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The Dying PC Market 307

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the netcraft-confirms-nothing dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The PC's role in Japanese homes is diminishing, as its once-awesome monopoly on processing power is encroached by gadgets such as smart phones that act like pocket-size computers, advanced Internet-connected game consoles, digital video recorders with terabytes of memory NEC's annual PC shipments in Japan shrank 6.2 percent to 2.72 million units in 2006, and the trend is continuing into the first quarter of fiscal 2007 with a 14 percent decline from a year earlier. Sony's PC shipments for Japan shrank 10 percent in 2006 from a year earlier. "The household PC market is losing momentum to other electronics like flat-panel TVs and mobile phones," said Masahiro Katayama, research group head at market survey firm IDC. "Consumers aren't impressed anymore with bigger hard drives or faster processors. That's not as exciting as a bigger TV," Katayama said. "And in Japan, kids now grow up using mobile phones, not PCs. The future of PCs isn't bright.""
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The Dying PC Market

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  • Yeah, well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gcnaddict (841664) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:10AM (#21230867)
    they'll figure out how important PCs are once they want to start designing those video games, cell phones, PDAs, etc.

    None of those could exist without the PC.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jellomizer (103300) *
      Well you could do the work on a Server, or a Mainframe. Or even have a speciality device for development of products for these devices. They could exist now without the PC just as PC can exist without Mainframes.
    • Re:Yeah, well (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ztransform (929641) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:15AM (#21230905)
      The article wasn't debating whether the PC would exist, but it pointed out that the PC won't have the dominance it has had. Which makes sense really; most people want to play games, and e-mail. Not too many people at home actually make use of spreadsheets, even when preparing tax returns.

      So if we have a dedicated games device at home, and a mobile phone that can browse the web and access e-mail then that's most of the technology the average punter will want/need.

      Of course I expect most slashdot readers to still want their PCs..
      • by calebt3 (1098475) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:30AM (#21231005)

        Of course I expect most slashdot readers to still want their PCs..
        Correction: we want our Linux-running Beowulf clusters.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nossie (753694)
        isnt a smartphone not just a small pc with a radio stack?

        Personal computers will always exist and if this article proves anything it proves that PCs are consuming other markets than just surfing the net or downloading porn. Just because they are expanding into other markets that were analogue doesn't mean they are going to disappear.

        A TV with a user interface is pretty much a PC.
        • Re:Yeah, well (Score:5, Informative)

          by owlnation (858981) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:54AM (#21231173)

          isnt a smartphone not just a small pc with a radio stack?
          Yes, but with one very significant difference. You buy your PC, you can even build your own and you have complete control over it. Try doing that with a smart phone -- with even a cheapskate bottom of the range phone.

          While I'd love a small pc that had true notebook capability with me at all times, the last thing I want to do is be further shafted by a phone service provider. And in 20 years of owning cellphones in a variety of countries, I can safely safe that there is not one occasion where I have not, to some degree, been shafted by a phone service provider. I have two university degrees, one in numerate sciences, but I struggle to understand how the numbers on any cellphone contract add up.

          The only way I'm owning a smartphone is if someone else is paying -- or there is a revolution in global regulation that strips the asshole cartel-like phone companies of all their power.

          I'm sure the only significant barrier to smartphone adoption is the criminals that operate the phone companies.
          • by mikael (484)
            I'd like a laptop with the same level and freedom of connectivity as a mobile phone. While there are mobile phone cards for laptops, they usually come with a minimum of 12-month contracts with tiered data transfer rates. Compare that to a mobile phone which can be pay-as-you-go with a top-up card that can be used at any bank machine.

            Having a pay-as-you-go service for Internet service for laptops would be really useful, especially when working away from home or work.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Jezz (267249)
            Ooh, I've just been thinking the EXACT same thing. Considering buying an Apple iPhone (I'm a Mac owner - I do use other computers, mostly Linux - but I do have a Windows Laptop around here somewhere) I did the arithmetic: OUCH! I would have cost me about the same as a nice new iMac.

            Personally I'm thinking about a Nokia phone with an Internet package that allows me to use it "as a broadband modem" [sic] and a Nokia N810 Internet Tablet, essentially because of the "freedom" to futz with the thing. I'm not sur
          • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @11:34AM (#21231463) Homepage

            I have two university degrees, one in numerate sciences, but I struggle to understand how the numbers on any cellphone contract add up.

            Your problem is that you have the wrong degrees. If you had an MBA, it would all make sense. Especially if you used Excel.

      • by tompaulco (629533)
        a mobile phone that can browse the web and access e-mail
        And don't forget the 21" monitor. It's gotta have one of those. And a full keyboard and a mouse.
    • Re:Yeah, well (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tacocat (527354) <tallison1@twmi . r r .com> on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:50AM (#21231151)

      In part I agree, but I think there's another facet of the issue that they are overlooking.

      The PC market is effectively saturated.

      The need to upgrade your PC every 2 years to keep up with the software is passed. The only exception today is Vista and it's poorer than expected market penetration to date bears witness to the fact that people don't see the features available in Vista as merit for a new machine. We've reached a phase of good enough where computers can easily last 4-5 years in the technology curve without being painfully obsolete.

