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Why PC Sales Are Declining 564

Posted by timothy
from the people-pretty-satisfied-mostly-for-the-price dept.
First time accepted submitter Benedick writes "I have a four year old desktop and a three year old notebook. Why haven't I upgraded to a new machine? Because they still work great. PC sales aren't declining because of Windows 8. They are declining because our PCs are so good, they last a lot longer. Will Oremus of Slate explains it better than I can."
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Why PC Sales Are Declining

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  • Reason number one. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs@@@ovi...com> on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:26PM (#43436907) Homepage

    Windows 8.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:49PM (#43437077)

      Windows 8 is kind of like getting your naughty bits pierced. At first it hurts like hell, but once you use it for a while, you begin to take really like it.

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:53PM (#43437111) Homepage Journal

      Windows 8.

      I don't get every version. I tend to sit on the fence and see how newer versions sort out. Perhaps I get to see them at work. I avoided Vista as there were so many things wrong with it. Windows 7 looked like what Vista should have been. Windows 8 has raised too many questions and we're not getting it at work, staying with Windows 7 machines.

      Also, as I've said for the past coulple years, the PC is overkill for many people who just want email, social stuff, simple games, they get a phone or tablet for that now.

      • by sdsucks (1161899)

        Also, as I've said for the past coulple years, the PC is overkill for many people who just want email, social stuff, simple games, they get a phone or tablet for that now.

        Hell, the maintenance aspect alone makes PC's not worth it for those uses.

    • by Strudelkugel (594414) on Friday April 12, 2013 @08:22PM (#43437355)

      Windows 8.

      It may be fun and easy to bash Windows 8, but I don't think that is the reason. It's fine. When I see the metro desktop after logging in, it just looks like the menu was automatically opened on Win 7. That's not such a big deal. Once you have organized your app icons, though, it is really no different than clicking on one in the taskbar or the desktop. I find it inconsequential from that perspective, but you also get the live tiles and new apps, some of which are useful. Windows 8 is not the fiasco that Vista was, with its required hunt for drivers. On a multi-monitor setup, I can have the metro UI pop-up on any monitor, which is useful at times. Most of the time I am in the desktop. but I really don't notice switching between metro and the desktop. I run Windows 7 in a VM as an attempt to isolate the email, Flash, etc, and browsing risks. I am impressed with the performance if Hyper-V, but not happy that you can't mount USB drives or burn CDs from the VM. Hopefully that will be fixed in the future.

      If I think of my own hardware purchases, it's easy to understand why PC sales are declining - tablets and phones. I by a new PC or motherboard about once every 7 years. I just bought a new PC after upgrading my mb about 7 years ago. I put it in a case that is 10 years old now. Since buying that last mb, I bought:

      • iMac
      • MBP
      • 2 iPads, sold one
      • iPod
      • 2 smartphones
      • Windows laptop

      I am going to sell the iMac and Windows laptop soon. I'm interested in a Chromebook and some sort of Win 8 laptop. I am sure all of the above will be replaced by the time I upgrade my PC again, part of which is due to how its speed is now more than sufficient for almost everything I do. Eventually I expect my hardware mix to be a powerful desktop, a cloud-centric tablet/laptop, and a phone, with the latter two being replaced much more frequently than the desktop. Note also that it is easier to upgrade desktop hardware, so the replacement cycle is longer for PCs. Tablet and phone hardware improves much more noticeably with each new model at the moment. The same isn't true for PCs. That is what is slowing PC sales, not Windows 8, IMHO.

    • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday April 12, 2013 @08:43PM (#43437479) Journal

      Actually? And as much as I HATE THAT STUPID DUMBED DOWN WIN 8 %$&%$^$...I gotta be honest and...TFA is pretty much right on the money. hell my AMD netbook is 3 years old, runs great, I was the guy that HAD to build a PC every year for gaming, but I'm up to a 6 core with 8GB of RAM and 3TB of HDD space, what more do I need here? Games are just now starting to really use duals and triples, most games won't even stress a triple so half my cores are sitting idle or doing other stuff, so why do i need more?

      This really hit me over the head about 2 years ago which is why I'm doing more HTPCs and security cams now, and that was when the Phenom II quads first got REALLY cheap. You see my dad is the perfect "test case" if you will for your "bog standard PC user" because he is as MOR as you can get, he surfs, watches movies, uses chat and webmail, runs his little office software, its about as bog standard of a use case as one can get. So I start seeing the new quads below $100 and I think "Hmmm, its been awhile since i built dad that Phenom I quad, maybe its time to build a new system" so I set up performance logging and came back 2 weeks later to see, what did I find?

      45%. No shit, we are talking a 2.2GHz first gen Phenom I quad and he ONLY was able to get to 45% usage and looking closer at what was going on it looks like a browser hang caused that spike, if I remove that? he's barely hitting 30% and that is when he is going full bore. I thought "Well yeah, its a quad, surely that older dual core i built for the shop has to be ready for the pasture"...nope, biggest spikes around 70% but only when he is loading something up and after that its nothing, 20s and 30s during background tasks.

      So it all comes down to one simple fact...The MHz war was a bubble. I would argue what we are seeing now is NOT "The death of the PC" anymore than the housing bubble popping meant the death of houses, its just a return to a more normal state. before laptops were getting replaced every other year and desktops around every 3 and now we are seeing laptops going 5-6 years and desktops that can easily go 8 or 9, I mean that Phenom I quad my dad has is circa 07 so its already at 6 years and its not being stressed.

