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PC Sales See 'Longest Decline' In History 385

Posted by timothy
from the demand-elasticity-and-substitution dept.
dryriver writes "Global personal computer (PC) sales have fallen for the fifth quarter in a row, making it the 'longest duration of decline' in history. Worldwide PC shipments totalled 76 million units in the second quarter, a 10.9% drop from a year earlier, according to research firm Gartner. PC sales have been hurt in recent years by the growing popularity of tablets. Gartner said the introduction of low-cost tablets had further hurt PC sales, especially in emerging economies. 'In emerging markets, inexpensive tablets have become the first computing device for many people, who at best are deferring the purchase of a PC,' said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, said in a statement."
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PC Sales See 'Longest Decline' In History

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  • Whatever (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:35AM (#44249631)

    The PC is doomed, blah blah blah. All the grandma's are buying tablets. Anyone who does any real work are buying PC's or already have what they need. Nothing to see here.

  • by Brad1138 (590148) <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:37AM (#44249651)
    Computers made in the last 5 or so years are darn fast, and unless you are a hard core gamer, will be plenty fast for the next 5-10 years. I just built my father a modern computer in the hopes he won't need a new one for about 10 years.
  • definitions matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:39AM (#44249683) Journal

    For some reason, there still remains this weird claddistic requirement that "pc's" (ie desktops, I guess?), laptops, and other devices be all conceptualized in separate boxes. Or, it could just be that the companies that are paid to do this sort of info gathering (and sorting) aren't changing as fast as technology...?

    PC stands for 'personal computer', at least it did.

    The laptop was the evolution of the desktop into a more broadly useful form factor.

    The smartphone, and the pad device are precisely the same thing - just other points on the spectrum, not a whole different genus of computer.

    That said, then, if one were to include the counts of all such devices that have the computing power and utility of a desktop even as short as 10 years ago, I hardly believe that the "PC market" is in decline.

    One might even wonder then what the agenda is for such a naked contrivance to present the situation in such a gloomy light might be?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:40AM (#44249687)

    The PC is here to stay. What we are seeing is a longer life cycle. There is no need to update the hardware these days, there's plenty of power and storage for people writing the odd letter/email, social media and most games. Unless you're a developer or working with huge amounts of media data, PC users aren't going to notice a shit load of RAM, loads of cores CPU and a GPU capable of real-time Avatar level of rendering.

  • It isn't tablets (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:45AM (#44249761) Homepage Journal

    The main reason for the decline of PC sales is that PC's have gotten to the point where their useful life is far longer than it used to be. Other than bleeding edge gamers and enthusiasts, there is just no need to upgrade as often as people once did. The same applies more or less to businesses.

    Nearly every person I know who owns a smartphone and/or a tablet also has some sort of PC. I really don't think the portable device boom is the culprit here.

  • by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:48AM (#44249801)

    That is a truly misguided statement. Here's a better one:

    "Consumers use touch screens. Producers use keyboards."

    Good luck using a tablet for tasks such as Photoshop or Blender. Heck, even using a tablet to type out a proper letter could be classified as cruel and inhumane.

    The era of the PC is not over... only the era of the PC as an entertainment device.

  • by javakah (932230) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:50AM (#44249829)

    Well, more than that, they seem to have stalled in terms of getting much better. 4.5 years ago I built an i7 system. I've been used to getting a new computer every 2-3 years that blows the old one out of the water. This time however, there just hasn't really been much to upgrade to. The CPU specs are still competitive. We're still at quad cores. We've gone from tri-channel memory on the i7's to dual channel. I've upgraded the graphics card though.

    In the past, people would buy new computers because their old ones were made obsolete by new ones (so not necessarily because their old ones stopped working). This hasn't happened in a while, so why would people buy new computers that aren't an upgrade, if their old ones are still working?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:50AM (#44249835)

    What worries me is that if the PC market can't continuing making profit off volume sales, the prices of a computer (or its components) will go up. I'm still on core 2 due (hey, still works), and waiting for it to die so I can build something with 8-core.

  • by Tridus (79566) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:54AM (#44249905) Homepage

    At the end of the day, we just need fewer PCs than we used to:

    - People can do their "consumption" media (browsing, videos, etc) on tablets or phones. Don't need a PC for that.
    - People who use PCs for work have no reason to upgrade them as often as they used to, as the machines last for years and real world performance gains in hardware have slowed to a trickle. When most of my software is single-threaded, upgrading from dual core to quad core (or more) does absolutely nothing for me.
    - Even gamers don't need to upgrade that often, as requirements have stopped going up unless you want the ultra quality mode. A three year old gaming PC can still play everything new at high quality, and that's never been the case in the past.