      During the 1990's by the time the new computer you ordered was shipped to your house it was already being superceded by a newer model. And the software was moving almost as fast. Quickly what ran Windows 3.11 and Windows 95 couldn't hack Office 97 or Windows 98. It definitely couldn't manage Windows NT 4. The gaming video scene was even worse. Today there really isn't sufficient customer-facing change in the software to merit all the hardware changes.

      Add to this the advent of computer gaming consoles like Playstation, XBox, Wii. When I bought my first computer I spend $3,000 to buy it and another $1,500 in the first 12 months for hardware upgrades in order for me to play the latest computer games. Contrast this with current computer use. Games are on the gamestation and my computers are reaching 5+ years of age and still more than sufficient in terms of performance, drive space (easy to add more) and stability/security. There just isn't a need to get a new computer.

      The even more interesting change is that in the past five years I have spent more money on game stations then computers and in the next five years will continue this trend, augemented by new TV, DVD, DVR...

      Computers are still essential. But the consumer spending isn't in that direction any more. There will be few consumers without a computer entirely, but they are more inclined to upgrade their phone then their computer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by m2943 (1140797)
      they'll figure out how important PCs are once they want to start designing those video games, cell phones, PDAs, etc.

      "They" don't want to; "they" are home users.

      None of those could exist without the PC.

      Prior to the PC, a lot of that stuff was done on UNIX workstations. And after the PC stops being the darling of home users, it will be done on UNIX workstations again.

      The fact that home computers and professional workstations are the same right now is a temporary state of affairs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hackstraw (262471)
      they'll figure out how important PCs are once they want to start designing those video games, cell phones, PDAs, etc.

      None of those could exist without the PC.


      I think the days of home PCs are numbered. Considering that cell phones and PDAs are now more powerful than "supercomputers" from 30 years ago, I see a dedicated box called a "PC" will dissolve, and instead the functionality will evolved into other devices.

      I have a powerful computer at my house that I rent from my cable TV company. It has something l
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
      For their time, lots of stuff wouldn't have been made without a drafting board, but that doesn't mean that every home had to have a drafting board.

      Computers aren't so complicated to use that you needed to grow up with one in order to be able to use it.
  • Or... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gigiya (1022729) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:10AM (#21230875)
    They're just not upgrading every year?
    • by leonbev (111395)
      Exactly. There is no good reason for most folks to upgrade their PC's either. You can still surf the web, check your e-mail, and write a term paper on a 5 year old PC almost as well as a brand new one. Unless you're a PC gamer who needs the latest wizbang video card, you're probably still happy with your existing computer and want to spend your money on something else like an iPod or a flat screen HDTV.

      If Intel and AMD want to sell more PC's and laptops, they should do more to promote development of next ge
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mordors9 (665662)
      But this was the year that everyone was supposed to buy a new PC so that they could start using the great new OS from Microsoft, Vista. It didn't happen so I think that a lot of manufacturers are concerned. Their projections to Wall Street probably included a spike that hasn't happened. Now they have some splainin' to do.
      • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @01:51PM (#21232925) Homepage
        Their projections to Wall Street probably included a spike that hasn't happened.

        Actually the US PC industry has been kicking as with respect to wall street expectations.

        Microsoft beat expectations, including very good Vista sales, and broke through a five year ceiling of $30 and climbed to $37 last week after announcing earnings.

        For the last three years HP has had a steady climb from $20 to $50. Analysts love their PC business.

        For the last year and a half Intel has climbed from $17 to $27 as the Core architecture plugged the hole created by the Pentium 4 and that had let AMD gain market share. Analysts are in love with Intel again.

        Dell is crawling out of a hole it fell into last years, analysts are starting to show interest in them again.

        The problem is the Japanese economy. Last week they announced that unemployment had gotten worse. Sales are nearly flat year over year, industrial output down, exports to the US are down, exports to China are slowing, etc. Toyota stock has been going downhill all year, $138 to #113.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by abell (523485)
          When considering stock variation expressed in US dollars, you should also factor in how much the dollar has lost compared to the other currencies. This graph [yahoo.com], for instance, show that the devaluation has eaten up all the gains in MSFT stock, using the Euro as a reference.
    • Bingo! A reasonable computer from three years ago is still quite capable of doing what most users need a computer for.

      Most people don't upgrade their OS. They do buy new apps. Except for graphics-intensive games, the rest of the software market tries to aim towards the lowest common denominator so that they can sell more units. Hence the lack of need for people to buy new computers. This will not get better until a new "killer app" comes out.
    • by smchris (464899)
      Yup, bait and switch article. Content doesn't match the headline.

      I can sympathize. I don't know if we are _perfectly_ happy with his and hers 754 boards with Athlon 64FXs and 2 gig but we are _pretty_ happy. Echoing the kid, bigger LCD screen for the MythTV (also a 754 board with two gig) is the priority here and as long as the PCs have the processing power to serve our needs (which is pretty much to say NOT gaming or home video and audio production) I don't see an emphasis on fancier peripherals as "mer
    • by dindi (78034)
      Agreed.

      It also crossed my mind that they actually may have quality PC's that do not crap out as fast as you r regular brand. Not that pcs are dying on me every day, but I have a nice collection of dead parts (monitors, fans, harddisks and evena totally fried laptop).

