PC Sales Drop, but Is PC Usage Dropping?

Re/Code reports:

If you needed any further hint that the personal computer is looking more like the 21st century equivalent of the buggy whip each day, the two big research houses who track that industry, IDC and Gartner, reported their results for the year just ended, and the news was not good.

The article then says:

Overall sales dropped below the 300 million unit mark for the first time since 2008. That’s an important psychological barrier. For years in the face of declines, PC company execs have held fast to the belief that consumers and businesses would continue to buy about 300 million units a year…

Some pundits will say that tablets and smartphones are replacing PCs, but I don’t think this is the only explanation. Sure, for home users, a tablet makes a lot more sense. But the vast majority of PCs are sold to businesses.

I think what is happening is that PCs are simply lasting longer. We no longer care about processor speed; any PC you buy these days is fast enough for most business applications, and as these apps are updated, they rarely require faster processors. The only areas where this is the case is graphics, video, and high-end science apps, which are a small percentage of the PCs used in business. Also, RAM and hard drives are cheap, so if PCs need a boost in those areas, it’s cost-effective to do so.

The vast majority of business computers are beige boxes on desks, used to read email, browse the web, access a company’s intranet, create PowerPoint presentations, and tweak Word and Excel documents. In recent years, we’ve reached a plateau, where we no longer find that last year’s computer is too slow to use new versions of productivity apps. And we’ve probably also gotten to the stage where components last longer, so any given PC has a longer life than, say, ten years ago.

Yes, PC sales are dropping, and may continue to do so for a while, but it doesn’t mean that PC use (in business at least) has dropped.

4 thoughts on “PC Sales Drop, but Is PC Usage Dropping?

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