Is The Death of the PC Being Greatly Exaggerated Or Not?

Motley Fool blogger Salvatore “Sam” Mattera says that a common thread running through the earnings reports of several PC oriented companies, cluding Microsoft, Intel, and AMD during the third week of April, is the contention that, despite growing evidence to the contrary, the death of the PC market has been greatly exaggerated, and it will remain an important business for years to come.

Mattera says AMD thinks adoption of thus far sluggishly selling Windows 8 will pick up once people get accustomed to it, Intel thinks its new chips can save the PC market, and that Despite seemingly widespread aversion to Windows 8, Microsoft remains confident that its latest operating system can succeed.

Intel’s forthcoming Haswell processor silicon promises to be more energy efficient than prior technology, and while Microsoft’s Surface Pro, which runs the full version of Windows 8 supporting all standard PC applications while still retaining the form factor of a tablet has seen lacklustre market take-up as yet, partly due to short battery life, Intel CEO Paul Otellini thinks that Haswell has the power to change that with its lower power demand combied with a higher level of graphics performance, and in its earnings call, Microsoft’s CFO Peter Klein admitted that while the transition from traditional PCs to more mobile devices has been complicated, the company continues to be optimistic about the long-term success of Windows.

“Unfortunately for these executives,” says Mattera, “their beliefs about the long-term success of Windows and the traditional PC are, to put it bluntly, wrong. He argues that the challenge from mobile devices is so formidable that Windows 8 was simply too little, too late to save the PC, with Android and iOS-powered tablets and smartphones already capable of satisfying the computing needs of many, if not most consumers, who only need a device to browse the Internet, check email and Facebook, and although Haswell and other innovations should make hybrid devices more attractive, mobile-first devices will continue to improve just as quickly – becoming faster, and more importantly, significantly cheaper.

And while the PC won’t disappear, largely because of business needs, four to five year old machines are perfectly capable of handling the latest software, which dampens demand, and if these companies continue to cling to the mistaken belief that things will turn around — they won’t.

The PC Is Alive And Well

However, TechCrunch contributor Chester Ng notes that recent data from Gartner and IDC have stirred the pot of PC demise predictions with a new tranche of “PC is dead,” “PC is really dead,” and “PC is really, really dead” mass burial blog posts. He acknowledges that the eulogy narrative of the eulogy is based on three undeniable trends:

A. PC shipments worldwide are decreasing.
B. Mobile phone and tablet shipments worldwide are increasing.
C. The reception to Windows 8 has been weak.

And there seems to be a general consensus is that B and C are causing A, and, therefore, RIP, PC, with IDC even explicitly throwing Windows 8 under the bus, stating that the new OS has “not only failed to provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market,” and increasingly popular conventional wisdom that because people don’t like Windows 8, they are purchasing mobile phones and tablets to replace PCs as their primary computing device.

Ng begs to differ, contending that the logic underlying that assumption is flawed, and that a key trend is being overlooked in the simple causality equation and blame game: namely that PC replacement cycles have slowed, and 4-6 year old PC (or Mac) hardware is plenty good enough these days for most users’ practical purposes, and that a second missing element in the flawed logic is the continued prevalence of the PC as the primary computing device for a lot of people, and the operative reality being that the “post-PC world” is one in which the PC form factor no longer reigns as the only smart device in your connected life and has to share the spotlight with the mobile phone, tablet and TV, but that the PC is far from obsolete.

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