      I know that an overheating in a 2+ year old PC would make some people just buy a new PC ($50 down, $25 a month etc..), instead actually looking into the box to see that the fan crapped out because it is bogged down by dust, cat/dog/pubic hair.
  • by jellomizer (103300) * on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:11AM (#21230883)
    Before you argue your point against this. Look up what some other people said about the mainframe. In short: to most responses
    A. Yes there are things that PC can do that Devices cannot do as well. But a lot of people are willing to take that tradeoff for mobility
    B. No the PC will be a Dying market but will take a Long time before it dies. Look at the Mainframe market it is a dying market but it never completely dies.
    Change is scary but it will happen the trick is try to keep your sills diverse enough to account for this.
    • by jgrahn (181062)

      No the PC will be a Dying market but will take a Long time before it dies. Look at the Mainframe market it is a dying market but it never completely dies.

      Change is scary but it will happen the trick is try to keep your sills diverse enough to account for this.

      Few of us depend on annual PC sales for our income. This decline in hardware sales might just mean people realize that the computer they have is good enough for they few things they do with it. Or, more likely, that they have found another meaning

    • by Orange Crush (934731) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:30AM (#21231007)
      Depends on your definition of "PC" and "Mainframe." All those little devices *are* PCs (and are more powerful than the mainframes of the past!). The only difference is form factor. The "box on a desk" home computer may very well decline (I don't think it'll die any time soon, at least not for geeks). The "fridge-sized cabinets" sitting in datacenters feeding content to the desktop computers and mobile devices won't be going anywhere soon. If history has taught us anything, the more powerful mainframe-class computing becomes, the more stuff we find to throw at it.
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:52AM (#21231161)
      For one, just because something happened in the past for one technology, doesn't hold that it will happen now for another. Predicting the future by saying the same changes that happened in the past will happen now is no more accurate than predicting the future by saying there will be no change from now.

      However the other thing is, as far as I can tell, the mainframe market is as good as it ever was. Mainframe sales never died, or even waned, there just never have been that many of them. There still are people who buy mainframes, just not a whole lot. It wasn't that the PC supplanted the mainframe, more that it augmented it. We have probably 20,000-30,000 PCs where I work but we still have 2 mainframes and are likely to buy a third.

      So if you wanted to claim that the PC situation will be the same as the mainframe situation, it would be more accurate to say that PCs are going to continue to do just fine, they are just going to be far eclipsed by personal devices like cell phones.

      Also, the article, as they often do, seems to have a body that is different form the headline. The headline would imply that people are ditching their PCs, just using other devices. The body, however, reveals they are just not upgrading them as fast. Ahh, well that's a little different, now isn't it? PC use isn't declining just because sales decline, that just means people aren't buying them as often. This is not highly surprising since, all else aside, you don't need a new PC as bad as you used to.

      I remember when PCs were just universally slow. Just doing normal things they took an amount of time that wasn't acceptable to people. Apps took 30 seconds or more to load, and don't get me started on how long you could have to wait on a print job. As such you always felt like you needed an upgrade. When something faster came out, you wanted it. After all, your current experience sucked, you wanted to make it better. Well that's not the case any more. Even on older hardware, things happen in a reasonable amount of time. It's not as fast as newer hardware, but we are talking the difference between a 1 and 5 second load time and such. There just isn't the feeling that you really need more power all the time.

      That's well and good, and that combined with market saturation (everyone who wishes to have a PC already having one) will lead to slower sales. However it doesn't mean it'll lead to any less usage.
    • as the Mac in the past.

      The iPhone is the king of convergence devices this year (in that it actually works well) but it still could never come close to replacing a PC. I don't think anything ever will - beyond a laptop with a holographic screen and voice input capability - which still is a PC.

      And all these devices like the iPhone do are ultimately do are computerize previously analog-only devices and merge them together. It wasn't too far long ago that the phone was analog only. Same with the camera. Sam
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rucs_hack (784150)
      A. Yes there are things that PC can do that Devices cannot do as well. But a lot of people are willing to take that tradeoff for mobility

      A lot of the current desire to stay in touch electronically was born with the PC, instant messaging and so on, but it has evolved. Who cares if a phone can do less, so long as the core functionality you need is there?

      B. No the PC will be a Dying market but will take a Long time before it dies. Look at the Mainframe market it is a dying market but it never completely dies.

      T
    • by jbengt (874751)
      You are way off base, and TFA is arguing a logical fallacy.
      They use the statistics of new computer sales to make the claim that "PC's role in Japanese homes is diminishing, . . ".
      I use those statistics to claim that most people have a good enough computer already. So PC's role in Japanese homes is growing, albeit growing more slowly, reflected in fewer sales.
  • by Gybrwe666 (1007849) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:13AM (#21230891)
    I wonder if this is true or if we are just at a place where many casual users don't need to upgrade as often? Many of the advances of the last few years have been pretty incremental, or don't affect your average end user too much. If they can browse the web, send email, and run a few apps like Word Processing and Spreadsheets, that's all they need.

    The advances of the last few years have gotten to the point where many people are satisfied and don't need to buy a new one. The only excpetion to this is the Gamer market, and I can see why gadget-crazy Japan might prefer Sony PS3 and Wii's to pc gaming.

