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Why PCs Aren’t Selling

I finally understand some the hype around tablet devices. I gave a tablet and received one during the holidays and I’ve been attached at the hip with mine ever since. However, hour for hour, I still spend more time at and do more with my PC and use the tablet as a supplement.

Between setting up two tablets and one new PC in the past month, I’ve discovered I hate touchscreens and I’m still waiting for someone to tell me why Windows 8 is a good idea. It takes me three or four times as long to type anything onto tiny tablet touchscreens and typos run rampant. I sometimes have to tap commands two or three times on the tablets and I can’t find any familiar menus on Windows 8, so the PC is running with minimum efficiency at the moment. I’m not at all surprised that PC sales dropped in Q4.

IDC reports worldwide PC shipments totaled 89.8 million units in the fourth quarter of 2012, down 6.4 percent compared to the same quarter in 2011 and worse than the forecast decline of 4.4 percent. The analyst attributes the drop, in part, to unmet expectations of newer, cooler PCs and features. I disagree — the PC I bought in December has a bigger screen, a sleeker look, and is more lightweight than anything I’ve owned in the past, and it cost the same as an iPad mini. Too bad I gave up in frustration from customizing it. (For a different perspective, see Year of the Phablets.)

Here’s some additional analysis from IDC:

    Although the quarter marked the beginning of a new stage in the PC industry with the launch of Windows 8, its impact did not quickly change recently sluggish PC demand, and the PC market continued to take a back seat to competing devices and sustained economic woes. As a result, the fourth quarter of 2012 marked the first time in more than five years that the PC market has seen a year-on-year decline during the holiday season. The lackluster fourth quarter results were not entirely surprising given the spate of challenges the PC market faced over the course of 2012. IDC had expected the second half of 2012 to be difficult. Consumers as well as PC vendors and distribution channels continued to be diverted from PC sales by ongoing demand for tablets and smartphones. In addition, questions about the use of touch on Windows PCs vs. tablets slowed commercial spending on PCs. “Although the third quarter was focused on the clearing of Windows 7 inventory, preliminary research indicates the clearance did not significantly boost the uptake of Windows 8 systems in Q4,” said Jay Chou, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. “Lost in the shuffle to promote a touch-centric PC, vendors have not forcefully stressed other features that promote a more secure, reliable and efficient user experience. As Windows 8 matures, and other corresponding variables such as Ultrabook pricing continue to drop, hopefully the PC market can see a reset in both messaging and demand in 2013.”

I don’t think the PC vs. tablet choice is an either/or decision. Pricing has enabled consumers to own both — and then some. Tablets are still not as good as PCs for a lot of things (including writing). I’m certain some consumers that would have bought a PC last year opted for a tablet, but they are using the tablet for what it’s meant for: entertainment and mobile communications. There is still a huge base of PC users who don’t want their PCs to look and act like a smartphone or tablet.

I think the PC/tablet/smartphone market is pushing a convergence users aren’t ready for. I don’t want a touch-centric PC and even if Windows 8 was easy to use, I’d still resist it as a touch-only interface. I understand Windows’s desire for a single platform for phones, tablets, and PCs, but it doesn’t have to cater only to touch. If the PC market is resting its hopes on the maturation of Windows 8 to spur future sales — as IDC suggests — then indeed it will be facing a tough market through 2013.

29 comments on “Why PCs Aren’t Selling

  1. Anand
    January 11, 2013

    It takes me three or four times as long to type anything onto tiny tablet touchscreens and typos run rampant.

    @Barbara, I totally agree with your observation. Its pretty hard to type on touchscreen and that is the reason I dont like tablets. I feel its better to buy ultrabook which can bet converted into a tablet rather than buying the tablet directly.

  2. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 11, 2013

    @anadvy: I feel like such a Luddite, but touchscreens are driving me crazy. The one thing I haven't tested yet is the Sueface, whihc has a keyboard attachment. That might be a bridge folks like us need.

  3. dalexander
    January 11, 2013

    @Barbara, I also have a tablet whereby I am cojoined. Last week I previewed a Google dedicated laptop for $199.00. The user is confined to all Google Webapps for the office suites etc, but the demo was very impressive and the PC would serve a huge contingent of the population who are not power users. It is not a tablet, and not quite a free standing laptop but it is something in the middle and may succeed as many people already subscribe to Google for mail and document management. I don't understand Windows 8 unless you are willing to dump your old non-touchscreen monitor and start learning another skill set while stil trying to remain at the same productivity level. I contend that unless MS can prove that Windows 8 actually improves productivity, many companies will decline to adopt it for some time to come.