    Add it all up, and we need fewer PCs today than we used to need. The ones we do need last longer than they used to. The market isn't going to go away, but it is going to become a lot smaller.

  • by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:57AM (#44249937)

    The laptop was the evolution of the desktop into a more broadly useful form factor.

    The smartphone, and the pad device are precisely the same thing - just other points on the spectrum, not a whole different genus of computer.

    I disagree. The evolution from PC -> tablet is at least as profound as the evolution from mainframe -> minicomputer -> PC. Tablets and smartphones are really more of media consumption devices, which go to great ends to de-emphasize composition of anything greater than a photo, SMS or tweet. Laptops were really just a mobility improvement, where tablets are an entirely different mode of usage.

  • by 0123456 (636235) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:58AM (#44249949)

    I suspect this is primarily because people who think of buying a new PC go to the store and see Windows 8 and think 'WTF? Why do I want a tablet interface on my 24" monitor?'

    In a vain attempt to gain a few percent market share on tablets, Microsoft are killing their PC cash cow.

  • by Pollux (102520) <`ge.ten.atadet' `ta' `reteps'> on Thursday July 11, 2013 @10:01AM (#44249999) Journal

    Perpetual exponential growth? Good luck with that.

    I would expect this to be obvious to the casual observer, but I guess not. So, let me enumerate:
    Primary reasons for the decline:

    1) The PC has been around now for over 20 years. It no longer possesses excitement and consumer appeal.
    2) SMARTPhones and tablets are better meeting the needs and desires of the consumer; their increasing sales are supplanting PC sales.
    3) The PC market is saturated, either due to consumer need or financial constraint. (Plenty of foreign markets have consumers but lack capital to meet the saturation levels of Western countries.)
    4) Digital product producers, online retailers, and brick & mortar stores have all been significantly marketing tablet and SMARTPhone devices to consumers while ignoring their traditional PC products.
    5) Tablets and SMARTPhones have much shorter average lifespans than traditional PCs, creating more consistant and continual demand for their replacement.

    Ergo, you have a very simple recipe for the decline of PC sales.

  • not correct (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slashmydots (2189826) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @10:03AM (#44250013)
    "PC sales have been hurt in recent years by the growing popularity of tablets."
    That's BS, it's Windows 8's fault entirely. This study doesn't count used PC resale or a drop in computer (scrap) recycling levels. Tablets replace laptops, not PCs. There is no drop because of tablets. It is completely Windows 8's fault.
  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @10:08AM (#44250075)

    Get an SSD.

    Dropping an SSD into a 4 year old machine will make a bigger difference than getting a new CPU for 90% of people.

  • by whizbang77045 (1342005) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @10:08AM (#44250077)
    Part of the longer life cycle is the lack of anything new with widespread appeal. Since Windows XP, the new versions have been lackluster. Sure, they draw a lot of really colorful pictures on the desktop. But they don't do much that couldn't already be done.

    The existing PCs are powerful enough for most users, and have been for years. Most users are running Word, EXCEL, or their open source equivalents. They've had enough speed and memory for years. New hardware buys them little more than a keyboard without fingerprints. New software actually slows the machine down due to all the glitz.

    Sure, there are a few people like me who want more speed for video processing, or other computational tasks,, but we're the exception, not the rule.
  • by tgd (2822) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @10:20AM (#44250231)

    The era of the PC is over. I'm not sure why anyone would be surprised at this.

    That's drawing a conclusion on shaky evidence.

    Drops in PC sales does't indicate that PC usage has dropped.

    The real issue is two things:
    - There's little in the way of new markets for generic computing devices. After 30 years, most of the population likely to ever have one have been served effectively by the companies selling them
    - In existing, saturated markets, there's declining reason to replace existing systems. The sweet spot of memory, storage, and CPU power has been met for the majority of the uses that people have them for. Gaming is really the only area pushing a need for new computers, and even that is arguable in most cases. (Peripheral sales like new video cards is doing just fine, as an example). Even things like editing HD video of the kids is done more than effectively with five year old hardware.

