If you have been thinking that the recent advancement in technology has resulted in skyrocketing profits for every player in the computer business, you will undoubtedly be shocked to learn that shipments of desktops and laptops have been on a steady decline since 2012.
According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), 2016 was the toughest year yet for the personal computer, as sales dropped 10% in the year’s fourth quarter, despite the back-to-school season. Ironically, 2016 also saw the highest number of new PC releases, as all the key brands joined hands to try and pull up the industry.
But why have PC shipments been going downhill?
The IDC blames this drastic shrinkage in sales on a couple of factors:
Smartphones and tablets
A few years ago, when smartphones hit the shelves, they were nothing more than luxury items. The first gadgets had limited features and were immensely underpowered in comparison to the PC. Today, however, you can waltz into a shop and buy a smartphone that is just as capable, if not more than your computer.
So, the smartphone has caught up with the PC regarding everyday performance and features. People can work on documents, check emails, and browse the Internet from anywhere. But then came the issue of functionality.
Smartphone screens were simply not large enough for productivity, and the small touchscreen keyboards could never be used to type for long hours. The PC had finally acquired back its relevance.
Regardless, it did not take smartphone manufacturers a long time to regain their fighting spirit, and henceforth, the tablet was born. This new device offered more screen size than the phone, and although it couldn’t fit in a regular pocket, it was still much more portable than the average laptop.
PC makers then realized where the ship was headed. Of course, there was the constant thirst for more power. But what customers wanted, even more, was the convenience that came with a compact computing device.
2-in-1s have, therefore, achieved tremendous success. However, even this hasn’t been enough to drive the growth of the overall PC market.
The free Windows 10 update
Contrary to HPs belief that Windows 10 would inspire users to buy more PCs, the unveiling of the OS as a free update to the universally panned Windows 8 and the slightly better Windows 8.1 has contributed significantly to the market’s decline.
Before Windows 10, the sale of PCs used to surge when a new version was released, mainly because rather than purchasing the OS and installing it on old hardware, many were choosing to buy a new computer altogether, with the new operating system preinstalled.
Because Microsoft opted to make their latest platform free to all Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 users, however, potential customers now had the alternative of delaying a PC replacement by simply downloading a free Windows 10 update.
The latest Windows version, therefore, now has a minimal say in the computer market, and is no longer that much of a compelling reason to upgrade your system.
Modern PCs simply last longer
In their quest for supremacy, IDC argues that PC manufacturers are partly to blame for their own demise. The cut-throat competition among brands has led to durable products capable of withstanding the test of time.
And this unfortunate durability doesn’t only apply to the hardware. If you pay a visit to several corporate offices downtown, you will still find computers running Windows 7, or even Windows XP. XP may be unsupported by Microsoft, but it still works fine. Business owners have realized that with a reliable IT guy, a typical PC can last for years.
Customers are therefore not buying new PCs as often as they used to in the past. Why? Because computers have become like household electronics. Their lifespan has increased. Modern PCs sure have more to offer, but with no life-changing leaps in the technology, many people are just not seeing the need to upgrade from their perfectly working devices.
Issues like a weak world economy and unfriendly markets have played a part in reduced PC sales, but other industries have also suffered the same challenges.
What to expect in 2017?
Despite previous shortcomings, the new year is scheduled to bring good tidings to the PC business.
The continued success of ultrabooks and hybrids
2016 was a good year for the 2-in-1 because it saw the release of critically and commercially successful devices. The king of the lot was the Surface Pro 4, an outstanding piece of technology that succeeded in showing the world exactly what hybrids are capable of.
We, therefore, expect more manufacturers to make entry into the field, as the already existing players perfect their game. While this year’s ultrabooks and 2-in-1s may not necessarily deliver the PC from the economic hole it is currently experiencing, they are probably its best hope of survival.
Increased business PC sales
Since the last decade, corporations were always eager to upgrade their systems with every release of a new OS version, and Microsoft never disappointed. That was until Windows 8 hit the shelves. While consumer reception was polarized, businesses unanimously avoided the update due to the drastic changes in the interface, as well as instability concerns.
Windows 8.1 seemingly addressed some previously criticized aspects of Windows 8, but many offices opted to stick with the perfect Windows 7 Professional.
Because of its predecessor’s failed attempts to appeal to business users, therefore, Windows 10 was not embraced right away. However, thanks to continued efforts by Microsoft to improve the OS for better functionality, performance, and security, some workplaces are gradually making the leap from Windows 7.
Windows 10 has now been around for a while, and we expect more and more businesses to embrace it as a reliable tool for productivity as well as the preferred OS for most popular gaming PC’s. Consequently, more business laptops and desktops will be produced and purchased this year.
Will PC shipments recover?
Despite the hopeful surge in the sale of ultrabooks, 2-in-1s, and work-oriented PCs, projections still point to further weakening by the end of the year. That said, the industry is expected to suffer at a much slower rate than it has been in the recent past.
The PC might be losing, but the war is far from over.