      It all comes down to both AMD and Intel building chips that are just so insanely powerful that folks can't come up with enough useful work for them to do, certainly not enough to max 'em out. Of course Windows 8 being Satan spawn certainly isn't helping matters any but there are still plenty of places selling win 7 systems right now but if your system is already a multicore seriously what more do you need?

      • The elephant in the room that no one is really talking about is that Silicon doesn't really scale past 5 GHz. While it is possible to get a CPU to run at 100 GHz (yes, GHz) unfortunately
        a) you can't afford it, and
        b) can't afford to cool it.

        It is going to be quite a while (decades) before (Silicon-)germanium are ubiquitous enough. The jury* is still out if graphene will pan out. Time will tell...

        > It all comes down to both AMD and Intel building chips that are just so insanely powerful

    • by Mr0bvious (968303)

      Windows 8 may have some influence on diminishing PC sales but I also think the massive uptake of smart phones and tablets are having a massive impact here.

      I'm not by any means saying that smart phones and tablets are a general replacement for PCs, but I'd speculate that the vast majority of PC sales have in recent times been to people who use them for email, web browsing, facebook and the like. For these tasks, the smartphone and tablets are perfectly good, reliable, more convenient and cheaper alternatives

    • Windows 8.

      Wrong... Windows 8 is becoming a scapegoat...

      People don't need to upgrade. Anyone with a Windows 7 system has everything they need for home computing. Only the outliers need the latest and greatest hardware (gaming, video editing, etc.). Everyone else is perfectly happy surfing on their tablets and using a Windows 7 desktop/laptop for their financial software, homework, day-to-day work, etc. Most people use their tablets or consoles for gaming.

      Anyone who is technical savvy who complains about the Windo

    • by erroneus (253617) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @06:36AM (#43439521) Homepage

      There's truth to that but also that their old PCs are "good enough."

      The thing is, the output of PCs hasn't really improved much in the last few years. We used to see jumps in performance between 50% and 100% more. The best we've seen is the slow adoption of 64 bit-windows-ness where people hope to improve things by having more than 3.5GB RAM. (And for most it wasn't much benefit)

      There was nothing in terns of software that required an upgrade from XP to 7. That XP magically got slower than 7 with every update and patch remains "a mystery" but people got the idea. That WinME and Vista were such crap that people wouldn't buy it broke the public of its notion that "upgrade means it's better!" long ago. 7 had been more or less forced on people. They didn't care for it but before long when they wanted a new PC, they had no choice. And it least it wasn't too dissimilar from XP and so adjustments could be made.

      But now with 8 it's even worse. Microsoft had convinced the PC industry that they needed to lock the hardware to the software so that downgrades or running other OSes would be more difficult. Combined with the previous public experience, it means "holy hell no we don't want to change now!!"

      So yeah... PCs haven't improved much. It's basically true. But they break and stuff. But I almost always want to keep a laptop under some kind of warranty. I didn't this go around. If there was a contributing reason, it would have to be because I would rather wait to see how bad this hardware locking thing gets. So yeah... it's Microsoft's fault even though I don't run Microsoft.

  • by HBBisenieks (2884173) on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:26PM (#43436911)
    Obviously. I don't know anything that can kill a computer better than a few feline-induced keystrokes.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Fire, swimming pools, hot tubs, lava, shotguns, Gallagher, cannons, M80s, trebuchets, toddlers, flame throwers, tanks, grandmothers, that fat gamer dude, gorillas, tornadoes, ninjas, wood chippers... well, you get the idea. In fact, when it comes to destroying a computer kittehs are not anywhere near the top ten.

      • by fafalone (633739) on Friday April 12, 2013 @10:37PM (#43438081)
        Fire, swimming pools, hot tubs, lava, shotguns, Gallagher, cannons, M80s, trebuchets, toddlers, flame throwers, tanks, grandmothers, that fat gamer dude, gorillas, tornadoes, ninjas, wood chippers... well, you get the idea. In fact, when it comes to destroying a computer kittehs are not anywhere near the top ten.

        You, sir, have obviously never owned a cat.
        • WTF...? You do not own a cat. At best, they live with you. You, the human, are being used. You provide food and shelter. If they like you, they'll grace you with their presence. If not, they're outtaheah. "Own..." Such noobness.
  • Why have computers not stopped after I built my AM5x86? It still functions today and can still surf the web. It's on its second AT PSU though.

    Still, crappy logic, especially when OEM computers are designed to have a short lifespan to spur sales of newer models.
    • by bfandreas (603438)
      You will have to break it down to what people use their machines for.

      For the usual tasks like light office work and web browsing tablets nearly have all the processing power you'll ever need. Which means a machine like an Ouya with a keyboard, a mouse and a screen are enough. Ican remember whan PCs hardly could handle a GUI and autocorrection of Word would bog the machine down. These days are gone and have been gone for 10 years.

      Gamers used to buy/upgrade every 2 years if they could afford it. But even
  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:31PM (#43436937) Journal
    It used to be that the average user would replace their desktops every few years for something newer. The aforementioned "longer lasting system" trend - my husband's laptop is well over five years old and shows little signs of age - combines with the fact that PC enthusiasts build their systems, lovingly hand picking components or starting with a kit and slapping whatever OS they have lying around on it. (I have at least two OEM Windows 7 licenses kicking around from various systems.