    That is the real problem. There's no need to upgrade a 3-4 year old system, short of hardware failures. The fact that even a small part of the market (and is IS very small) can do everything they need on a tablet, without a primary computer is more evidence that there's just no "new" uses that drive a need for new hardware, and a smaller "ultrabook" form factor isn't a compelling enough reason to get people to cough up $1k.

    Fact is, other then web surfing, most of the things people have always used PCs for they still need to use PCs for. You can't store a terabyte of family video and photos on a tablet. If you have a Windows tablet, I suppose you could use an external drive. Wireless NAS is just too slow. You're not, generally, going to tap your way through your taxes on a little tablet.

    PC era isn't over, but the era of 18-24 month lifespan for PCs is. If that doubles, then sales have to drop in half.

  • by tgd (2822) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @10:22AM (#44250245)

    The PC is here to stay. What we are seeing is a longer life cycle. There is no need to update the hardware these days,

    Hold on there why does anyone say this....I want more powerful hardware and can use it. Where is my 4X 1080P 24" touchscreen monitor, with keyboard with LED keys with these futuristic storage sizes with android compatibility...at a price I can afford.

    Those are new monitors, not new PCs. You proved the GP's point. You talk about more powerful hardware, and listed nothing that actually involves replacing the PC. You just need to replace the peripherals.

  • win8 and UEFI (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ka9dgx (72702) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @10:28AM (#44250341) Homepage Journal
    The combination of Windows 8 and UEFI BIOS makes it now impossible to buy a general purpose PC in a typical retail store. The new machines won't boot linux or Win7.

    Who would buy a PC you can't use?

  • by Larry_Dillon (20347) <dillon,larry&gmail,com> on Thursday July 11, 2013 @10:28AM (#44250343) Homepage

    Many people are finding that they didn't need a PC in the first place when all they do is light web browsing and posting on Facebook. Previous to the smartphone/tablet, they needed a PC to do that. I think we'll see more special-purpose devices taking over functions that were previously relegated to the general-purpose PC.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday July 11, 2013 @10:46AM (#44250527) Journal

    Kinda doubt it, with the chips an idle fab is still gonna cost a pretty penny and I think he have reached pretty damned close to the limits on die shrinks, so they'll still crank out enough chips that I doubt prices will climb much beyond what we see now.

    But as someone down in the trenches those pundits with their "Death of the PC,grandma is buying tablets" bullshit? hey morons, it was a BUBBLE and like all bubbles it had to burst, what we are seeing now at around 200-400 million units a year is the NORMAL STATE, its only the bubble that is over. this is as stupid as somebody saying "Well you can't flip houses for instant 40% profit anymore,houses must be dying". Its total horseshit.

    For those that missed the memo the MHz wars created a bubble, with single core speeds so easy for your even less than average programmer able to take advantage of we went from a pre-bubble lifespan of 5-7 years for a PC to one where a PC would be damned lucky if it lasted even 3 because the chips were advancing so fast a PC that was just 2 years old would struggle to run the latest programs. When we switched to cores because taking advantage of SMP is anything BUT easy, with many programs simply not able to thread, and the number of cores jumping so fast? The programs quickly got blown away by the hardware.

    I mean look at what my cheapest build was FIVE years ago...Phenom or Athlon X3 with 4GB of RAM and 500GB HDDs...how many folks will be able to slam that setup enough to need a new one? I have a customer that does extremely intricate Solidworks robot design on a Phenom I X3 and he is happy as a clam with the performance. even myself, who is the major multitasker and rarely have less than 4 things running at once and who built a new PC every year and a half like clockwork, what am I running? A 4 year old Phenom X6 with 8GB of RAM and 3TB of HDD space which no matter how much I throw at it has cycles to spare so other than the GPU upgrade I'll be getting in the fall why would I build a new one? On the mobile side I lucked into one of those AMD E350 netbooks, gets nearly 5 hours on its 3 year old battery and does 1080P over HDMI, why would I buy a bulky new full size?

    So despite the "sky is falling ZOMFG!" articles that I'm half convinced is being encouraged by Ballmer trying to burn MSFT to the ground by forcing them to become Apple (like folks are gonna pay $1000+ for walled Windows gardens, not likely fat boy) PCs aren't going anywhere, now that the bubble is burst folks will just be going back to the 5-7 year cycle. if anything not only have I not met a single person that is "getting rid of the PC" (and since I'm supplementing my PC work with home theater I'd have plenty of opportunities) but its the opposite, even the kids have their own PCs, they have PCs up the ying yang...which is of course why they aren't buying as many, because that 6 year old Pentium D or first gen Athlon X2 still surfs the web just fine,runs Win 7 just fine,so why fix what I ain't broke?

  • Re:Whatever (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @10:51AM (#44250575) Homepage

    The PC is doomed, blah blah blah. All the grandma's are buying tablets. Anyone who does any real work are buying PC's or already have what they need. Nothing to see here.

    Yep. Most computer users turned out to be media consumers who a) don't need the hassle of maintaining a PC, and b) like the size/shape of tablets.

    The sky won't fall. This "fatal" decline will level off soon when everybody finally figures out which camp they're in.

  • The PC is not dead (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kimvette (919543) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @10:51AM (#44250581) Homepage Journal

    The PC is not dead. For Windows, it was nearly perfected with Windows 7. Intel's Core i5 and i7 plus NVIDIA or AMD GPUs + 16GB RAM + SSD deliver the computing power of supercomputers from just a few years ago, and complete everyday tasks almost instantly. Why do people need to buy a PC that is only marginally faster, only to downgrade to Windows 8.n which is user-hostile on the desktop?

    Tablets are new and rapidly advancing and people are buying them to do many things (snapshots, social networking, light web browsing) on the go, on their sofa, etc. but not to actually replace their PCs. Nearly any PC made in the last five years is "good enough" so why replace it before it fails?

    The PC isn't dead; the market is simply saturated with computers that are finally "good enough" and a new computer is a downgrade thanks to Microsoft forcing the tablet UI upon everyone. I've had to install Classic Shell for Windows 8 users who are novices and complained the OS is unusable, so you can't convince me at all that Windows 8 is good for newbies.

    Then for business, the Metro^H^H^H^H^HModern interface breaks usability and productivity; Windows 2.0's "innovative" overlapping windows (not so innovative actually - it was copied from Amiga) is removed. I don't know about you but when I am doing any kind of sysadmin or development work, I often have five to seven applications open, often overlapped so I can read documenation as I write scripts and code, or even work on spreadsheets.

    I'd like Windows 8 if it came with the Aero interface and still supported glass, and the touch UI could be enabled as a choice - or even if it were the default and could be turned off, and if Metro apps could be moved around freely rather than be confined to full screen or tiled. I don't know about you, but even if I cared about touch screens on desktops and laptops, it would be a very secondary UI for me, because I want to keep my hands on the keyboard and mouse. I'm not new to touch screens either - I've been a PDA/tablet fan since WinCE. I own PocketPC (which I still use on occasion), iOS, and Android PDAs and tablets, and have used Windows XP tablets and each is great for its purpose, but when I did use the XP tablet as a desktop, I docked it and used only the keyboard and mouse. I never once used the touch screen while it was docked, nor would I bother with Win8's touch screen on a desktop or laptop.

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @10:54AM (#44250609) Homepage

    This. They can end up going up to the point that only businesses can afford them.

    On the plus side, we might be able to move away from the awful glossy-widesceen-with-awful-keyboard models that the public have been forcing on us for the last few years.

  • by BenJeremy (181303) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @11:03AM (#44250765)

    Performance isn't as much of a factor any more - a 7 year old PC will browse the web and get your e-mail just as well as a brand new one. Monitor resolutions are stagnating at 1080p... video cards that are 3 generations old still play games great on single 1080p monitors.

    In short, for most people (gaming enthusiasts and developers excluded), older PCs still work fine, so WHY UPGRADE?

    Yeah, maybe a new PC will boot in 10 seconds, or that office app will launch in 50% of the time as the old one, but when that 50% is only another 2 seconds, who cares?

    There was a time when improvements in PCs were more dramatic - you could FEEL the change performance between one PC and the next, but we've entered an era of diminishing returns with those performance improvements. Sure, we will see good improvements in media encoding time, or see lag on a game that is run on 3 monitors, but most people don't do these things all the time, or even some of the time.

    This is why PC sales have dropped. Everybody who needs a computer has them, and most people are ok with the computer they have, until it breaks down. This obviously will slow down sales.

  • by BasilBrush (643681) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @11:14AM (#44250893)

    PC stands for 'personal computer', at least it did.

    As far as I'm concerned PC derives from IBM PC. It's a PC if it's an IBM PC, a clone, or one of it's descendants. So it's CPU will be in on of the x86 compatible descendants. And it's firmware will be BIOS, or one of it's descendants such as UEFI (that emulates BIOS for compatibility.)

