The Future Of The PC: Death Or Rebirth?

News, Tech

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For many years now, people in the tech press have sounded the death knell of the PC. They argued that the PC was the last vestige of a bygone era in computing and that it would fizzle out into nothing.

Since the inception of the tablet PC by Apple back in 2010, it seemed as if these naysayers were onto something. The PC market was indeed experiencing a secular decline, the likes of which had never been seen before. And if you projected the decline out into the future, nobody would be using PCs by 2030. By all measures, it seemed as if the era of mobile had begun.

In addition to the media, Apple’s Tim Cook has been doing all he can to put the nail in the PC’s coffin, knowing that doing so will put his company in a better market position. He tweeted out last year’s asking why anybody would bother buying one.

What’s more, the data appear, at least on the surface to support the idea that PCs will die out entirely. PC sales have slipped to 232 million a year and growth has been negative for much of the decade.

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But some cynics looked at what the media was saying and disagreed. People, they argued, would still want PCs for certain things, thanks to a bunch of intrinsic factors, and the media was ignoring all that in order to get attention-grabbing headlines. Here’s why PCs are likely to stay with us for a long time yet.

Margins Are Higher

Gartner recently pointed out that mobile was a growth segment, especially when it comes to hybrid devices, like laptops that double as tablets.  But these luxury items are only a small part of the overall market. They have high markups, but they are rare.

The margin on a laptop, like a Dell latitude, is small – only around 4 percent of the overall price tag. Markups on PCs, on the other hand, are much bigger, around $250 for every $1000 spent. That’s huge, and it offers a massive incentive for new players to enter the market and to try to capture some of the profits.

Gaming Is Going Hardcore

Mobile might be perfect for the vast majority of casual gamers, but if you’re serious about gaming, it’s woefully inadequate. Five minutes playing Battlefield on a tablet soon makes this clear.

PCs have an inherent advantage over mobile devices when it comes to gaming. Because they aren’t restricted in the amount of space that they can take up, they will always have the most powerful and cutting edge hardware. Tablets are usually three to five years behind the latest PCs, all thanks to their small size and the fact that they can’t run as fast.

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The gaming PC market is relatively small. But a recent analysis found that high-end PC sales are responsible for over 35 percent of all spending in the sector.

The Internet Of Things Could Make PCs More Attractive To Enthusiasts

It turns out that a good chunk of people who do PC gaming don’t actually buy their PCs off the shelf. Instead, they build them up from scratch, buying each component individually.

For many of these builders, knowing how well a particular component is performing is important. They want to be able to tell if their graphics card is about to fail, or whether their power supply unit can handle the current being drawn along its 12-volt rail.

For this reason, many computer makers are looking at ways of installing “internet of things” style sensors on their products. In the future, we could see hard drives that feed real-time sensor data to the user, telling them when they are about to blow so they can find a replacement before it’s too late.

Vendors themselves could use these sensors to tell their customers when their battery is likely to blow, offering to dispatch them a new on in the meantime.

PCs Will Converge On Smartphones

It’s the old adage: if you can’t beat them, join them. This is what most people think will happen to PCs in the long term. Instead of being based on Widows – which is a legacy platform in many ways. Experts of predicting that PCs in the future will become super-streamlined by smartphones and that most users who don’t need extra functionality – like that provided by Ubuntu or Windows – will choose more basic operating systems like Android.

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The familiar Windows screen, with the start button in the corner and the icons up the side of the screen, could soon be replaced by a grid of app thumbnails, just as it is on a mobile.

The beginnings of this trend are already apparent in places like the Windows 10 store. This rise of Chromebooks, laptops where all the programs are based in the browser, are also exploding in popularity.

Some experts are predicting that PCs could actually become smartphones, especially if things like Microsoft Continuum takes off.

The truth is that PCs are likely to become one of many different form factors of devices in the future. Wearables will erupt over the next decade or so as computers continue to get smaller and more powerful. But nobody is suggesting that they will bring the smartphone era to an end by themselves. In fact, many wearables, especially watches, are wholly dependent on the processing power of the smartphones to which they are tethered.

Others have suggested that VR will also lead to the end of the PC, as well as many other platforms, but this is unlikely, given how inconvenient they are to wear.

PCs Will Become A Way Of Selling Enterprise Gear

With margins for some PC companies being so tight, many are thinking about leaving the market altogether. But others see the PC as a way to sell higher value-added products to customers. Many are looking at ways of bundling enterprise gear into their PC sales to bump up their profits. Customers who buy their own PCs for personal use from a particular company are more likely to use that same company for business solutions.