    There are still people who will pay oodles of money for a pre-built machine, but most of those folks have migrated over to the Mac platform by now.
    • by DigiShaman (671371) on Friday April 12, 2013 @08:10PM (#43437265) Homepage

      PC enthusiast market is dying. Intel plans on having motherboard manufactures solder the CPU directly to the PCB. High end CPU to high end motherboard. Low end CPU to low end motherboard. About the only system you can come close to building on your own in the future will have to be workstation/server class hardware. That means expensive Xeons. God knows what AMD will do. And then there's the whole Windows OS being abandoned as we know it in favor of a tablet OS (Win8).

      Serious question. Where does that leave nVidia? The market has been shifting toward mobile low-powered devices for a long time. That, and Intel's integrated video sub-system is butter smooth in 2d, and good enough for 3d. Commodity video hardware is dead. Thank Intel for that. Their high-end will still be niche enterprise market though.

      As for the future of gaming? Phones, Tablets, Consoles including newer generations of Apple TV (Pippin reincarnated) , and mini-itx platforms would be my guess.

  • I'll say, most of my company's employees are using 10 year old Gateway SFF Pentium 4 boxes running Windows XP. What is really scarey is that they are connecting to Novell servers (NOVELL!!!) that are even older than their desktops for file storage. I want to cry every morning when I go to work in the IT department for the shame of it.
    • Nothing wrong with netware and pentium 4s. The former's stability record might only come in danger once somebody bothers to leave NetBSD running for over a decade. And the latter is one of the most efficient ways to convert electricity to heat, no need for central heating when you have a pentium 4!
    • by s.petry (762400)

      As the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke don't fix it!". The reason people migrated to Windows NT from Novell was not because the server was better, it was because of marketing hype. When my small company back in the day migrated from 1 Novell server to NT we had to put in 4 to do the same job. We kept hearing how it was cheaper than Novell, but we had to buy Anti-Virus software, backup software that worked, pay extra for user licenses or face the wrath of the BSA, and buy bigger and faster computers f

  • It's not just about faster. Smaller, more efficient, easier to transport are all good reasons to upgrade if you have the means. Beside, the grim reaper of hardware is always clawing at your door. Nice box you have there, I'd hate for something like a busted water pipe or lightning strike to carry it to the other side.
  • What about gamers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spy Handler (822350) on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:35PM (#43436965) Homepage Journal

    back in the day, not everybody had a PC. Gamers and engineers and other hardcore users comprised a larger % of the PC market. These users tend to upgrade often to run the latest Doom at max 640x480 resolution with all options on.

    Nowadays everybody, i mean EVERYBODY has a pc, even the village idiot and 98 year old grandmas. All they do is check facebook, google maps, and send some email. These users do fine with 5 year old pcs. The hardcore users are a tiny percentage of the market now.

    btw TFS is not quite right, the old machines weren't of lesser quality... my old 486 ran great for 10 years and it was still working when I threw it out.

    • by Tridus (79566) on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:41PM (#43436985) Homepage

      You don't even need a new PC to play games. My going on 3 year old PC was bought to play games, and it plays everything coming out at max or near max settings. Clearly no need to upgrade there.

      My six year old *Vista* PC is now what my wife uses when she wants to play a game. Although it can't play at max settings anymore, we still haven't found a game that it can't actually play reasonably well. Again, no particular need to upgrade there.

      Games being cross platform has meant they need to deal with the pathetically low specs on the current consoles, which combined with games being stuck being compiled for x86 and DX9 to work in XP means you just don't need new hardware like you used to.

  • by geekd (14774) on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:36PM (#43436969) Homepage

    from the article:

      "Meanwhile, the rise of the cloud has reduced the need for extra memory."

    Really? "The Cloud" acts as RAM?

  • by 00Monkey (264977) on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:37PM (#43436973) Homepage

    I don't know if it's just me but my computers pretty much never die. I've been building them myself since the mid 90's. I stopped upgrading when Core 2 Duo came out because the PC I built still runs everything great today. I wouldn't use the Athlon XP 2000+ system I have that still runs because it doesn't run everything great but it does still work. I really don't see it being a problem with computers lasting so much longer but I could be an odd case since I don't buy stuff from Dell, HP, etc.

  • It's worse than that (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:39PM (#43436981) Journal
    I went to a few computer shops in the last month, and not only did my old computer seem good as the demo models, it seemed better. When I looked at them, I felt the pain of having to learn something new. They gave the impression of unnecessary and non-useful crapware. Touching the screen is kind of lame, and Windows 8 is confusing until you get the hang of it.

    So yeah, not only is the current computer good enough, but there are actual disincentives to upgrade. They could at least put a racing stripe on it, make it prettier.
    • by Nemyst (1383049)
      When has being a geek involved "feeling pain of having to learn something new"? I am appalled that we are even thinking like that.
  • by iamwhoiamtoday (1177507) on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:42PM (#43436993)

    I'm currently playing through Crysis 2 on my old gaming computer, and it is running perfectly. No lag, shiny graphics, everything. Why spend money to replace it? It does everything I want it to do!

    Q6600 @ 2.4Ghz
    8GB DDR2 800
    Two 9800GTX cards in SLI
    two 500GB Hard Drives RAID 0
    Windows 7 64-bit
    2560*1440 monitor

    "High" settings, Crysis 2. Runs fantastically. I don't see the point in replacing it (at least, until I move into a place where I have to pay the power bill...)

    I'm looking forward to seeing how well this computer handles Bioshock Infinite.