    The rule of thumb is that a PC is a machine that can run the x86 build of DOS and/or Windows natively.

    ARM based tablets are not PCs. iPad is not a PC. Android tablets aren't PCs. The Microsoft Surface that runs Windows RT isn't a PC. The one that runs Windows 8 is a PC.

  • by evilviper (135110) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @11:16AM (#44250911) Journal

    Ummm IBM iDataplex, and yea it's a PC with infiniband...

    That's because it's just a server, definitely NOT a mainframe. Just because IBM sells it doesn't make it a mainframe. IBM's mainframes are under the "z" Series.

    And look at the top500 and you'll see them all over the place.

    The Top500 is a list of the highest-performing systems. In other word HPC. It's NOT a list of mainframes. The Top 500 doesn't CARE about mainframes at all, as evidenced by their benchmark being purely number-crunching, with NO attempt to record I/O performance, which is the specialty of mainframes.

    Slashdot... Lots of fools who know just enough to be dangerous.

  • by Meeni (1815694) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @11:29AM (#44251091)

    Not niche, it is becoming an appliance. Everybody already have one. The exponential growth and amazement period has passed. So you keep what you have until it breaks. There is no (big) money to make on this kind of market anymore. It is just another mature market, like dishwashers. We are seeing the transition from boom market to appliance market.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday July 11, 2013 @11:29AM (#44251097) Journal

    You don't have that for the same reason screens have settled on 720p and 1080p, the masses frankly see no need in going any higher and aren't gonna pay the early adopter penalty to get the economies of scale to get bigger and badder as the new standard. Hell my netbook is 1366x768 and I can see why, when I'm mobile its just fine,I'm not gonna go spend crazy money just to get a higher rez when all i want is to do the service call and go back to the shop.

    But one correction, MSFT didn't "turn" the PC into anything, despite MSFT trying to shove their shit in our face like the "Deep Wang" bit in Transformers 3 Windows 8 is doing worse than Vista did and Win 8.1 looks to be the first double flop in history. Oh they WISH they had done that, so they could jack prices to Apple levels, but in reality every retailer and e-Tailer is saying "We have Win 7 here!" so all MSFT has done is killed a LOT of sales and honestly gave the pirates a hell of a boost, pirate win 7 slapped on win 8 systems is starting to become the norm, at least in my area.

    And I don't see anybody "running to Android", what I see is people refusing to pay MSFT for an ad-laden cellphone OS so they are just sticking with what they have. Most every person i have met doesn't "like" their Android or iToy, they tolerate it. This is why plenty of laptops still selling, anything more than a quick Google on those phones and it quickly gets irritating for most folks but with even the low end laptops have dual cores there just isn't a reason to upgrade as often.

  • by malvcr (2932649) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @11:44AM (#44251285)
    When the prices depend on quantity and all the people that can purchase a good computer already have one, then the sales are doomed. There are several solutions to this dilemma:

    --- Create "almost good" computers that will work for you only for a while. Let's see. ... cheaper netbooks with slow processors and limited storage. Oh, this was already done, but makers like to sell them as the notebooks the really are not.
    --- Create "disposable" devices. This is how the printer business is shaped. They could work more time, but their chips decide not to continue working ... fill the planet with trash and doom yourself or your descendants in the future.
    --- Create "durable" machines, making them more expensive in the first moment, but cheaper on the long term. And develop an "update and DIY repairing business" around it. Again, as the printers industry, do $$$ with the ink, not with the printer, or the car industry do with their regular checkpoints and the replacement part industry. Try to be "the dentist".
    --- Order your goals. Mobile, Desktop ... break the separations between them, the truth is that there is a limited quantity of people on this planet and no mater how attractive you paint the image, when all them have what they need, no need to have more. If you are a serious user, what is the "real" difference between an iPhone4 and an iPhone5? ... both do their jobs well ... the same for Samsung S3 and S4, etc.
    --- Sell what you can sell ... do added value on top of that. This industry is so extremely disordered that is a miracle we are still alive. Let's see ... Windows native format for external hard disks NTFS ... OSX native format for external hard disks HPFS+ ... Windows can't read HPFS+, OSX can write NTFS disks ... there is no technical reason for this difference because Linux read whatever and write wherever ... pure ego.

    Yeah, there are solutions ... but people need to think better their ways of doing the things.

    Last economic crisis is not a joke, and how the ice is melting in our poles neither. The industries can't continue selling as they are doing now, this is nonsense.

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