Posts Tagged ‘PC’

PC, Smart phone shipments declining

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

I noticed two apparently-unrelated news articles today:


One talks about declining unit sales of phones and the other talks about the same thing for PCs.

Reading these articles, you’d think the sky is falling. Less phones are selling, on an annual basis! Less PCs too! Oh no! These industries are in trouble!

I think the reality is actually much simpler: PCs have been quite good for years now. Smart phones have likewise reached a plateau in terms of functionality and performance. Sure, new PCs and phones are nicer than old ones, but the extra screen pixels, camera resolution and compute power are not solving any new problems – they just meet the same old needs slightly better than before.

More than that, both PCs and phones are increasingly used to access cloud platforms. The heavy computation, storage, etc. are done on someone else’s server, not on personal devices any more. This makes local compute and storage even less meaningful.

So when a hardware manufacturer asks for $1000 for a shiny new phone or $1500 for a shiny new PC, most consumers compare the extra value of the new toy to the functionality of their existing PC or phone and choose to just leave the old device alone. It’s not broken. It’s working fine. Why upgrade?

I think this is the new normal. If you write software, or provide on-line services, then you shouldn’t care about this. People are on-line pervasively. They use browsers to access everything. There is no problem here.

If you are a phone or PC manufacturer, you just have to reset your expectations. The hardware replacement cycle is lengthening, not because consumers don’t want your product any more, but because your last generation was very good and the current generation is not so much better as to justify a new purchase. You’ll still sell lots of units, but the age of rapid growth is over. Heck, the only way you’ll grow your shipments is to win more market share from competitors. Get used to flat sales and razor thin margins folks. That’s the steady state of selling hardware.

Will this situation change? I doubt it. I have a hard time imagining what new capabilities phone or PC makers will be able to invent tomorrow, to excite consumers into a big hardware refresh cycle.

So a tough situation for hardware makers and a good situation for everyone else. That’s life.

Tablets are to laptops as TV is to computers…

Friday, August 19th, 2011

I got a tablet a while back, and I’ve been thinking about what it means for the IT business. This has taken on more significance in light of HP’s announcement that they will exit the tablet and phone businesses.

What I notice with the tablet is that while it’s a convenient device for consuming media – watching movies and TV shows, listening to music, browsing a few web pages, playing simple games, etc. — the user experience is brutal when I try to input text.

I think I’ve gotten pretty good at using the capacitive touch screen for text input on both the tablet and my (very large screen) phone. Still, I doubt I could sustain more than about 3 words per minute of text input into these things. By comparison, once upon a time, probably 20 years ago, I clocked myself at 120 words per minute of text input using a keyboard.

So for me, a keyboard is about 40 times more effective than a touch screen. If I have more than a few words to enter, I’ll reach for the PC or laptop, thank you very much. My pain threshold for glacial user input just isn’t that high.

So the tablet is basically a media consuming device. A step up from a portable DVD player, if you will. Doesn’t that make it more or less equivalent to a television, where we all sit on the couch, numbly consuming dumbed-down content? I think the analogy is pretty compelling.

To imagine where tablets will go in the future, look no further than the evolution of TVs. They sold (and continue to sell) like hotcakes. Millions of units shipped every year. Fancy technology (think huge LCD flat screens, 3D TV, etc.) all dedicated to pushing visually stunning but largely dumbed down content to numb consumers.

Whereas a PC is an interactive device where people actually contribute something — you know, write documents, send e-mails, heck – even play interactive games with their friends — TVs are just numbing. I think the portable version of a PC is a laptop, and the portable version of a TV is a tablet.

This means that tablets will continue to be a huge commerical success for their manufacturers, but their social impact will resemble that of the TV…

As for the “business use” of tablets … what business use? Reading e-mails on the go? Watching movies while flying to a sales meeting? I think business users want tablets-as-toys, and the “business use” of tablets is just a made up justification to get the company to buy the toy. Maybe I’m just cynical.

I think this even impacts the “Web 2.0” movement. Remember that? It was supposed to mean that users contribute content to the web – rather than just reading static web pages. I think tablets are not “Web 2.0 compatible” — they are really “Web 1.0” devices.

Funny, that.