    I wonder if the people looking purely at sales are making a pretty basic error here, though.

    • I think you're right. The trend towards buying and upgrading peripherals rather than a new computer has been going on for some time. People invest their money in a new scanner, digital camera, maybe a better printer ... or for that matter a game console. The point is that it'll be a while before that 3.4 Ghz Athlon with 2 Gb. of memory and a 320 Gb. hard drive becomes a problem. That's pretty much what has driven Intel and AMD into other markets: they did their jobs too well and the need for speed just isn'
    • Many of the advances of the last few years have been pretty incremental, or don't affect your average end user too much. If they can browse the web, send email, and run a few apps like Word Processing and Spreadsheets, that's all they need.

      For the record, it hasn't just been the "past few years" - computers haven't advanced fundamentally for the uses you list since 1994 or earlier. The dramatic gains in performance between then and now are really only good on the client side for multimedia, gaming, and eye candy.

    • by kamapuaa (555446)
      On the other hand, Japan has widely disseminated very high-bandwidth broadband to the masses. You might expect that this would lead to advanced computer applications beyond "browsing the web, send email, and run a few apps like Word Processing and Spreadsheets." But I guess it hasn't - makes one question why Japan bothered investing on the infrastructure.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by meatspray (59961)
      You are correct, but more to the point:

      Warcraft
      Consoles
      End of the GHZ wars and software to utilize the speed
      Microsoft's Vista only DX10

      World of warcraft has done something that no game in history has ever done. It's made it quite ok to run on antiquated hardware. I'm not saying that the latest expansion runs fantastically on a 1.8GHz proc, but but is quite playable with a reasonable video card. Blizzard is a significant thorn in the side of hardware manufacturers, how dare they not double the specs every
  • fast enough (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hatta (162192) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:14AM (#21230893) Journal
    That's a good thing, since computers have been fast enough for most purposes for quite some time. If the manufacturers focus less on speed and more on size/power consumption I don't see how that's a bad thing.
  • Sales (Score:3, Funny)

    by Wowsers (1151731) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:16AM (#21230907) Journal
    Maybe the lowering pc sales is a result of the quality of computers and software, rather than the other gadgets being that good?

    From my experience for example, Sony has made products which have more style over practical usage. I'm not going to pay $2000 for a styled pc which you can't use and breaks a month out of warranty.
    • I'm not going to pay $2000 for a styled pc which you can't use and breaks a month out of warranty.

      Yeah, and which has weird drivers that you can't get off their Web site and forces you to use their branded OS. I don't know if that's the case with the newer desktop machines, but I ran into that problem with a VAIO laptop a year or so ago. It's a Windows box, stupid, so stop playing games with me. Pain in the ass. I wish Sony were more like Toshiba in that regard.

      Besides, if you really want a styled com
  • by icepick72 (834363) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:17AM (#21230915)
    The PC marketing isn't dying. It's changing. If people realized this we wouldn't have alarmist articles and we'd have a lot less useless stats. Every one of the "PC as we know it" makers today has the ability to adapt, to plan to make smaller hardware footprints, etc. We know the PC cannot totally disappear because you'll never see a room of programmers on a project sitting around compiling, testing, debugging and deploying applications using just a cell phone/PDA interface or equivalent. What is a PC? Does it really matter how small it gets? As long as some people still have access to a standard sized monitor and keyboard they will consider anything a PC, even if it's stuck to a postage stamp on your desk.
    • Sounds like the argument about the mainframe days...

      The Mainframe marketing isn't dying. It's changing. If people realized this we wouldn't have alarmist articles and we'd have a lot less useless stats. Every one of the "Mainframes as we know it" makers today has the ability to adapt, to plan to make smaller hardware footprints, etc. We know the Mainframe cannot totally disappear because you'll never see a room of programmers on a project sitting around compiling, testing, debugging and deploying applicatio
      • by ZorbaTHut (126196) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:41AM (#21231087) Homepage
        Which is entirely true. The mainframe has changed - the modern mainframe is a huge farm of commodity computers.

        You make an excellent point, it just wasn't the one you intended.
        • That's changing back as people realize how much you can do with virtualization. When you consider how much space you need for racks, cooling costs, etc, it often makes sense to buy a few big boxes instead of a lot of tiny ones, and run virtual machines. So I'd think the market there is going to swing back as VMs get better and better. (Full disclosure, my wife works for VMWare, so I've heard a fair number of talks on how to run these numbers.)
          • by ZorbaTHut (126196)
            Most of the real server farms I've seen were running at a significant load - 30%+. It's rarely been a matter of wanting lots of computers, and generally been a matter of needing lots of CPU powers. Commodity systems seem to be the most efficient way to do this, as long as you have good failure handling (and if you don't, you're screwed anyway.)

            Then again, it was a year or so ago that I was involved in any of that.
            • I think the argument is that even if the larger servers cost more to purchase, they use less space and need less cooling for the amount of CPU power you have. So they save you a lot more money over a 3 year period. It's one of those TCO style arguments. I think there's also the bonus of having an easy way to manage the machines if the hardware is heterogeneous, as you can still put the same VM image on all the machines.
    • by illumin8 (148082)

      The PC marketing isn't dying. It's changing.