  4. Adeniji Kayode
    January 11, 2013

    @anandvy,

    You are right, I not sure any tablet user will not agree with the fact that typing on touchscreen is not that easy but then, probably that is where technology is today and everybody love to be on top of it.I started a board along this asking what would be the next technology after touchscreen, probably voice command or something else.

  5. Wale Bakare
    January 11, 2013

    Thanks Barbara for this post, God bless you. I am very sure this going to be an interesting OEM product to debate upon here at EBN.

     

  6. Anna Young
    January 12, 2013

     Kayode, I agree mobile devices are more trendy, portable and simply usable on the go. These I think supports consumers' desire to own a tablet over traditional PC in spite of touch screens' shortcomings.

  7. _hm
    January 12, 2013

    @Barbra: Is it possible to know model for tablet and PC? If tablet is Android, does it have speech recognition? Will this help you?

    PC/Laptiop and tablet have different usage. Tablet is light to carry, battery lasts 10 hours, you can easily use while in bad, moves with you easily in home and works as internet radio/TV.

    However, I agree – tocuh screen features are not attractive for hardcore work and good keyboard is very essential.

  8. Wale Bakare
    January 12, 2013

    >>not attractive for hardcore work and good keyboard is very essential.< <

    That differentiation might make future tablet PCs have better workable features.

  9. Clairvoyant
    January 12, 2013

    What type of features are you meaning, Wale, when mentioning “That differentiation might make future tablet PCs have better workable features”?

  10. Adeniji Kayode
    January 12, 2013

    @Anna,

    You are right, consumers love to be up to date when it comes to electronics.

    Moreover, sometimes you are also limited if you want to stay with the old technology.

  11. Adeniji Kayode
    January 12, 2013

    @_hm,

    You are right that PC and tablet both have different applications but some of the time, consumers love to have all their tools in one piece. So there will always be that wish that one piece of device should solve your problem.

  12. bolaji ojo
    January 12, 2013

    Good observation! PC vendors aren't looking farther down the road. If they were, they would realize there isn't any need seriously for keyboards anymore. Sure, old timers would still want something they can bang on but the swoosh writing style of Samsung devices means I can write without slapping my fingers on plastic! The use of tablets will increase and somehow vendors will eventually offer users that all-in-one device that will eventually eliminate the need for a laptop.

  13. Adeniji Kayode
    January 12, 2013

    @_hm,

    You are right that PC and tablet both have different applications but some of the time, consumers love to have all their tools in one piece. So there will always be that wish that one piece of device should solve your problem.

  14. Wale Bakare
    January 12, 2013

    @Clairvoyant, please i would love you share your experience of using tablet computer at workplace. Although, tablet/smartphone device still very much new to users but as a professional, can your tablet performs exactly like desktop/laptop?

  15. Nemos
    January 12, 2013

    “I don't think the PC vs. tablet choice is an either/or decision. Pricing has enabled consumers to own both — and then some.”

    I have the same picture of view as you Barbara , tablets, netbooks , smartphones are very good to be used as communications tools and can cover the social needs but that is beyond the needs that lead the customers to pursue a PC. As you mentioned and from my experience, devices with touch ability makes the writing a painful experience.  

     

  16. _hm
    January 12, 2013

    Projection keyboard is in active design and evaluation stage with many vendors. Soon, tablets will have  projection keyboard (alongwith projector) and consumer will have option to use virtual keyboard or projection keyboard.

     

  17. Nemos
    January 13, 2013

    Neither that I think will solve the problem, the projector virtual keyboards must be on stable solid surface (desk) also how inconvenient will be to have a “huge” keyboard with a tiny screen. 

     

  18. Cryptoman
    January 13, 2013

    When it comes to work, I think preference between a PC and a tablet heavily depends on what you do.

    For example, if you make a living running your online shop on EBay, you could be more than happy with a tablet. However, if you are an embedded software professional, you would not think of even the best tablet in the market to work on. You will need a few USB ports, a reliable operating system with available drivers for the debuggers and other hardware devices to say the least. Therefore, a PC is a must for such professionals.