  • by Chirs (87576) on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:43PM (#43437007)

    Since non-linear video editing became more common there haven't been any new "must-have" functionality that bogged down the system to the point where people feel like they need a faster system. (Yes, gaming can be the exception to this, but most "normal" people aren't high-end gamers.)

    The last computing device I bought was a firesale HP Touchpad that now dual-boots Android. Before that I spent under $450 on a Dell laptop that I'm still using today. It works fine for surfing the web, doing email, playing videos (even high def), etc. While it would be fun to upgrade, I don't *need* to.

    Heck, my in-laws are still running Vista.

  • by JanneM (7445) on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:45PM (#43437023) Homepage

    The last two times I got myself a new laptop, I did because the previous one was breaking expensively (screen going bad in both cases), not because it was actually getting too slow or anything like it. That's not to say I don't enjoy the higher speed and capability of my latest one â" an SSD and enough RAM not to need swap is nice â" but nowadays such performance bumps are firmly in the "nice to have" category, not "pressing need" for me.

  • by Junta (36770) on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:45PM (#43437033)

    If you want to see how an industry keeps people on an upgrade treadmill, look no further than the cell phone market.

    Once upon a time, the subsidy scheme was required to get people to play in the market given the genuinely high cost of the devices. Nowadays, 'unlocked' prices are hyper-inflated to lend a sense of legitimacy to carrier subsidies. Every two years, the average consumer might as well buy a new phone because it's 'just such a deal that would go to waste' even if their last device still works fine for their needs.

    It's the same way so many people buy cars so frequently that they always have car payments. They get accustomed to the payment and suddenly *not* having a car payment is 'weird' and means they better get a new car.

    Meanwhile, consumer PCs never really embraced some scheme to get people to have some low, forgettable monthly payment (cloud computing being an exception). They see the expense in a straightforward manner and thus don't feel the same compulsion to upgrade. Therefore, the bulk of the market goes to buying a new one when it breaks.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tridus (79566)

      Phones also are advancing quite a lot. There's a lot more difference between an iPhone 3G and a high end phone today than there is between a 4 year old PC and a new PC.

  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:47PM (#43437051)

    ... sometime.

    The breakneck pace of innovation we saw for the last 30 years is slowing down. The reality is as hardware power increased software cost (like games) increased in time and money to develop. Compare a game that is ugly by today standards - descent - to any modern game.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=_-slr7wL8KE#t=85s [youtube.com]

    Then on top of that add ghz and heat break wall that was hit around the time of the pentium 4. If you all remember right the P4 was to scale towards 10Ghz eventually it never got even close and the industry went a bit nuts because not all software can be parralelized. Just many trends have converged is all that makes PC's last a lot longer.

  • by ka9dgx (72702) on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:48PM (#43437063) Homepage Journal

    It used to be you could buy a new computer, and use it. Now to do that, you have to find an operating system, figure out how to get it to work with the new (unsupported on older OSs) hardware. Why bother? I'm dreading the task when this laptop finally dies.

    I bought a Windows 8 machine on Black Friday, it lasted 4 hours before I gave up and returned it.

    Windows 8 sucks so much, it can lift matter back past the event horizon of a black hole.

    • by _xeno_ (155264) on Friday April 12, 2013 @08:22PM (#43437359) Homepage Journal

      Windows 8 sucks so much, it can lift matter back past the event horizon of a black hole.

      My favorite Windows 8-ism, and I swear this is true, is that they removed the ability to shutdown the computer.

      No, really. They did.

      There's still a "shutdown" option in the new "power charm." It even brings your computer to a power-off state. It just doesn't shutdown the OS.

      Instead, "shutdown" logs you out (closing all your open applications), and then hibernates the machine rather than shutting down.

      The concept is that this makes booting "faster" but in my experience, it's at best a wash. (I think booting fresh is slightly faster than restoring the entirety of memory.) In any case, you still have to wait for all your applications to restart when you log in, so what's the point?! Plus, generally when I choose "shutdown," it's because I want the OS is shut all the way down for some reason. If all I wanted to do was turn the power off, I'd just hibernate the machine.

      Which brings me to my next point. The Hibernate option does not exist in the "Power charm." You can't Hibernate anymore. Apparently there's a setting somewhere that can reenable this feature, but searching for "hibernate" in the new Start Menu didn't find anything useful.

      Anyway, long rant short: Windows 8 managed to break the ability to turn your PC off!

      • by Darinbob (1142669) on Friday April 12, 2013 @09:14PM (#43437651)

        There is an option to disable this and do a normal shutdown and boot. There is still a control panel so maybe it can be found there.

        I did notice that when you power off, that after the screen goes blank that the computer is still active with the hard drive light still flashing for another 10 seconds. If you kill power this way (via power strip) I wonder what gets screwed up. I think some genius decided that since 90% of people never turn off their computer that everyone else can be ignored.

      • by amiga3D (567632)

        You can still pull the plug from the electrical socket. They haven't figured out how to fuck that up....yet.

      • by gQuigs (913879)

        > Anyway, long rant short: Windows 8 managed to break the ability to turn your PC off!

        Gnome 3.0 did that. They eventually reverted it. Impressive how UI people do seem to think alike.. Oh right, Apple somewhat started that trend...

        but when Apple does it, it makes it more usable :) /sarcasm

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        My favorite Windows 8-ism, and I swear this is true, is that they removed the ability to shutdown the computer.

