Are PCs Going Extinct?

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PC computers
PC makers better learn to start thinking outside of the box.

Computer sales continue to slip, especially closer to home, as companies cautiously watch their spending and consumers flock to "good enough" tablets and smartphones for their basic computing needs.

That isn't just an opinion. Studies back it up, and the earnings reports out of the big PC makers later this month will likely confirm the trend.

Industry tracker Gartner issued its PC shipment report for the quarter ending in June on Wednesday afternoon, and it wasn't pretty. The number of PCs shipped worldwide during the past three months fell 0.1% compared to the same three months in 2011.

Oh, and that's the good news.

Gartner's study shows that 15.9 million PCs were shipped in this country during the quarter, a sobering 5.7% decline from the number of units moving during last year's second quarter. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Acer, and Toshiba all suffered double-digit percentage declines. Dell (DELL) suffered a 9.5% decline in the number of PCs it shipped during the period.

Apple (AAPL) was the lone gainer among the five largest PC players in this country, but even that 4.3% advance is a far cry from the growth that Apple is experiencing with its other product lines.

'Good Enough' Is More Than Enough

This isn't necessarily a troubling sign for the economy. It's merely confirmation of the trend that has been emerging over the past couple of years with Web-savvy smartphones and tablets replacing the functionality that many users previously expected out of their PCs.

Folks relying on their PCs for rigorous spreadsheet crunching, design work, and even gaming may not be ready to let go of their desktops and laptops, but there's a growing segment of the market that's just fine with browsing the Web, checking email, and playing apps. This is part of the "good enough" computing trend where cheap tablets and accessible smartphones are sufficient to get the job done.

PC sales in this country have been running negative for several quarters, yet tens of millions of smartphones and tablets are finding their way into our lives.

It's too soon to compare the desktop computer to the VHS machine or vinyl record player, but we keep taking steps in that direction.


Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple and creating a bull call spread position in Apple.

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27 Comments

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mikejarosz

People who have never used a computer for anything other than entertainment make these kinds of comments. They are utterly unaware of any other use for a computer. When entertainment fashion dictates they move to some other even more superficial form of entertainment, off they go, wisecracking about "dinosaurs".

At my office, I have work that can take a 64 bit machine with max memory as much as 4 days to calculate a result, working 24/7. If fact, I see business and scientific computing moving to a centralized cloud that does all the heavy lifting and users accessing the cloud with laptops or hand held devices to view the results. This paradigm isn't far off from the old mainframe/terminal arrangement of the past. Relieved of the burden of delivering violent action games and porn to a superficial audience, computers can go back to solving the serious problems of our times.

Anyone following this thread ever heard of the simplex method of linear optimization?

August 10 2012 at 12:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
April Atkins

We can't blame people since they're really aiming for a convenient life. This is why laptops and tablets were made and out of the market. Anyway, when I'm at home I would still love to use PC rather than laptop since the screen is not too big or small and very comfortable to use.
http://www.iquestintl.com

July 18 2012 at 10:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rjrj66

What's a PC grandpa?

July 15 2012 at 9:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rjrj66's comment
eldesthand

Well junior, it's device for using computer power for than just masturbating and going online. At one time Americans built and designed bridges, buildings and factories. Ancient professions such as engineers, mathematicians, and scientists used them to calculate answers to complex algorithms and other equations. Some of them were so important they couldn't be trusted to a cloud, and rainbows, and fairies. Fortunately, you don't have to worry about it, those jobs all moved to Asia. You can go play with your flash mob now.

July 17 2012 at 4:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MickeyV

My organization uses Citrix Wyse terminals. Everything driven by Citrix. Cheaper, Centralized administration, control what apps people can/ need to access. Save a document?...Save to the network/cloud. Access anywhere from a browser.

July 15 2012 at 8:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
manfac12

The PC is going the way of VHS Recorder . Why have the harware when `the cloud' could do the heavy lifting for you .

July 14 2012 at 10:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Vince

Maybe I'm just old school. But, I bank online and wouldn't even consider logging onto a secure site with a device that isn't wired.

July 14 2012 at 2:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wp41e

Not likely. PC's will always exist. They are more powerful more useful, cheaper to buy and maintain and more secure than any other type of common computing device. They are also more cumbersome to steal and therefore less valuable to thieves. For business or commercial applications they simply make more sense.

Some people thought that the invention of the screw would mean the end of nails, or that the zipper would doom the button or that the microwave oven would obsolete the stove and yet none of this has happened.

July 14 2012 at 12:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sequoia1952

0.1% is like "nothing" - I'll always have a PC, never a laptop, etc!
Claude DeMoss
San Jose CA

July 14 2012 at 12:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Leighton

Drop the price on new PC's and watch the no's go up.

July 13 2012 at 8:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jhrooney

The biggest drawbacks to all the tablets and IPhones is security and spectrum. Security is self explanatory, spectrum on the other hand, means the more users, the slower it gets. Good enough sounds like a throwback to email, text, and limited browsing is just fine. However, you better find a real good hotspot to watch a movie. If thats good enough then enjoy. I don't see that well anymore so my 17" laptop will work for a long time yet.

July 13 2012 at 8:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply