keyboard has utility and purpose. As a form factor, it works. As a working platform for serious writing (which still happens) and for thoughtful working, it might—I say might—be a better factor than a flat touch screen.

Truth is, I’m elated! I have forced myself to use touch screens for everything and saved my PC with its archaic keypad only for work that I do at home. I almost never use the snap-on keyboard with my iPad, so as not to appear a Luddite. Now I can join the ranks of the school kids and unabashedly use whatever device I so choose…based on my need and output.

Let’s be clear (knee-jerk alert!), I’m not suggesting a surge in PC or desktop sales…what I am saying is that mobile—or rather I should say mobility (yes, in fact, it’s very device driven and very different than mobile!)—has not killed, destroyed or buried the desk-bound PC. I’d bet that PC’s and desktops will evolve like everything else and continue to be useful additions to society’s needs.

But don’t take just take my word for it and don’t rely on the needs of school kids (whose digital usage is not self-aware like that of so many pundits). The Week reported:

Pundits have been writing obituaries for the personal computer for years now, but Apple and Microsoft just showed that the consumer tech workhorse is still alive and kicking…

Apple and Microsoft are nevertheless smart to boot up their PC efforts, said Dan Gallagher at The Wall Street Journal. With nearly 200 million desktops sold globally this year, “a market still exists that tech companies can ill afford to ignore.” The Mac alone pulls in nearly $23 billion in annual revenue for Apple — a tally that would make it 123rd on the Fortune 500 if it were a stand-alone business.

Or from Slate:

Remember the death of the PC? The workhorse of the consumer technology industry has reportedly been “dying” for years now, which really just means that it’s aging. A few years ago, however, the rise of the tablet had industry watchers convinced it was about to strike the laptop’s final blow…

Yes, tablets were great for browsing the web, watching movies, and playing mobile games. They even have some neat applications in the workplace, especially for people who work on their feet. But those who tried to replace their PCs with tablets quickly found that smaller and flatter isn’t always better. For crucial tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet crunching, hardcore gaming, or graphic design, a touchscreen proved a poor substitute for a real keyboard. Meanwhile, the growing size of smartphones has allowed them to usurp some of tablets’ early use cases…And guess which category is getting the premature obituaries now.

And from Recode:

By all rights, it should be dead by now. I mean, really: A market based on a tech product that first came to market over 35 years ago?

….A big reason for the PC’s longevity is that it has been on a path of constant and relatively consistent evolution since its earliest days…OS and application software advances by Apple, Microsoft and many others have created environments that more than a billion people are able to use to work, play and communicate with on a daily basis.

And please don’t forget the “cool” factor. From The Verge:

But the laptop isn’t the only PC that’s seen a design-focused revival. The lowly desktop PC has transformed from a boring beige or black box into a centerpiece of a modern desk space. An all-in-one computer in 2017 is both functional as a computer and beautiful to appreciate as a piece of design.

Microsoft’s Surface Studio really invigorated this category late last year. A 28-inch all-in-one PC that converts to a drafting table for digital artists, the Surface Studio is a stunning computer that changes perceptions on what a PC can look like or do. Virtually anyone that’s seen or used the Surface Studio comes away impressed, even if they aren’t the target market of digital artists.

Fortunately for the rest of us, HP and Dell have been working on their own takes on the all-in-one, and both companies have released new models this year that combine clever and beautiful design with new functionality you might not expect…

And, like the Surface Studio, both computers prove that the boring, staid desktop PC is no more and that you might actually want to have a PC on your desk again.

Needless to say, gamers and VR fans know the truth too, as stated by Computerworld:

What makes the PC even more compelling right now is that the VR revolution has finally started. Just this week, the Oculus Rift debuted for PC with a host of new games that you can’t play on any of the consoles. (I will have a full report on that device soon.) That system requires at least an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and at least a NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD 290 GPU. The consoles just don’t have enough horsepower to make VR look realistic or compelling, despite what you may have heard…

It’s also a matter of simple math. There are now 1.2B gamers who use the PC now, according to Intel estimates. If you’re Activision or EA, that’s going to make you notice. Also, delivery services like Steam, UPlay, and Origin all make it almost instantaneous (depending on your connection speed) to order, install, and start playing the latest games in minutes, not hours. The consoles obviously offer instant access to games, but we’re already sitting at a PC workstation. It’s far easier to switch to a PC game.

Again, let me be clear, I am not suggesting a worldwide uptick in massive PC or desktop sales, nor am I promoting the cover-all-bases view of the analyst community—the I’m-right-no-matter-what-happens report. From Gartner:

Ms. Kitagawa said that although the overall PC market will see stagnation, there are growth opportunities within the market, such as the engaged  PC user market, the business market and gaming. However, these growth areas will not prevent the overall decline of the PC market, at least in the next year.

What I’m advocating is simply this:

Watch behavior. See what people are really doing. What they really need. What they really want…and not what some self-serving analyst touts. From Recode again:

After tablets, smartwatches were supposed to be the next-generation personal computing device. Recent shipment data from IDC, however, suggests that smartwatches are in for an even worse fate than tablets. A little more than a year and a half after being widely introduced to the market, smartwatch shipments are tanking. Not exactly a good sign for what was supposed to be the “next big thing.”

So, as I now unabashedly bang away at my Dell PC—while Arrival is downloading on my iPad for my trip tomorrow and while my smartphone is streaming music to Sonos—I am reminded of a great lyric by Ray Charles:

“You can count me out, don’t count along…It goes away, but it don’t stay gone…This old heart is gonna rise again.”

Bottom line: it never left us…neither his heart nor the PC…

What do you think?



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