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The PC is Toast, Or Maybe Just a Toaster

August 29, 2012

Gone are the glory days when the PC would rule over the vaunted Mainframe, putting power at desks without the overbearing DP department overcharging and under delivering past the due date.

What has evolved though is a commodity product that is at best a commodity like a toaster.  You can buy one anywhere to toast your productivity suite, cloud connection or corporate image.  Further, the once dominant Wintel model is being out-cooled by Apple, and outdated by tablet computing.

First, I was mildly shocked when I learned that Lenovo had a policy where you get an allowance and use what you want to, regardless of who made it.  Next comes the inevitable…..

While this isn’t really new news, in fact it’s been a theme for a while now.  But it was confirmed by the lackluster performance of HP, Dell and other manufacturers.   Even IBM, the company that really put the PC in the office of businesses is famous for dumping the low margin business to Lenovo who lucked out in marketshare due to the HP and Dell screw-ups.  This will be short lived as soon as Apple finishes mopping up in China and the real Lenovo cash cow gets malnourished.

All Things Digital confirms the facts via DRAM supply:

As a signpost on the road to the so-called Post-PC Era we’ve been hearing about for so many years, this one is pretty hard to argue with: As of this year, personal computers no longer consume the majority of the world’s memory chip supply.

And while it may not come as a terrible surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention to personal technology trends during the last few years, there’s nothing like a cold, hard number to make the point crystal clear.

Word of this tipping point came quietly in the form of a press release from the market research firm IHS (the same group formerly known as iSuppli). The moment came during the second quarter of 2012. For the first time in a generation, according to the firm’s reckoning, PCs did not consume the the majority of commodity memory chips, also known as DRAM (pronounced “DEE-ram”).

During that period, PCs accounted for the consumption of 49 percent of DRAM produced around the world, down from 50.2 percent in the first quarter of the year. The share of these chips going into PCs — both desktop and notebooks — has been hovering at or near 55 percent since early 2008, IHS says.

As shifts in market share statistics go, it at first seems insignificant until you consider the wider sweep of memory chips in the history of the modern technology industry. PCs have consumed the majority of memory chips since sometime in the 1980s. IHS couldn’t say when exactly when the first personal computers started showing up in appreciable numbers in homes and businesses.

And where are all those memory chips going? Tablets and smartphones for starters. IHS says that phones consumed more than 13 percent percent of memory chips manufactured, and it expects that figure to grow to nearly 20 percent by the end of this year. Tablets — including the iPad — consumed only 2.7 percent of the world’s memory chip supply. The remaining 35 percent, which IHS classifies as “other,” includes servers, professional workstations, and presumably specialized applications like supercomputers and embedded systems.

And given their rates of growth, IHS expects phones and tablets combined to consume about 27 percent of the world’s memory by 2013, while by that time PCs will consume less than 43 percent, making the decline, in the firm’s estimation, irreversible.

Even the much hyped Windows 8 launch doesn’t really do much.  WRAL goes on to say:

Dell executives also indicated that the company is unlikely to get a sales lift from the Oct. 26 release of Microsoft Corp.’s much-anticipated makeover of its Windows operating system. That’s because Dell focuses on selling PCs to companies, which typically take a long time before they decide to switch from one version of Windows to the next generation.

HP’s screw up came when they tried to become an IBM clone.  Dell had their own set of issues as reported by the AP:

Coming off a five-year stretch of miscalculations, HP is in such desperate need of a reboot that many investors have written off its chances of a comeback.

Consider this: Since Apple Inc. shifted the direction of computing with the release of the iPhone in June 2007, HP’s market value has plunged by 60 percent to $35 billion. During that time, HP has spent more than $40 billion on dozens of acquisitions that have largely turned out to be duds so far.

“Just think of all the value that they have destroyed,” ISI analyst Brian Marshall said. “It has been a case of just horrible management.”

Marshall traces the bungling to the reign of Carly Fiorina, who pushed through an acquisition of Compaq Computer a decade ago despite staunch resistance from many shareholders, including the heirs of HP’s co-founders. After HP ousted Fiorina in 2005, other questionable deals and investments were made by two subsequent CEOS, Mark Hurd and Leo Apotheker.

HP hired Meg Whitman 11 months ago in the latest effort to salvage what remains of one of the most hallowed names in Silicon Valley 73 years after its start in a Palo Alto, Calif., garage.

The latest reminder of HP’s ineptitude came last week when the company reported an $8.9 billion quarterly loss, the largest in the company’s history. Most of the loss stemmed from an accounting charge taken to acknowledge that HP paid far too much when it bought technology consultant Electronic Data Systems for $13 billion in 2008.

HP might have been unchallenged for the ignominious title as technology’s most troubled company if not for one its biggest rivals, Dell Inc.

Like HP, Dell missed the trends that have turned selling PCs into one of technology’s least profitable and slowest growing niches. As a result, Dell’s market value has also plummeted by 60 percent, to about $20 billion, since the iPhone’s release.

That means the combined market value of HP and Dell — the two largest PC makers in the U.S. — is less than the $63 billion in revenue Apple got from iPhones and various accessories during just the past nine months.

So now you can go to a consumer electronics store or go online and pick up a PC, a video game and a toaster, all about the same difficulty of decision.  The model is dying and a new paradigm is taking place somewhere between mobile devices and tablets with a combination likely just around the corner, but your Thinkpad is a gravestone in the near future.
It is now reported that Mobiles are the devices most turned to for online activity, banking and other internet activity.

“Cell users now treat their gadget as a body appendage,” Lee Rainie, the Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, told Mashable. “There is striking growth in the number of people who are taking advantage of the growing number of functions that these phones can perform and there isn’t much evidence yet that the pace of change is slowing down.”

The study, released yesterday by Pew Internet concludes that cellphone usage is increasing in basically every department, especially online activities. One in two people now check their email on their phone, up from 19% in 2007 and the number of Americans surfing the web on-the-go has doubled too, going from 25% in 2008 to 56% today.

People are also starting to be less reluctant to use their phones for sensitive activities that were almost considered taboo in a recent past, like online banking. Almost one in three Americans (29%) now use their phones to check their bank account, a considerable increase from just one year ago, when only 19% did. And one in three people are using their mobile device to look for health information as well. Just two years ago that figure was as low as 17%.

Phones are also becoming a substitute for other traditional devices like photo and video cameras. 82% of people who responded to the survey use their phones to snap pictures and 44% use it to record videos

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