Ever since (God bless his soul) former Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave the world the ‘death of the PC’ idea, the battle knives have been drawn. They became sharper when former HP CEO Leo Apothekar said that the company’s PC business would be on its way out; and he was himself on his way out a few weeks later! There are those who are already into a state of mourning, there are those who are also in a state of rejoicing and then there are those who are in a state of denial (Dell’s top boss Michael Dell among them) and prefer to quote Mark Twain for now, who said that the reports of his death were “greatly exaggerated”! Well, my own PC would additionally make the compelling argument that I am writing this cover story on one!
So there are two basic questions that everyone is seeking or providing answers to. One is whether the PC is on its last legs. And the second is how the entire system is going to evolve in the coming years and the winners that it’s going to churn out. Actually, within the very story of this transformational era lie the answers to both questions. So let us tackle them as we move along.
As far as sheer numbers go, a decline in sales of 1.1% yoy in PC sales (including desktops, mobile computers and mini notebooks) in the first quarter to 85.18 million units (Gartner) this year did send alarm bells ringing. As far as the latest quarter goes (ending September 2011), 88.95 million units were sold globally, a growth of 3.2% yoy but below Gartner’s own projections of 5.1% growth. The Europe, Middle East & Africa segment saw a yoy decline by 2.9%, A-Pac saw a growth of 6% while Latin America saw a growth of 19.6%. When you contrast this with the tablet space, it is projected that they are expected to sell 63.6 million units in 2011, an insane 261.4% increase yoy. Ranjit Atwal, Research Director, Gartner, opined, “More worrisome for the long term is that Generation Y has an altogether different view of client devices than older generations and are not buying PCs as their first, or necessarily main device."