        No, really. They did.

        There's still a "shutdown" option in the new "power charm." It even brings your computer to a power-off state. It just doesn't shutdown the OS.

        Not to mention the stupidity of the whole "charm" thing to begin with. When my boss bought Windows 8 (during the $25 sale, and as he puts it "admittedly replacing Vista so how bad could it be") he came to work a week later triumphantly exclaiming that his neighbour figured out how to shutdown the machine by moving the mouse to some random corner of the screen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:51PM (#43437095)

    Single cores in new equipment aren't getting significantly faster, and while the number of cores in CPUs is slowly increasing, most apps are still sequential in their processing. This makes new machinery not really worth buying because it wouldn't speed your apps up by much. It's a poor investment to buy a whole new PC for a small incremental upgrade in performance.

    Even in those cases where apps could potentially harness multiple cores because some of their internal tasks are naturally concurrent, they don't do so because they're written in sequential languages that cannot easily multiprocess. Developers have been really slow to embrace the new raft of concurrent languages like Erlang or Go which make multiprocessing so easy. I'm not sure why that is, but a good bet is familiarity with the old and aversion to the new.

    'Just another theory to add to TFA. Any others?

    • Developers have been really slow to embrace the new raft of concurrent languages like Erlang or Go which make multiprocessing so easy. I'm not sure why that is

      Blame instructors in the colleges and trade schools who aren't familiar with these languages either. Unless you work for a well-known company whose name begins with Er or Go, you're not likely to get exposed to them.

  • He's largely right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tridus (79566) on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:52PM (#43437103) Homepage

    Windows 8 is a factor. It's not the largest one, but it is a factor. People don't like it, and people also feel that they don't *need* a PC like they used to. That means when faced with a Windows version you don't want vs the iPad (or whatever other tablet) that you do, the tablet is going to win an awful lot. That wasn't the case in the past, because the technology simply wasn't up to par. Today it is - a typical consumption only web user can get by just fine on a tablet and only occasionally needs a PC. Fundamentally, Metro on the desktop sucks. Microsoft could have avoided the whole problem if they'd just put a button in Control Panel labelled "make this OS work like Windows 7", in which case you'd have a faster version of Windows 7 that can also run Metro apps. That would be more popular. (You can do that yourself with start menu replacements and neat tools like ModernMix, but telling users they can download third party tools to fix it just points out that Microsoft botched the release.)

    That makes the implications obvious: households that used to have 2 or 3 PCs now only need one. Many households won't need a PC at all.

    For people who do still need or want one, existing PCs last a lot longer than they used to. XP machines are still kicking, and do what people want. 3 year old PCs aren't significantly worse than brand new ones if they're properly maintained. Fundamentally, the product used to improve by leaps and bounds. It now improves in tiny increments, and tiny increments aren't enough to promote replacement. It's now like a stereo: you replace it when it dies.

    Multicore is part of the problem here, as well. Intel and AMD can cram as many cores in as they want, most of the stuff I run only uses one of them. It's hugely frustrating to have a CPU sitting at 25% usage while I'm waiting on calculations because most of the software out there still doesn't use multiple cores very well. Unless they're trying to sell me something with significant single thread performance boosts, why would I care how many more cores they can shove in?

    The PC market had a great run, but it's over. The market is going to contract to a new normal: systems being used years longer than in the past, and fewer people needing them. It won't go away for a very long time, simply because phones and tablets aren't nearly as good a replacement for many tasks that we're doing... yet. But stagnation and decline are the new norm.

  • by SampleFish (2769857) on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:54PM (#43437125)

    I have always built my own desktop PCs. They always last longer than 5 years. I build a new one after 5 years because I want to not because I have to. In fact I often hand down my old PC and it stays in service for many more years. You might lose a PSU or a HDD but the computer itself should last long after obsolescence.

    PC sales are down for the same reason all sales are down. The middle class has been robbed of buying power. Poor wages, lay-offs, outsourcing, tax burden, or whatever other reason you can come up with. There are more people than we have work to do. When people struggle they often won't buy nice things like computers. They may not be happy with the old one but they can't afford to replace it. I'm sure new car sales are down as people keep the old ones longer.

    The middle class = the American economy. When the people suffer there is a "trickle up suffering" *

    *("Trickle up suffering" is a registered trademark of SampleFish)

  • by JoeyRox (2711699) on Friday April 12, 2013 @07:55PM (#43437139)
    It's not that existing PCs are too good but that they haven't improved much in the past few years, in particular processing speed. The days of huge computing jumps with a new processor generation appear to be behind us, at least for x86.
    • by ThePeices (635180)

      But is a huge increase in computing power going to make my computing experience that much better than it already is?

      I doubt it. Fast enough is good enough.

  • by luckytroll (68214) on Friday April 12, 2013 @08:05PM (#43437209) Homepage

    Lets face it, the average user and business PC are serviced well enough by Windows 7, or even XP. So who is left to chase the gains brought by Moores Law?

    The PC gaming enthusiasts, thats who. And why are those guys for the most part sticking with the same PCs?

    Because most PC games are locked to the performance of a game console - Xbox, et all - and those are a little long in the tooth themselves.

    Until the next generation of Consoles pushes the envelope of hardware, and the game developers follow suit... PCs will have no reason to follow...

    • The other aspect of this is that game performance is mostly graphics card performance.

      If you have a decent PC all you need to play almost any game at a really good level is a graphics card upgrade.