    That is the reason why I had to upgrade to a bigger and a high performance PC just before Christmas this year. It is big and heavy with a 17'' HD screen but you know what? It has got the processing horsepower I require in my work. No tablet can ever replace it for me.

  19. t.alex
    January 13, 2013

    Professionals have to use PC or laptop. I myself also use a Mac mini at work. Can a tablet replace all these? Probably sometime in the future.. I can imagine I would just bring my tablet to work, hook up bigger display, keyboard, and mouse and whoop I would have a PC system.

  20. Anand
    January 14, 2013

    Tablets are still not as good as PCs for a lot of things (including writing).

    @Barbara, I totally agree with you. We can't use tablets for computational intensive jobs. Moreover efficiency of doing work on Desktops/Laptop's is far greater because we can easily type and browse in Desktop/Laptops.

  21. Anand
    January 14, 2013

    I can imagine I would just bring my tablet to work, hook up bigger display, keyboard, and mouse and whoop I would have a PC system.

    @t.alex, again you are converting your tablet into Desktop. This clearly shows that tablets will be more useful for browsing the internet, checking mails, playing games etc. Finally professional have to use PC/Laptop/Notebook to do their job.

  22. Anand
    January 14, 2013

    Soon, tablets will have projection keyboard (alongwith projector) and consumer will have option to use virtual keyboard or projection keyboard.

    @_hm, virtual keyboard and projection keyboard is very interesting idea but I don't think it can ever replace the feel the hardware keyboard and realtime LCD/LED monitors. Many of us are accustomed to feel of the hardware keyboard's but its hard to get the same feel using virtual keyboard.

  23. Cryptoman
    January 14, 2013

    @anadvy

    I can imagine I would just bring my tablet to work, hook up bigger display, keyboard, and mouse and whoop I would have a PC system.

    As I tried to explain in my previous post, the issue hereis not as simple as the plugging you have mentioned. It's about USB connectivity and the required software driver support which has reached quite a mature level in Windows and Linux for the type of work I have mentioned. You also have the issue of limited data storage and RAM support on tablets. Tablets are designed to be power efficient, small and lightweight by definition. Therefore, a compromise on the feature set is inevitable. That is really the gist of the discussion I think.

  24. Wale Bakare
    January 14, 2013

    @Cryptoman,

    >>Therefore, a compromise on the feature set is inevitable. That is really the gist of the discussion I think.< <

    You are right about that – tablet features vs desktop/laptop features. The more the features like more storage space on tablet would certainly impact on its battery life, and perhaps internal processing tools.

     

  25. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 14, 2013

    Great discussion going on here! I thought I was the only one who is not a fan of touch screens. I spent some time this weekend playing with our two tablets and I still can't envision using the tablets beyond a supplement to a PC. The projection keyboard and screen is a good idea and will certainly help if tablets increasingly are used for business.

    That said, I'll confess–my tablet is a Kindle and I love it. My tablet-owning husband and laptop owning son also prefer the Kindle. I thought I was safe choosing the least expensive device for myself but my son keeps hijacking the Kindle. One reason is the content availability and the ease of purchase/download. Amazon has convinced me a business model built on taking a loss on hardware in favor of selling content is a winner.

  26. FLYINGSCOT
    January 14, 2013

    I agree that the tablet will not supplant the PC but more and more people are dotting them around their home and workplace as tools of convenience.  Being able to fire up in a second and get access to the web instantly is a real boon when arguing with your partner over the name of an actor in a movie etc.

  27. Adeniji Kayode
    January 14, 2013

    @crytoman, I agree with your point on that, the nature of the task at hand will determine the nature of the equipment. Its just that consumers love to have all their equipment in one piece.

  28. Adeniji Kayode
    January 14, 2013

    @Wale, I agree with you on that, if tablet will remain tablet, probably it can,t accomodate more features that can make it to compete with PC in terms of performance.

  29. Adeniji Kayode
    January 27, 2013

    Could it be that Pc manufacturers are feeling too comfortable that the present tablets can,t yet do without it. I mean to say that no tablet yet can handle all our tasks the way pc handles different tasks. Are tablets manufacturers planning to take over completely or prefer running their products alongside woth pc

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