HOME Technology Dec 2010
PC demise exaggerated
Innovation holds the line
The death notice for the PC, supposedly slain at the hand of a raft of new mobile devices including smartphones, e-readers and variations on the tablet, has been greatly exaggerated.

The 50 percent slashing of sales predicted by some analysts has not eventuated, although the market is looking a little pale. While the tablet is a game changer it’s still in the early adopter stage, the price is higher than mainstream netbooks and volumes don’t appear sufficient to spook PC manufacturers.

Peter Sondergaard, Gartner's senior vice president of research, recently reminded us just how robust the PC has been. Sales took roughly 10 years to reach 100 million units in 1990 with around 1.4 billion units currently installed and 2 billion units likely to be in use by 2015.

However the PC is clearly facing challenges with desktop and notebook sales reeling from the recession and uncertainty as Acer, Asus, Toshiba, Samsung, HP and others hedge their bets with their own tablet computers just as they did with the netbook.

Consumers cautious

Worldwide the launch of the iPad made consumers step back from purchase decisions causing a noticeable blip as the overall PC market grew slower than expected. Sales dropped between 3-5 percent for the third quarter depending on which analyst you listen to.

While notebook sales were down slightly, part of that is due to the recessionary times and because the push to upgrade to Microsoft’s new Windows 7 operating system is easing. The biggest impact was on sales of netbooks, with their share of overall laptop shipments expected to decline as much as 8 percent in 2011, according to research company IDC.

Gartner says mini-notebooks and netbooks which fared so well in the past two years will continue to come under threat as tablet prices become increasingly attractive.

The challenge is a familiar one. New tablets may replace lower powered notebooks, netbooks or a third PC as part of the same growth cycle that saw more powerful notebook computers become desktop replacements. The desktop still has its place and no doubt, through ongoing innovation, the notebook has a healthy future.

Apple biting back

In New Zealand the biggest swing in PC sales has seen Apple, traditionally holding a strong niche, achieving greater than 11 percent desktop and notebook market share for the first time.

According to IDC Research figures for the June 2010 quarter showed local PC sales in excess of $291 million up about $50 million on the previous year. Hewlett Packard remained the leader with 36 percent market share, followed by Acer and Dell, essentially mirroring the international market.

While the total PC sales grew nearly 31 percent over the 2009 year, Apple’s growth was more than 70 percent with its desktop and notebook sales accounting for 20 percent of total market growth. That was before the iPad arrived.

Meanwhile Microsoft’s retiring chief software architect Ray Ozzie urged his peers to embrace a five year plan where a variety of ‘appliance-like’ devices connected to continuous services based in ‘the cloud’.

Ozzie, who succeeded Microsoft founder Bill Gates, previously predicted ‘cloud computing’ would be the next wave for serving up applications and storing data.

Over the past 25-years he says the PC-centric world has become too complex, sucking the life out of users and making technology difficult to plan, build, test, use, manage and secure.

He envisioned a post-PC world following dramatic changes in the human interface, hardware, software and services and greater coherence across apps, services and devices.

In the decades ahead he said incredible innovation would result in all sorts of 'connected companions' that we'll wear, carry, use on our desks and walls and in the environment around us.
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