Top issue of 2011: The alleged death of the PC

Published: December 13th, 2011

Nearly everyone has a computer at the office and often one at home, but the hype around tablets and smartphones in 2011 had many analysts and vendors proclaiming the looming death of the personal computer this year. Well, forgive us, but reports of the death of the PC have been greatly exaggerated.

Many analysts pointed to the high rates of tablet and smartphone adoption to show the PC is becoming passé. Virtualization vendor VMware noted virtual machines have now surpassed physical machines and declared we’re entering the post-PC era. Even IBM, which celebrated the 30th anniversary of the first PC running MS-DOS this year, said PCs are “going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent light bulbs.” And Hewlett-Packard, the world’s top PC manufacturer, threw fuel on the fire by putting its PC business on the block, before retreating one CEO and a large chunk of market capitalization later.

The theory is that with increasingly powerful and portable form factors being created, the PC is fading away. But it just doesn’t hold water. Tablets and smartphones aren’t replacing PC; they’re complementing them.

Growth rates are higher because the form factor is new, but PC market penetration is as high as ever. Mobile shipments remain strong, and even desktop sales are showing resilience, with high-end performance machines showing strength with consumers.

The PC isn’t going away any time soon. While some niche tasks can be performed by a tablet, for many a PC with a mouse and keyboard is a necessity. Until input methods evolve (such as quality voice interactivity) the PC will remain the anchor of our digital device world. The only thing dead is the hype. PCs have become commoditized; but a commodity still very much in demand.