  • by EvilSS (557649) on Friday April 12, 2013 @08:08PM (#43437243)
    Virtually every company has stretched their update cycles on PCs in the past few years. It started with the economic downturn but like many new "efficiencies", they have discovered they can live with a 5, 6, even 7 year life cycle vs their old 3-4 year cycles.

    At the same time home users are not seeing a reason to upgrade. Most people are not doing much more than surfing the web and maybe using some form of an office suite. With fast multicore CPUs, cheap RAM, and SSDs, even power users are not replacing as much continually upgrading. I used to go through laptops in 18 months tops. Now, I'm over two years on my i7, 16GB, 256GB SSD equipped laptop and I see zero reason to upgrade anytime in the near future. It's just not being taxed, even with some of the crazy analytic workloads I throw at it. My home PC is going on 2 years old. I've upgraded. Added a new video card to replace my old 8800 GT, I added an SSD boot drive, new monitor. But replacing the whole box, I don't see it happening anytime soon.

    The industry needs to face it, PCs are the new TVs.
  • by Pf0tzenpfritz (1402005) on Friday April 12, 2013 @08:28PM (#43437405) Journal
    It's not only that they last longer (supposed they do, which I can't confirm). The main reason to buy a new machine has always been mostly speed. First we had the GHz explosion of the late 1990s when CPU clockspeeds went through the roof (my first Wintel box was a 200MHz PII, my next one ran at 1700MHz), then memory greedy 64bit machines and now... nothing for a while. Everything concentrates at the mobile market. Fine. These thingies still leave a lot to improve, liberate, hack while the good, old PC mostly does what it is supposed to. (Even if you're gamer, because your machine's not really supposed to be complete ever, is it?)
  • by eriks (31863) on Friday April 12, 2013 @08:35PM (#43437427) Homepage

    I've been saying this for years. Sometime shortly after the 1Ghz "barrier" got broken, almost all computers became "good enough" for almost everyone.

    I just recently put a built-from parts (and virtually silent) circa 2003 machine with a 1.8 Ghz AMD Barton, back into service with a modern 80+ power supply, 1.5 gigs or ram and a new(ish) drive. It may not be quite as snappy as my current main system (which is 5 years old) or my htpc (which is 7) but it's really a perfectly usable machine with a fresh install of pretty much any modern OS.

    The primary reason to run current-gen hardware these days is lower power consumption, and to a certain extent modern graphics hardware (capable of hardware HD x264 decoding). If all you need is a web browser and office suite, anything that uses reasonably fast RAM from 10+ years ago will more than fit the bill.

    Lots of people end up replacing perfectly good hardware just because "windows gets slow" which (sadly) few people seem to know that a reinstall will fix. That might take a few hours, and to hire a tech to do that might cost $75 or so... but that's still cheaper than a new machine.

  • Not entirely correct (Score:3, Interesting)

    by frovingslosh (582462) on Friday April 12, 2013 @08:35PM (#43437433)

    Sure, some machines might be lasting longer. And some people might be forcing their machines to last longer. But, even though there are people with mod points and Win 8 who will mod down anyone who suggests that they may have made a poor choice, I can assure you (at least until I'm silenced by being modded down as a "troll") that there are people like me who are not buying a machine because of Win 8. I'm definitely in the market for a new laptop. 0But you just can't get anything at a decent price new that doesn't include Win 8. And I don't want to pay new or higher prices for a refurb, when that system will likely have a compromised battery, a screen with stuck or dead pixels, or come pre-infested with malware and perhaps unable to make that "only-one-to-a-machine" set of backup disks that they used to send out with the machine but now require you to make for yourself. If I could find a comparable deal to some current Win 8 laptops on a similar New Win 7 system I would snap it up, but I didn't have the cash free before Win 8 came out and now it is too late. Can't even buy a Win 8 system and them pay again for Win 7 and install it, since Microsoft forced the manufacturers to make machines that you couldn't install other operating systems on!

    So some Microsoft fan boy might have written a counter argument to what most of the industry is saying, but the real truth is Win 8 is awful and few people want it. Microsoft ad blitzes and modding people down who disagree will not change that.

  • by Marrow (195242) on Friday April 12, 2013 @08:38PM (#43437445)

    Its all broken. Its all wrong. Its all crap. Its all fix-it-in-the-field bullshit and people are not biting on the promise that it wont be broken this time.
    1., A printer with its own damn webserver in it but I still have to search the manufacturers website for the driver. FU
    2. Each application has its own method of delivering updates? FU
    3. I have to download a distro and then download the entire freaking thing again and again as updates? DangIt!
    4. I install a 500 dollar application and then updates come. And come again. And a service pack comes. A and more updates come again!
    5. I change hardware and Windows Media Players says FU to me, I changed my hardware and my digital rights are foobar. No fix. FU,.
    6. I have a SSL security system that any two bit monarchy can make a key for any website on the planet? FUUUUUU.
    7. I can encrypt my filesystem, except not /boot where the kernel is. Which can be replaced. Really?
    8. I go to the store and see computer cases that look 20 years old. Zero innovation. Really?
    9. And finally we have a economic system that people dont believe in anymore and they are hoarding their money which is being devalued in their pockets. FE

  • by epine (68316) on Friday April 12, 2013 @08:42PM (#43437465)

    Unplanned non-obsolescence is the dumbest thing I've heard since breakfast, which puts it in with some stiff competition.