      You hit the nail on the head. The PC market isn't dying. It's miniaturizing. Look at the iPhone and the future is clear. The average Joe Six-Pack (TM) won't even need or have a PC in a few years. They'll have an internet communications device that happens to be a cellphone.

      The iPhone is the first portable computing platform that shows the future potential of mobile devices. They have the potential to be your only computing device, once the software is improv

    • The key difference between a "PC" and all those gadgets is opennness. You can easily start writing code for a PC without anyone else's approval, vendor resistance, expensive/proprietary SDKs, etc...

      Some gadgets are more open than others, but for the most part they generally aren't. Especially if you count game consoles, home entertainment stuff and cell phones
      • by 2nd Post! (213333)
        So? Why does that difference matter? I suspect the majority of users/owners don't care about openess, they care about convenience, price, performance, and features.
  • Saturated market. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cuby (832037) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:19AM (#21230935)
    PCs are not vanishing, only the number of people that don't have one.
    What is the point of a new computer when the existing one do the tasks you need.
    • by owlnation (858981)

      What is the point of a new computer when the existing one do the tasks you need.
      Vista has no doubt also added to the number of people not bothering to upgrade.
  • *yawn* (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kipper the Llama (454021) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:20AM (#21230943)
    We're at a point where most non-hardcore gamers/mulitmedia types don't need to stay abreast of the upgrade cycle. This isn't the 1990s anymore, though a lot of us here like to imagine it is. There are a lot of things a PC does that no other machine does well (word processing, spreadsheets, etc.) that even average consumers need. Then we get to the fact that PCs can do a range of tasks that it would take half-a-dozen other machines to accomplish. "Death of the PC" stories are nice to get people riled, but they don't have much substance.
  • by jamar0303 (896820) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:20AM (#21230945)
    This is primarily because cellphones in Japan aren't pieces of crap like those sold in the US. Helio's only starting to turn that around right now, and they're the only carrier I'd support if I returned to America. Here in China I get the best of both- advanced phones (Samsung and LG like to give the Chinese market nearly all of what they have given the Korean market) and cheap prices. For example, prepaid runs less than $.01/min, and I can get 450 minutes/month for $8. Beat that, AT&T. Oh, and population density- China Unicom's quite willing to cover the mountains where there are approximately 5 people/sq.km, as opposed to AT&T where I get spotty coverage at best in downtown Nashville (better than before I moved to China where I couldn't even get any coverage on AT&T).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by schnikies79 (788746)
      I don't believe that whiz-bang cellphones would do as good in the USA as they would in Asia. Asia is much more gadget-oriented than Americans are, not to say there would be no market, just not a strong market.
    • by kamapuaa (555446)
      Wow, not that I don't believe you, but I live in Shanghai and they don't have deals anywhere near that good.

      And as far as I know, all the coolest phones are also available in the US, and a few cool phones are available in the US that aren't available in China (iPhone being the most obvious).

      True the average urban Chinese cell phone is nicer than the average cell phone in the US, but that's just how Chinese people roll, rather than a lack of availability in the US market.

      • by jamar0303 (896820)
        You live in Shanghai, so you'd know that iPhones are available at practically every vendor in the Xujiahui area, as well as any other place that specializes in unlocked phones, so if there's a cool phone that's not available in China, it's not the iPhone. For the "cool phone available in China, not the US" I present the Moto Z1 [motorola.com.cn], E685 [motorola.com.cn], and the StarTAC 2004 [motorola.com.cn]. Yeah, they're not feature-packed, it's not that which defines cool. Also that good deal that you can't seem to find (450 minutes for $8/month)? It's Chin
  • by WormholeFiend (674934) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:20AM (#21230949)
    I've been using my Wii to browse the net.
    In fact, I'm typing this comment with it.

    It works well, especially since the wiiware USB keyboard code upgrade, but for some reason, I can't reply to my gmail messages or view videos made with a more recent version of flash... hopefully these issues will be resolved soon with an update.

    For the rest of my online needs, I use the workplace computer.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Zepalesque (468881)
      "for the rest of my online needs, I use the workplace computer."

        I have found that the workplace computer is excellent for reading Slashdot...
  • by dancingmad (128588) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:22AM (#21230957)
    I fully expect a ton of comments on how the PC is vital to every day life these days, but I live in Japan as an English teacher (wanted to be back for a bit before going to school again) and I can tell you it seems like the article is right.

    In the big electronics stores, like K's or Yamada Denki, PCs aren't the big draws - it's other stuff, including TVs.

    Out of my middle school students, many of them don't use PCs on a regular basis and many of the high school students I know don't either (though I am in basically the Arkansas of Japan, but even when I lived in Osaka, I felt like this was true). Those that do don't have their own, they use their parent's. Most of what we do on a PC, including casual games, e-mail, and web surfing (and increasingly other things - my cell phone has a decent 2MB camera [a friend of mine has the summer's top of the line au phone with a 5MB], an MP3 player with iTunes like software ([au's lismo service]), Japanese/English dictionary, and simple Japanese OCR).

    It's part of the reason why the web channel on the web was a big deal. For Americans, it just meant we might not have had to get out of bed to check Gmail, but for a lot of Japanese is was an important vector onto the Internet.

