As Internet Traffic Grows, PCs Risk Being Left Behind

When you have a smartphone, an iPad (or another brand of tablet), and an Internet-connected TV, will you really need a PC? Today, the answer is probably yes. But, at least in the consumer market, the PC is in danger of being left behind.

That's what I got out of the data {complink 1131|Cisco Systems Inc.} published on June 1 in its fifth annual Visual Networking Index Forecast, an attempt to predict trends based on a combination of analyst projections, Cisco's own estimates and forecasts, and direct data collection.

The main finding: The amount of Internet traffic continues to explode, and that traffic is increasingly using vehicles other than the PC. If the forecast is even close to accurate, it spells continued prosperity for companies that build the Internet infrastructure and consumer electronics, particularly mobile devices, while indicating that PC manufacturers had better diversify, and fast.

By 2015, according to the forecast:

  • Total global Internet traffic will quadruple, reaching 966 exabytes, almost one zettabyte, per year.
  • The number of network-connected devices will be more than 15 billion, twice the world's population. There will be two networked devices per capita, up from one per capita last year.
  • Internet users will number nearly 3 billion, more than 40 percent of the world's projected population.
  • Average fixed broadband speed is expected to increase fourfold, from 7 megabits per second in 2010 to 28 Mbit/s in 2015.
  • One million video minutes — the equivalent of 674 days — will traverse the Internet every second.
  • Average global IP traffic will reach 245 terabytes per second, equivalent to 200 million people streaming an HD movie simultaneously every day.
  • Global mobile Internet data traffic will increase 26 times from 2010 levels to 6.3 exabytes per month.

Two of the most important trends noted in the report show how new devices are gaining on the PC. Read these numbers and you understand why PC manufacturers are desperately trying to gain traction in the tablet market.

First, more and more Internet traffic is coming from devices other than PCs. Last year, only 3 percent of consumer Internet traffic originated from non-PC devices, but by 2015 the non-PC share of consumer Internet traffic will grow to 13 percent. PC-originated traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 33 percent, while TVs, tablets, smartphones, and machine-to-machine (M2M) modules will have traffic growth rates of 101 percent, 216 percent, 144 percent, and 258 percent, respectively.

If you look at video on the Internet, the swing away from PCs is even stronger. At the end of 2010, 92 percent of Internet video traffic originated from PCs. By 2015, that is expected to drop to 79 percent, with more than one-fifth of Internet video traffic coming from non-PC devices. By 2015, TVs will account for over 18 percent of Internet video traffic, demonstrating the growth in the adoption of Web-enabled TVs.

Second, the device mix is becoming increasingly portable and wireless. Last year, wired devices still accounted for most of the IP traffic — some 63 percent. But by 2015, traffic from wireless devices is expected to exceed wired, with WiFi and mobile devices accounting for 54 percent versus only 46 percent for wired.

As the number and types of devices on the Internet continue to mushroom, the traditional PC is looking more and more like a dinosaur. Do you think it will survive? What should the traditional PC makers do to avoid extinction?

— Tam Harbert has been covering electronics since the dawn of surface-mount technology. She lives online at .

25 comments on “As Internet Traffic Grows, PCs Risk Being Left Behind

  1. Nemos
    June 7, 2011

    You just described a disaster …. Assuming this scenario becomes true it will not hurt only the PC market but also the ISP providers. Don't forget that when I use a PC to have access on the internet I use an isp provider but when I use my tablet or my mobile phone to have access on the internet, I am going through a 3G/ mobile network. And I know in many countries that isp providers is not wep providers and vice versa.

    What I am trying to say is if this scenario becomes true will shake the market. 

  2. Barbara Jorgensen
    June 7, 2011

    PC makers will have to do what they did when the PC moved off the desktop. Adapt, adapt, adapt. DEC missed the mark–HP eventually caught on. Or maybe the answer is acquire, acquire, acquire. Compaq acquired DEC; HP acquired Compaq, and so on. I'll probably be counted among the dinosaurs–I choose not to use my phone for most of the things I do on my PC. And Internet-enabled TVs are still fixed in one place, not mobile. I think this might be an exaggeration. It will happen, but I think there will be some market rationalization before the PC's demise.

  3. Hardcore
    June 7, 2011

    Hi Tam,

    An interesting article, really I think what we are actually seeing is the 'plebs' moving on.

    When computers were first released, it was mainly  hobbyists and scientists/students that were using the computer systems, gradually over time significantly more people started to find out about these  wonderful computer thingies.

    Then the internet explosion, free porn  and the gradual explosion of shopping and media followed by socially interactive websites where you could amaze people with inane details of your self and life.

