PCs: Either Set to Fade Away or Primed for a Comeback

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    IT and telecom have a few long-running dramas: Will BlackBerry survive? Will IPv6 achieve critical mass? What will happen to the beleaguered PC sector?

    The last of those questions is still quite uncertain. Last month, a story at CNBC looked at third-quarter numbers from IDC, which suggest an unhappy ending for the PC form factor. The firm found that PCs receded 10.8 percent. That was even worse than the projected drop of 9.2 percent.

    One circumstantial element takes the edge – to some extent, at least – off the bad results: The free upgrade offered by Microsoft to Windows 10 made it possible for many Windows users to skip buying a new machine.

    Some are not buying into the gloom. ZDNet’s Steve Ranger notes that at the launch of the iPad Pro, Apple CEO Tim Cook rhetorically asked why anyone would buy a PC. Ranger thinks that while the big box on the desk may be fading, PCs have redefined themselves and will live to fight another day. Many of them, in fact:

    The PC is now one of a constellation of sparkling screens that surround us. Smartphones will be the devices we use the most regularly, while tablets will be the device of choice for media consumption; Chromebooks and wearables will have their place too. But the PC will remain the most versatile device we use for some time to come.

    Intel, which of course has a lot of skin in the game, also sees that change is good. A story at ValueWalk quotes Kirk Skaugen, the general manager of the Intel client computing group, as saying that the delayed refresh cycles mean that now is a great time to be in the PC business. Pent-up demand, he feels, will contribute to a tremendous amount of business, along with fresh approaches to the category:

    There was a time when people upgraded their PCs every two years or so, but now people do not feel the need as devices have become more powerful in the last five years. But Skaugen believes the new form factors, especially the two-in-one detachable-screen systems will play a major role in driving the growth ahead.

    If PCs are going to win the comeback widget of the year award, the good news may be starting in Mexico. Telecom Paper reports that IDC said sales there during the first and second quarters grew 7.8 percent and 12.7 percent, respectively, compared to the year-ago quarters. Portable computers led the charge with a 32 percent gain in the second quarter.

    In some ways, it is not accurate to say that the PC market will fade or rebound. That implies an apples-to-apples comparison to the market in the past. Whether or not it succeeds, it’s clear that the PC market today is far different than it was even in the recent past.

    Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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