    That said, when I went to college in Japan a lot of my friends ending up buying laptops or using them extensively in the school's various computer labs. And at work now, everyone can use a PC and desktop publishing / graphics (granted, I work at a town cultural hall, so they might come to the job with some of those skills already). One of my coworkers is even a Mac guy and another, the main graphics guy is thinking about upgrading from his Toshiba to a MacBook. Stuff like Macs and the iPod are going more ground here.

    And the internet culture here is still pretty big - most people my age know about 2chan, even if they don't post and the big drama from two years ago was Densha Otoko, based on a supposedly true story about a nerdy anime fan who met a beautiful girl, began dating her, and asked for help on 2chan. You can still get 2chan's mascot, noma neko dolls around as well. Mixi (an invite only Japanese facebook site) and other internet groups are still pretty big here, so it's not like the things computers represent are going away, but rather PCs like devices, like phones and game consoles, are taking their place.
    • Er, about the camera, I of course meant 2 and 5 megapixels, not megabytes, though this does lead to something interested as well. I don't use it, but my camera has a miroSD card slot, so one can store music, pictures, etc. on it, further lessening the need for a dedicated PC, especially for the younger set.
      • by owlnation (858981)
        Yeah... but wake the rest of us up when Final Cut Pro and Photoshop are available on the iPhone.

        The average desktop PC monitor is still far too small for professional editing.
    • Agh, I gotta use that preview button. In that truncated last sentence in the middle, my point is most of those features for my phone I listed are comparable to a PC. There are original Final Fantasy games and ports of the first few Dragon Quest games. My au phone came with Puyo Puyo Fever for free. It's not as pretty as the PSP version but it's far less conspicuous when I am slacking off on a train or something.

      Even for the net and applications that use it, at au (it it's probably similar for docomo and
    • I live in Japan as an English teacher ..snipOut of my middle school students, many of them don't use PCs on a regular basis and many of the high school students I know don't either

      So how do they write the English essays? I understand how PC is loosing out in terms of playing music, IM and other trivial stuff, but it seems to me that heavy PC utilization is unavoidable for school and work. Basically it's on every office workers' desk, and I don't see any real alternative emerging.
    • Arkansas != non-tech (Score:2, Informative)

      by Yremogtnom (774179)
      (though I am in basically the Arkansas of Japan, but even when I lived in Osaka, I felt like this was true).

      People in Arkansas are not necessarily low-tech. There's a low cost of living in Arkansas that allows most households to acquire high-tech gadgets and PC's.

      I live in a small town in a economically underdeveloped part of Arkansas, and even here, very few people don't use technology. Almost every household has multiple cell phones and a PC with some sort of internet connection. Granted, there
  • Market Saturation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tcgroat (666085) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:27AM (#21230985)
    The article cites companies saying their growth market is in countries where most people have never owned a PC before, and also that existing customers see no compelling reason to upgrade. The average user is happy with the PC they have, indeed they don't even use all the system capability they already own. They prefer to spend their money on something else. In the wealthy "developed" world, a PC now is a commodity appliance rather than a trendy status symbol. It's all part of an innovation becoming a mature product.
    • by Kjella (173770)
      I think you hit the nail on the head there. I mean, as long as computers were doubling all kinds of capacities in two years then staying on the upgrade threadmill made sense. A lot of people have talked about the Macs long lifespan, I simply think a little of that is spreading to PCs. When you take one step back the purchase rate of the last 20 years has been a freak of nature, where completely usable but yet obsolete PCs were being replaced in great numbers. It was bound to stop as soon as a) the pace fina
  • Which is why (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:27AM (#21230987)
    The year of Linux on the desktop is irrelevant, because the desktop itself is irrelevant. Linux flood fills computing niches. It's already everywhere.
     
  • by aussersterne (212916) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:34AM (#21231033) Homepage
    PC = Personal Computer

    My smartphone has MS Office compatible word processor, spreadsheet, and database. It sends email and browses the web. It takes photos and manages my budget. It has an always-on map (Google Maps) that I can use to get my position and/or directions anywhere.

    It IS a personal computer.

    PCs aren't dying, they're getting integrated more closely into our lives.
  • by foniksonik (573572) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:36AM (#21231057) Homepage Journal
    They need applications.

    People need something to do personal finances, write up school homework, manage their photos and music and to send emails and surf the web.

    Average people need a nice powerful PDA in a sub-notebook form factor that can hook up to a large screen and they need a PDA/Phone that fits in their pocket that can sync up with their full size PDA.

    AVerage people don't care about writing their own software or customizing their experience (beyond wallpaper and ringtones)....

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      People referring to average people tend to undershoot what average people need and underestimate the average person. The sooner we stop dealing with averages, the better.

      There is a quite good talk [ted.com] that summarizes this in another context. It is worth watching in my opinion. The relevant gist of it is that we shouldn't cater for the average or "the biggest group" because the average is usually, only a relative majority of the market.