    All this required computer hardware, routers & modems, resulting in a massive demand for such equipment (a bit like TV's with remote controls)

    What we are seeing now are devices that allow a continuation of this sort of behavior without the need to carry about a laptop or full blown PC, it is not that PC's are any less useful it is just that the large majority of users did not actually need a PC in the first place but rather the services they could access via the hardware.

    I think that we will see PC  hardware decline to a level that reflects the true user-ship of the product, since currently there are absolutely no mobile devices or screen formats that can replace the original PC hardware format for power users,(those people that are using a PC for the original purpose (Research)).

    That is not to say that researchers do not require mobile devices or do not find them useful but rather they are still tied to the more powerful hardware.

    What might be interesting would be an analysis of the 'decline' plotted against the use of the PC, and there I think we would clearly see the mass migration from pc's by people who were not really using them for anything constructive in the first place.





  4. eemom
    June 7, 2011

    In my household, we own a variety of the technology mentioned in the article.  TV that is connected to the internet, multiple smartphones, iPad, wireless laptops and so on.  While I use the smartphones and the iPad to access the Internet, I cannot imagine doing my job or fulfilling any of my other personal or volunteer commitments without my Laptop.  I see the desktop dying quickly but I still feel that the market for PCs will be strong for sometime to come.

  5. Tam Harbert
    June 7, 2011

    @ Hardcore. I like your analysis. If you're right, it won't be the demise of the PC market but it will be a signficant contraction. And Nemos has an excellent point about Internet access – it may spell trouble for ISPs and boom times for 3G/4G networks. Thanks for the interesting comments!

  6. prabhakar_deosthali
    June 8, 2011

    The proliferation of mobile devices such as the laptops, smart phones and tablets is going to create a shift away from the PCs for those people for whom the PC was the means of just the communications – emails, chatting, video-conferencing. But the big chunk of the PC users who use the PC for their work – Software development, Chip design, CAD/CAM. Architectural and civil design, Mathematical modeling and simulation, working on graphics and animation, all these professionals continue to use those power PCs on their desktops. Some of the business users may shift to the cloud computing environment but these individual professionals are more likely to stay with the PC as their main tool for their work.

  7. saranyatil
    June 8, 2011


    I agree with you there is still lot of potential for PC's, My design colleagues find it easy to work with big PC's.

    June 8, 2011

    Going by the market valuations PCs are already left behind.

    • Microsoft (MSFT): $201.59 billion
    • Intel (INTC): $115.21 billion
    • Apple (AAPL): $317.60 billion

    In the home, PCs will disappear and be replaced by more customized smart appliances.  in the workplace PCs will disappear as soon as somebody figures out a better user interface than the conventional keyboard.  Ever seen the movie “Minority Report (2002)”….they had no keyboards.

  9. Daniel
    June 8, 2011

    Technology is growing very fast. When I was in my upper primary class (1990) our school got a PC from federal government, as an initiative to introduce to students. School authorities kept the PC in our lab with in glass cabin. They never allow us even to touch the machine and now the scenario is entirely changed.  As per the report, most of the PC’s are replaced by laptops and tablets. So technology is growing very fast and introducing new appliances to the market having more computing power.

  10. Jay_Bond
    June 8, 2011

    I think PC's still have a chance for household use. As companies start making laptops and desktops with touch screens, it will peak the interest of some buyers who were sitting on the fence. PC's will continue to be strong in the workforce. I have a laptop connected to a docking station and external monitor. This allows me to have 2 screens at once if I choose. PC's biggest challenge isn't with the business world, but with regular consumers that just want internet access and don't need a full size keyboard or monitor. Smartphone’s and tablets give them all they want in a compact size with easy portability.

  11. tioluwa
    June 8, 2011

    I agree that PC's are fading out in homes, and that is good enough. If you want to keep in touch on social network, you don't need a PC. if you want to upload, download media,  you don't need a PC, all forms of entertainment features now no longer need a PC. So yes, PCs will fade in homes.

    However, in the work place, PC's are also at risk of being faced out by tablets. As organizations grow and individual tasks become more specific, it would be easier for workers to simply use tablets to work, update information and keep in touch.

    However, no one will use a smartphone or tablet to manage a Web Server for example. Tablets are also limited in functionality for applications needing very high memory and speed like advance graphic and image processing, audio processing and mixing, complex design works and the likes.

    PCs will still be needed there.

    the point is simply, the average person will soon have no need for a PC.

  12. mfbertozzi
    June 8, 2011

    Internet traffic is growing and this is a fact, but I believe is important to consider a huge part of the traffic is generated using personal devices instead of personal computer. Maybe it should be better to move the discussion on that point: the matter is the way to move features and functionalities inside PCs in the past, to personal and portable devices. And the advent of cloud and grid could in a theoretical way, speed up that process.

  13. AnalyzeThis
    June 8, 2011

    @FLYINGSCOT, I think it's silly to say that PC's will disappear. They won't. Maybe it will be less common to have PC's at home (although I would think most people would want a PC and its large amount of storage space to stream video, store pictures, backup data, etc.), but to walk into an office where everybody is using tablets? No way. Accountants fiddling with tablets, trying to crunch numbers would be ridiculous.

    Mock the keyboard/mouse all you want, but if there were a more productive user interface for business I think we'd have discovered it by now. Perhaps keyboards will be replaced eventually, but it won't be replaced by touchscreens. And something out of “Minority Report” seems unlikely as well, even if that did happen, it’s way, way off.

    PCs will be fine. Also people forget about, you know, the rest of the world… where PC use makes far more sense than expensive, easily damaged, short-lifespan'd tablets.

    Tablets are not a PC replacement: they are complimentary to PC's.

  14. Ms. Daisy
    June 8, 2011

    Dennis Q;

    I support the fact that PCs will still be a necessity in many areas at least in healthcare and finance. I recently travelled to West Africa and had to do some work that requires my using electronic health information that is here int the US. My portable smart phone was unable to carry all the EHI but was able to log into my PC through the remote desktop accessory using my desktop PC here in the States as the platform. So the portable gadgets have their limitations and the PC will always have its place. Yes, the PC use for mundane things will be reduced because we all want portable and wireless “toys”.

  15. SunitaT
    June 9, 2011

    I think PC's still have a chance for household use.


    I think it depends because many people dont want to buy PC's because they feel it occupies a bigger space. Moreover notebooks and tablets give them that extra comfort of mobility.

  16. itguyphil
    June 9, 2011

    I don't necessarily agree with that. Desktop PCs have gotten significantly smaller and space-conscious over the years. Also, I don't know how often home users feel the need to be mobile in their homes with their computers.

  17. Adeniji Kayode
    June 11, 2011

    You are right, I still believe that some of this smart devices still depend on PC one way or the other.

  18. Adeniji Kayode
    June 11, 2011

    Do you mean to say we should expect the same friction in that movie to become reality so soon? while It seem this topic on PC.IPAD and other related topic seems not really having a final conclusion yet, I think the best Judge will be Time,What of if PC come up with someting else too?

  19. Adeniji Kayode
    June 11, 2011


    you are right, but the question still remains that are all these new smart devices solving the same problem and doing the same tasks as PC?

  20. Adeniji Kayode
    June 11, 2011

    Good point Jay_bond,and I agree with you on that. That means larger percentage are moving toward the smart deviced while other still maintain the use of PC for their business tasks.

    Dont you think business world too might start to buy the idea of portability and comfortabilty of these smart devices and start to look for ways of incorporating them in to businesses

  21. Adeniji Kayode
    June 11, 2011

    Good point Tioluwa, I agree with you but i,m also thinking that can all these smart devices still work independently of PC.

    I was thinking of conversion of files from one format to the other which can not be done except with a PC,how do you put video files on your Ipad without a pc ,or except you download directly form the internet.

    The question still remains that can these smart devices really work without PC being involved one way or the other

  22. Adeniji Kayode
    June 11, 2011

    Dennis Q, you really made a good point of that and you are right too. Do you know that all this comparism so far on PC amd Ipad and other related topics are not even an issue yet in some parts of the world,  They dont even have or know anything yet to compare PC with or replace PC with.

  23. Anna Young
    June 12, 2011

    Ms Daisy, I agree, portable gadgets such as Smartphones, ipad etc do have their “limitations”. Yes reports have indicated a decline in desk top pcs in homes due to individual demands for mobile devices and quick access to the internet whilst on the move. Will this ultimately replace desk top pc? Not completely, we may see interdependent functionality.

  24. tioluwa
    June 13, 2011


    Well i think the issues you raised can always be worked out one way or the other. my simple Nokia C6 plays a wide range of audio and video formats, so file format compatibility is workable on the software level.

    I think one thing that will make smart devices really operate independently of a pc is the cloud.

    We don't have the cloud yet really but look ot the wide range of apps avaiable online, the large online database of music, videos, websites that help with file and data conversion, and so many cloud based functionality. with all this a pc becomes unnecessary if the mobile device has the cloud.

  25. stochastic excursion
    June 13, 2011

    The integration of computing and communication devices is a trend that will be shaped by both technology and the economy.  The tablet looks like a punchline to the “what if a PC and smartphone mated?” scenario. 

    The move to thin clients and WAN (cloud) or LAN servers could be a lower cost solution to most computing needs.  While tablets require less components than PC's and laptops, their lower cost suggests they would sell at a higher volume. 

    Then again, the need for miniature components in low profile devices might lead to a higher demand for exotic and precious metals and other materials that have constraints on supply.  One would think that miniaturization is less of a factor, though, in tablets vs. smartphones.

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