    How about frantically, desperately deferred non-obsolescence? How about IE6, Exchange, and Office suite document non-portability as a modern-day Maginot Line, equally doomed?

    But in the end, what could they do? We were clearly entering the end-game on the desktop PC as a rain-maker a full ten years ago.

    Meanwhile we managed to gadgify consumption with pocket trinkets where the entire device costs about the same as any decent ISA expansion card back in the day. Because they are autonomous (and you can lose them under a sofa cushion) each gadget is separately counted. It's a bit like counting remote controls instead of televisions, but we'll ignore that.

    And best of all, according to the true nature of innovation, we now have the cyanide-green Apple business model of land-fill express non-replaceable batteries. Microsoft and their OEM cabal are green with envy they can't sell a PC whose golden age is so effectively knackered. That was not their father's green. The times they are a changing.

  • by Proudrooster (580120) on Friday April 12, 2013 @08:47PM (#43437503) Homepage

    I know there is a lot of speculation into the PC Sales dip, but let's face it, it is the same old song and dance in PC land. If I buy a new PC it has Windows 8 it comes loaded with crapware and doesn't do very much of what most people want to do. Tonight I went to Staples to browse and most of the Windows 8 machines were stuck on "Your protection expired XX days ago. Would you like to purchase Norton." AND I STILL CAN'T CREATE AND EDIT A VIDEO OUT OF THE BOX. However MS-Paint, Calculator, and Notepad are still hanging in from 1987, but to be fair, MS-Paint did get a facelift.

    Flash forward to the iPad. I can give grandma an iPad with iMovie within 15 minutes she has first amazing video trailer of the grandkids on YouTube. Yes, I know the PC has robust suites like Adobe, Roxio, and Vegas but they aren't simple. Grandma has to figure out the Camera, take the SDHC card out, import the video, setup a project (hmm.... does grandma want DV-NTSC Standard-48Khz or DV-NTSC-Widescreen-48Khz, or maybe AVCHD-1080i(50i) Anamorphic) , import the video segments into timelines and on and on until she gives up. It is far too painful, just opening the door to the SDHC card can be a 15 minute project.

    The problem with the PC is it hasn't gotten simpler. It hasn't gotten less painful to use, and grandma still can't get her video onto YouTube. One a daily basis on I use Linux, Windows 7, iPad, and MacOS/X. To me they have just become tools to get different jobs done. The clear winner for ease of use, efficiency, and convenience is the iPad tablet where I can get my video onto YouTube without crapware popping up telling me I need to update or am unprotected.

    Oh and one more reason. SSDs. I can put an SSD in an old box, and suddenly, it becomes a vibrant fast box, even with all the crapware.

    And MS, if you are listening. Put some useful WOW factor, polished software into your OS. Make the consumer feel like they really got something high value for their dollar or just keep doing what your doing. And if you keep on the same path, make sure you knee-cap the next XBOX with always on Internet required for play. Also, if you decided to launch a phone, make sure you abandon all your early adopters and ensure that the phone has no polished apps. Does anyone at MS still know how to code beyond rearranging the UI? Just asking.

  • Not only windows 8 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Friday April 12, 2013 @09:13PM (#43437643)
    I don't think that most people care about what OS they use as long as the OS they are presented with can run the critical programs that the individual needs. For most people the critical program probably boils down to a browser and the ability to view various document types such as PDFs. Other "critical" programs would include Netflix, an office suite (and many people do demand MS Office as that is what they are familiar with) some software to deal with pictures from their camera (or the camera on their phone) beyond that you are starting to get pretty specific with things like Photoshop. Gamers and programmers are oddities and while driving the high end of the market don't make up that much of a percentage.

    My mother uses Linux and probably could not tell the difference between it, Mac OS X, and any version of Windows. Nor does she care. She is also running it on an 8 year old machine. Now can anyone possibly tell me why she would need to either switch OS's or upgrade her machine? Keep in mind that the machine can run HD Youtube videos at full screen with no problems.

    But hypothetically lets go down to staples with a $900 budget and buy her an off the shelf machine(laptop desktop doesn't matter) and do the minimum required to hook her up. I might as well keep the phone handy for when Norton or whatever bloated bit of AV pops up and tells her that her machine is in peril. Then she will click on some pay music crap and maybe game center. Then I will tell her to google things but she won't find them because her default browser will have been set to something stupid, not to mention the crap toobar that was probably running.

    Then a few months later she will call me and ask why Office has stopped working. I will tell her that she never bought office and that she was running a trial version and that it will be a nice stack of cash to get it working again.

    Or she can spend nothing and keep her present machine, which in her opinion would be better than something brand new.

    Windows 8 barely enters the equation. Now switch to my brother. He has bought tiny laptops for years. Paid a fortune for each one. He travels and writes. He also wore them out fairly quickly (none lasted 2 years). But now his laptop is a bit bigger and only comes out when he is parked in his final destination. In between his large screen phone serves many of his portable device needs. He can email, review writing, and do research. I suspect his laptop will last him much longer this time around.

    Then take my other brother. He runs a large multinational business with a cellphone and an iPad. He has an awesome dataplan on his 3G iPad and I suspect he may never buy another PC-Type computer again in his life.

    Again little of this is about Windows 8. If anything I would say that the mistake of windows 8 was even making it. They should have just kept updating Windows 7. I never used it much but it seemed fine. I doubt that it would have been that much of a pain to add multi-touch and anything else that Windows 8 has.
  • by MpVpRb (1423381) on Friday April 12, 2013 @09:44PM (#43437819)

    One reason people don't buy new computers as often as they used to is software activation

    I dread buying a new computer because moving all of my stuff to the new computer has become a multi-day ordeal of trying to convince Indian call center operators that I am not running the software on more than one computer

    If I could buy a new machine, clone my hard drive and go, I would upgrade about three times as often

    • by Sir Holo (531007) on Friday April 12, 2013 @10:34PM (#43438067)
      MpVpRb: If I could buy a new machine, clone my hard drive and go, I would upgrade about three times as often.

      I've done that cloning trick multiple times with Macs, when moving from one lab to another, or upgrading a laptop. It is a beautiful experience.

      Or, if your new laptop has a newer OS, the Mac's Migration Assistant still makes moving over completely painless. I've done this a couple of times, too. Usually no applications barf or ask for activation, etc. And again, everything is where you left is. A beautiful experience.

      And, (now I'm sounding all fanboi), I recently smashed my iPhone. Bought a replacement, wiped the old one right there in the Store. Got home, plugged in the new phone, and iTunes figured out that I had a new iPhone. It copied the backup right over, along with apps, settings, old messages, etc. Everything right where I left it. So painless.
  • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Friday April 12, 2013 @10:28PM (#43438039)
    Indeed, there's little reason for anyone to buy a new PC anymore. I'm typing this up on a Core Duo 1.8Ghz with 3GB RAM. It's maybe not as snappy as my primary machine with an i7 and 8GB and awesome switchable VGAs, but it's still sufficiently capable for web dev and graphic design and certainly any office tasks. But I have a hard time believing that Windows 8 as no role in this ... it's a massive dose of WTF is this shit?

    Then enter the proliferation of tablets and smartphones, and suddenly a lot of people have no reason to own a fully-fledged computer. Why buy an over-featured device that will just add complication? If all you need is something for email and dicking around on FaceTwitstagramtrest, a tablet or smartphone is all you need. They are devices with interfaces designed for consumption with little interference of features. This is why mobile software mostly sucks and desktop software is so much more fully-featured. They are necessarily limited by their interfaces.

    If PC makers expect to live through this transition, they need to refocus their efforts to users who actually use their computers as computers, not glorified TV sets. No more shiny-ass, overstyled, glitzy shit laptops would be a nice start, ie.: go back to making this tidy [google.com], understated [google.com] and decidedly square, business-looking sort of thing [google.com], stop removing useful features [lenovo.com], give us the form factor we actually want [google.com] and stop making the godawful shiny, plasticky lumps of crippled shit that laptops are today.

    Oh, and please, please, PLEASE give us our 7-row desktop-style keyboards back! How does anyone actually manage to get anything done on these bullshit 6-row monstrosities?
  • by bored (40072) on Friday April 12, 2013 @11:46PM (#43438391)

    He is correct PC's have always been upgraded because the old ones wern't as nice/cheap as the new ones.

    The reasons he thinks new PC's aren't as nice as old ones are squarely the fault of the OEM's that think they can continue to sell the same shit they sold 5 years ago with tiny bumps for outrageous sums of money.

    The netbook market took off, when you could buy netbooks for $200. But the PC manufactures got scared and promptly started trying to sell them for $400-600.

    PC's were also places where the latest and greatest technology was available.

    Now the only PC manufacture selling new technology is apple. Please show me a windows machine with a monitor similar to the macbook pro. Where is thunderbolt? Oh yah on the mac. Today I can buy a $400 tablet from google with a better screen than any PC. Heck just about any tablet being sold today that isn't running windows has a better screen.

    Then there is windows8 of course...

    Bottom line, the PC manufactures have gotten fat/greedy selling garbage and they wonder why their sales have fallen off now that there are other competitors.

  • by caywen (942955) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @04:07AM (#43439203)

    Win8 bashing aside, I think there may be a new netbook revival coming. I actually think netbooks did a lot of cause these issues. People bought these $300 el cheapo WinXP / Win7 machines instead of shelling out $1000 for a quality machine. And they found that these things actually work pretty OK for what they are. So well that their expectations have adjusted - they'll shell out no more than $300-$400 for their new PC. This is after HP already cranked out tons of $799 el cheap PC's which set expectations low already.

    Then Intel comes in with $1000+ Ultrabooks, proclaiming a new birth of PC's. That didn't work.

    Which tells me that should Wintel produce a next generation of $350 netbooks, with touch and Bay Trail, perhaps some nicer design, they'd sell a lot of those. And this would be bad for Microsoft and its partners, because they really want you buying $1200+ PC's. A race to the bottom would be bad for the Wintel industry. But they'd sell.

    My wife is one of these users. She bought this crappy Acer Aspire some 4 years ago. She refuses to buy a quality PC - she even refuses to buy a tablet! But now she's looking for a replacement *netbook*, and if one came out she'd buy it in a heartbeat.

  • by ponos (122721) on Saturday April 13, 2013 @06:04AM (#43439465)

    The problem is not that MS launched a new OS that underwhelmed. The problem is that we have a machine with a ridiculous amount of CPU and GPU power compared with the portable shit (tablets and phones), yet we can't seem to put this power to meaningful use. I mean, if you don't to scientific computing or video/photo editing or gaming, what's the point of a PC over an underpowered piece of junk or a console? Software developers should really start thinking hard (yes, MS too). But I guess it's far easier developing 2D games for a shiny new platform than doing real innovation.

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."

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