      What we should be doing is to look for clusters of users, not just the bi
  • Japan is different (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TorKlingberg (599697) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @10:40AM (#21231077)
    This may not mean much at all for other countries. Home PCs has never caught on in Japan the same way as in Europe and the USA. The gaming market is completely dominated by consoles. Games like World of Warcraft haven't even been translated into Japanese, and very few play the English version.
  • Their currency has been deflating year on year for a decade or so. This is important for manufacturers because it means that the money becomes more valuable over time, not less valuable. This means that when you're spending that money, you want to spend it on something which will last a long time, you buy quality rather than crap. When a currency is inflating, it's best to get rid of it quickly knowing that the longer you hold it the less it's worth. People become less choosy about buying cheap crap.

    The res
  • The definition of "Personal Computer" is just morphing to fit modern technology.
  • I agree (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dahlgil (631022)
    I think I agree with the posts saying that PC users are just not upgrading as frequently. Ever since my old VIC-20 days, I've been an avid computer user and have upgraded to a new machine every 2 to 3 years. In fact, 3 years would have been a lot. However, the computer I'm using now is one I built in 2003. Oh my goodness! That's four years ago. I did recently did a multimedia upgrade on it; but this 4 year old machine runs everything from Photoshop CS3 to Oblivion just fine thank you. It even does a
  • the average PC user realizes that he doesn't need to upgrade just to be upgrading. doesn't matter if its hardware or software.
  • Used to be you could only play certain types of games on the PC. They typically required (or benefited from, at least) a fast machine, creating a demand for new hardware purely for the sake of playing the newest games. Now that these types of games are available on consoles, many consumers may have offloaded this "task" which had previously been the domain of PCs onto their consoles. Consequently, they don't have a need to buy new hardware. The PC they bought 2 years ago is still plenty fast to perform
  • ""The PC's role in Japanese homes is diminishing, as its once-awesome monopoly on processing power is encroached by gadgets such as smart phones that act like pocket-size computers, advanced Internet-connected game consoles, digital video recorders with terabytes of memory NEC's annual PC shipments in Japan shrank 6.2 percent to 2.72 million units in 2006, and the trend is continuing into the first quarter of fiscal 2007 with a 14 percent decline from a year earlier. Sony's PC shipments for Japan shrank 10
  • What concerns me as some one that lives and works on PCs, Mac, Linux, PC, is what future availability will be like. Development and production are like fast moving trains right now and they'll take a while to slow down but they almost have to slow down. I see desktop advances slowing in the next three years due to reduced demand. I have a feeling the market will go the way of american society where there will be the rich and the poor and little in between. By that I mean lower powered home PCs that are most
  • People are now surrounded by PC's that are "good enough". They will be with us, however, until the display issues and crappy input modes are resolved on mobile platforms. The iPhone may be good, but it doesn't solve either of those issues. When we have virtual keyboards, or some other form of input, half the problem will be solved. When the people working on wearable displays get their technology perfected, then the other half will come into place. At that point, mobiles and PCs will merge.
    Did PDAs die? No,
  • Hidden Computers... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dr. Zowie (109983) <slashdot@NOSPaM.deforest.org> on Sunday November 04, 2007 @11:37AM (#21231487)
    In the early 1990s I had the privilege of talking with Don Norman, a psychologist who was a pioneer of computer usability studies (and who later went on to guide development of many products at Apple). Among other things, he opined that there wouldn't be any PCs in about 20-30 years (from then). I was pretty astonished, but he pointed out that in the 1950s-1970s you could buy an electric motor for you kitchen, and they were all the rage. You'd have one installed in your counter, and attach various things to it. By the 1990s you couldn't anymore -- motors were small enough and cheap enough that they were just embedded in any appliance (like a mixer) you might use.

    He asserted that computers were going the same way -- you might end up with dozens of powerful computers in your house, but you wouldn't call them that. You'd call them a "newspad" or a "TV" or a "reader" or whatever. They'd be invisible, with specialized interfaces for whatever task was at hand.

    So far, his prediction appears to be on track.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Loke the Dog (1054294)
      It's interesting because I've found that modern kitchen appliances often suck. That motor unit with hundreds of attachments could do such an extremely wide variety of stuff, and while the most common stuff has been replaced by specific appliances, there are some things that you cannot do with the modern machines.

      I wonder what things we take for granted now will be next to impossible in the future. All kinds of hardware mods, obviously. Changing OS, probably. Maybe even typing on a keyboard, who needs that w
    • ...is that a motor can be made as small as technology allows, but a screen and some sort of input device just have to be of a certain size to be comfortable for your eyes and hands.

      I think a lot of functionality will eventually end up in smaller devices, but there will always be a number of apps that still need a pc-like device. Like browsing the web, managing music, videos and photo's, typing a document and making a presentation.

      Separate devices for each and every app are a waste of money and space.
  • Technology plateau (Score:3, Interesting)

    by grumling (94709) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @11:47AM (#21231555) Homepage
    It seems to me that we have hit a technological plateau recently. This happens from time to time, when current designs have been played out. It happened with radio in the 1920s (broken by the superhetrodyne circuit), again in the 50s (broken by the transistor), then in the late 1960s and 70s (finally adopting FM over AM). In the wake of the innovation, many companies went out of business or had to go through massive changes.

    The PC industry plateaued in the 1970s (miniframes and hobby computers), 1980s (death of 8-bit computers), 1990s (death of 8088 based PCs and 68000 series Macs), and we'll soon happen again, likely marked as the end of the Intel age. This is normal as technology doesn't develop in nice, easy to manage chunks. Moore's law just says that transistors will double every 18 months, not that everyone will have a use for all of them.

