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Technology Trends: What Do Flagging PC Sales Mean?
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Technology Trends: What Do Flagging PC Sales Mean? - Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: What Do Flagging PC Sales Mean?

Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: What Do Flagging PC Sales Mean?

The PC market has been in decline for five years, highlighted by these past eleven straight quarters of flagging sales, including the most recent. Second quarter PC sales dropped between 3.5 and 4.3 percent, depending on whose data you look at, from 2016 to 2017. Some pundits have foretold the continuing downward spiral of the home computer for years, especially in light of once-skyrocketing tablet and smartphone sales, but is that over-the-top doomsaying or the reasonable conclusion of a trend that cannot be ignored?

One explanation for the current slump, offered by tech research firm Gartner, is that a shortage in components such as solid-state drives and LCD screens has led to higher prices across the board, discouraging PC buyers from upgrading until things settle down. It’s a credible hypothesis, but it doesn’t explain five years. Another is that the smartphone boom, which loosely coincides with the PC slump is slowing down people’s needs for new desktop and laptop machinery.

The smartphone theory is solid if your PC is more of a conduit for content consumption than if you actually do work on it, and many people don’t work on PCs at home. For staying on top of news, keeping in communication with email, streaming audio and video content, finding information, or online shopping, tablets and smartphones are proving more than adequate. Even some amount of content creation is mobile-friendly—most blogging and social media platforms have their own super-user-friendly apps.

Add the success of mobile devices to the Windows 10 proposition, and you really have something. Windows 10 is alternately credited with keeping PC sales alive and blamed for contributing to their decline. On one hand—and we’ve seen this through most of the PC’s mainstream history—improved operating systems require increased PC capacity, causing home users to purchase new equipment. On the other, casual users are more likely to let their home machines perform less and less reliably. Rather than learn what many perceive as a whole new system, they’ll often drive their current stuff into the ground, counting more and more on their mobile devices until that’s all they’re using when not at the office. An informal survey of people in our immediate vicinity confirms that Windows 10 is a significant factor in both tendencies, the likelihood of new purchases and the willingness to let home PCs be phased out.

Tech writer Walt Mossberg observes that excitement about new smartphone models has replaced what was once the excitement of upgrading a PC. The PC, he says, has become like a piece of living room furniture: we all have one, but we don’t feel the need for a new model except once in a very long while. And it makes sense. Now that our tech is more mobile, even those of us using laptops often leave PCs at home. Our phones and tablets are always with us, necessitating frequent upgrades. You wear a great pair of athletic shoes every time you work out or go out to play, so you need to replace them more often than those hiking boots you take to the trail a few times a year.

If Mossberg is right, trends only predict the stabilization of PC sales, not their extinction. Every home needs a couch, and there seems to remain a sense that every home needs a computer, even if firing it up is more a matter of habit than necessity. The lifespan of a couch is ridiculous, yet furniture stores stay in business because everyone needs a new one once in a while. If this is where we are with PCs, perhaps some stability is just around the corner. Gartner reports 2017 second-quarter PC sales were down to 61 million units shipped worldwide. Assuming that a majority of them were for businesses, which should continue to need them for the foreseeable future, even a huge decrease in home sales means hundreds of thousands of new PCs every day.

Don’t make funeral arrangements just yet.

Reference links:
Gartner: http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3759964
Mossberg: https://www.theverge.com/2016/10/26/13413516/walt-mossberg-pc-mac-sales-decline-apple-microsoft


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Technology Trends: What Do Flagging PC Sales Mean? - Executive Leadership Articles

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