    The growth in the market these days seems to be in microcontrollers, using designs that are becoming just as powerful as a PC without the OS tax. It is interesting to note that the trend is following the same software curve as before: authoring in assembler, migrating to simple microcode languages, stripped down OS (tiny Linux), custom OS (like Windows mobile smartphones and OS X on the iPhone). I wonder if the people writing the OS for these devices will realize that at one time Windows and DOS would fit on a few floppies.
  • ...and realizing their PC has been "fast enough" to do basic operations like word processing, media management, web browsing, etc. This all, despite the OS makers adding needless feature after needless feature to slow down their product and make upgrading hardware more attractive.

    Overall, whether or not the PC market slows down is fairly irrelevant. Personal computers are an integral and ubiquitous part of our everyday lives and won't magically disappear just because of a market fluctuation. The PC manuf
  • Quote from the Slashdot article: "The PC's role in Japanese homes is diminishing..."

    It's sad that, after all these years, Slashdot editors have not learned to be editors.

    Actually, the computers most people have are adequate for what they do. They don't need another computer. That's why manufacturers are selling fewer computers, not because "The PC's role is diminishing..."
  • Japan's future (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by BobandMax (95054)
    What is not bright is Japan's future. Their declining birth rate, unfavorable demographic trends and extremely racist attitudes that discourage immigration combine to assure that their society will decline steadily. Unless Japan can increase the birth rate, they will diminish.
  • ...when he said that "The Network is the Computer" back in 1984. People mainly need an inexpensive & fun way to connect to the Internet, and with Internet-enabled phones, PDA's, and handheld devices becoming more ubiquitous, it would make sense that PC sales might slump. That doesn't mean that PC's are going away any time soon, it just indicates that the PC market is reaching maturity and saturation.
  • by kklein (900361) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @07:33PM (#21235925)

    Okay, I've lived here in Japan off and on since 1998, and I've got a problem with this article.

    The PC has never been big here. I teach university, and, seriously, I have kids who have never used a computer. Never. Not at home; not at school. I have to teach them how to open and close windows. How to click. How to type in Japanese (for whatever bizarre reason, no one uses the Japanese kana keyboard--they type in Roman characters and the computer changes them to kana, so they usually have to type 2 characters to get one).

    When I first came in 1998 as a university student, the other foreign exchange students and I were mortified when we asked the university where we could connect to the internet so we could email our families to tell them we'd arrived, only to be told "Internet? We don't have that." A university with something like 15,000 students. With no internet.

    "What," we asked, "you mean, not in the foreign exchange building? That's fine, we can go over to the library..."

    "No, sorry. Not there either."

    "Well, what about the professors? They have it don't they?"

    "Some do, yes. But please don't bother them."

    Finally, enough of us whined enough that they wired up two ancient Macs in the commons area. The students self-organized a waiting list to use them. They were horribly slow. The entire campus shared a single ISDN line. I gave up and just started dialing into the modem pool at my US university to quickly upload/download mail via the line-in on a pay phone.

    What was the killer app that made the PC a must-have for most of the developed world? Internet, right? Well, most people in Japan had the internet on their cellphones (keitais) long before they had it at home. As a result, if you ask someone to mail you, the first thing they're going to do is tap out a message on their keitai.

    But there's more to it. Of course email was the killer app for the internet in the rest of the world, but another was online shopping (in the case of the US, anyway). This has not taken off in Japan so much either. Why? Well, and this is just my new pet theory, a few days old, there is a cultural difference at play.

    In the US, many of us are descendants of homesteaders and other people living in the middle of nowhere. You went to town once a month, if you had one. JC Penney, Sears, etc. were all originally what kind of company? Mail-order. You ordered your stuff via post, and then they arrived on the train. Next time you were in town, you picked it up. We have a strong mail-order cultural meme. Not so in Japan, which has basically always been urban, because most of Japan is uninhabitable (like 45-degree angles--beautiful mountains, but not so good for living on). Everyone lived and lives in the little strips of flattish land between the oceans and the mountains. So there is a strong culture of going to the shops (run by people you know) to get stuff. People--older people, especially--are very uncomfortable with ordering things they haven't seen.

    Playing into the above problem is another: no customer rights. Return policies are usually not clearly stated. If you want to return something, you need to beg and convince a manager you deserve it. Worse still, the credit card is not the great deal it is in the rest of the world. In Western countries, you put purchases on a credit line with a credit card. Here, you have to pay it off at a rate you specify when you make the purchase. You don't know what bill any purchase is going to show up on, and the bill is direct-debit. Furthermore, the banks offer none of the protections we take for granted. If your card gets stolen or a database hacked, guess who pays? You. You're totally responsible for everything that happens with that card, even if it has nothing to do with you. So people don't really like using them. Personally, I try to use my US card as much as possible, because of the protections it affords.

    Also, space constraints. The only thing that

  • Utter Nonsense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cafe Alpha (891670) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @08:45PM (#21236415) Journal
    Until you can download porn on the PS3, the PC's popularity is insured.

Machines certainly can solve problems, store information, correlate, and play games -- but not with pleasure. -- Leo Rosten

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