I can’t think of any single computer that has as tough of a transition as the traditional PC. By PC I mean, “computer in the shape of a desktop or notebook”. Computers come in many shapes and sizes, but the ones shaped like a desktop or a notebook have had a rough couple of years. I have the good fortune of being on record that the PC industry in 2013 was going to be ugly but that 2014 was not going to be quite as ugly. Our estimates for 2013 anticipated an even more dramatic decline than my colleagues at IDC and Gartner and 2013 was even worse than our firm’s most dramatic declines. We have done the post-mortem on what happened in 2013 and why 2014 was better. So it is time to look at 2015.
We are getting signals from vendors and supply chain that 2015 is off to a rocky start. The rebound of 2014 was largely driven by an IT refresh bump that appears to be short lived. We are anticipating the launch of Windows 10, which, at the very least, may help the PC industry by getting IT to migrate off Windows XP and Windows 7. Windows 8 did not advance the cause so the hope lies on Windows 10. The problem is IT will not start any serious upgrading in 2015 with Win 10. Only IT early adopters will make a move, largely for testing, which means we can’t count on IT to help boost any PC sales this year. This is one reason we are looking at a few quarters with greater than 5% declines.
I have no doubt Windows 10 will move the adoption curve for IT eventually, but questions remain about the industry as a whole. With so many computers of other shapes and sizes stealing attention from PCs, do regular people need them anymore? When I tackled the side of the argument as to whether the PC segment could ever grow again, I focused on new users. However for the foreseeable future, I see a steady hold pattern for the PC industry, with a chance of moderate decline. Here is our PC model charted, which I will also dive deeper on for Tech.pinions subscribers and reveal other relevant PC industry charts tomorrow.
By “hold pattern” I mean moderate declines but nothing terribly drastic on the horizon such as we saw in 2013. We have an extremely good sense of what the genuine and active PC installed base is broken out by IT (places of employment or corporate ownership) and consumer ownership. The replacement cycle for IT alone can keep the PC industry in the high 200 million to low 300 million range for a few years. But the long term health of the industry still depends on consumer PC ownership. With that market, I genuinely have no idea if a PC refresh is coming.
What the PC industry has to settle on and accept is that, right now, everyone who believes they have or need a PC has one. If you do “deep work” (work that requires hours of computing usage, not minutes or seconds), then you likely need a PC. However, thanks to smartphones, most average consumers’ usage of PCs is only measured in hours a couple times a week at most and more likely only a few times a month. We have all the hard evidence we need to recognize that, in the mainstream consumer market, the smartphone has essentially sucked up a lot of time from the PC, except for a few tasks here and there. So the question is, will more consumers over time conclude they don’t need a PC or can PC OEMs, chipset companies like Intel and AMD, give them reasons to still “need a PC?” And even if they conclude they do need a PC, yet realize they only use it for a few hours a week or month, then how much will they be willing to pay for it? All of these are very tough questions with only vague answers for the time being. However, I’m making a broader point about the category in the shape of a desktop or notebook. The truth is, it is not growing. So the best we can hope for is mild decline. More importantly for everyone who plays in the PC ecosystem, they need to take full advantage of the existing PC base and, if possible, make a move to get ASPs up and not down.
This is my point about everyone who needs a PC has one. If those in the PC ecosystem strive to monetize this existing base “better” then the sector can remain healthy. A good example of this is a direction I believe Intel can go. While the scenario I lay out is grim for Intel’s chipset growth, they can monetize their existing base better by upselling OEMs on their newest offering of an Intel modem. Integrating the Intel modem onto all their mobile PC silicon going forward could lead to better margins for them. This is why I do not believe it is that far off where we will see Intel LTE modems in notebooks. Whether the end user ever connects it or not, or even is some percentage subsidized as on Chromebooks, we will see. But built-in connectivity in notebooks make sense as an offering. Where in the past, modem attach rates in PC has been quite low, I can see a scenario where those who value and need notebooks can be incentivized by their carriers to add a PC to their wireless bundle.
It is the angle of better monetizing the existing base I’m watching for in the PC industry. I do not believe dramatically decreasing the cost of PCs will help. All a $200 PC would do is kill margins for OEMs and it would not lead to an increase in PC sales in my view. It is healthier for all to keep ASP steady and look to add value with each generation.
Lastly, I expect more consolidation in the PC industry. I still believe a number of existing PC OEMs are in for a very rough ride and may ultimately end up being out of the PC hardware business entirely. There is also an interesting angle to play out with the China tech manufacturing ecosystem, opening the door to local PC brands the same way we see local smartphone brands emerging in areas like China and India.
Overall, the question for the PC industry is not growth. We know the answer to that. The question is now around the health of the PC industry. How OEMs navigate the waters the next few years will be key to the shape this category takes over the next few years.
92 thoughts on “Hard Truths for the PC Industry”
I remember back when I was working for Dell 20-ish years ago we already had those charts about how very fragmented the PC industry was (and how soon we’d overtake Compaq ^^). Didn’t happen, and I’m not sure today’s situation is that different.
I think there are mostly 3 issues strongly pushing down on prices in the Corp market, regardless of market conditions:
1- Individual OEMs have little lock-in/differentiation, hence very little pricing power (at least on the desktop, servers are different). They can provide “internationality” for multinationals, ensuring the same machines and support are available across the globe (though you can DIY that with standardized parts and the same multinational HW support outfits the OEMs subcontract to). They can make “long-term-support” lines that match large corps’ purchasing cycles, at the cost of being obsolete and overpriced a year on (on a 5+ years deal ^^). But even then, multinational corps still have a choice between HP, Dell, Lenovo and maybe Acer. Non-multinationals or decentralized multinationals have a lot more choice still.
2- PCs grow more powerful much more quickly than desktop apps evolve. The Core i5 Surface Pro 3 is only 2-3 times faster than the Atom x7 Surface 3. And Windows itself is actually getting faster and more resource-efficient (reports on $150 1GB Atom tablets are mostly “it runs OK, don’t use them for Photoshop though”; I got one in the mail ‘coz I’m really curious). Anyhow, PC purchases are likely to move ever more low-end.
3- The fat-client model is perennially under threat. From old client-server apps that can run on any dumb terminal; from app streaming that can run on any PC capable of booting Windows or even an ARM Chromebook/box with Citrix; from Cloud and internal Cloud/Intranet setups that only require a modern browser -not even Windows, not even x86-.
No wonder OEMs are looking at Consumer. Apart from the Design issue, I’m not sure the retail presence and service infrastructure will be that easy to build, and the replacement cycle issue might actually be even worse, everyone around me is down to replacing PCs only when they break.
My brother’s global multinational gives a choice including Macs where hardware support is via Applecare and software support is pretty minimal. My 100K person company buys mostly Thinkpads and used to replace every 3 years. Now they replace when they break and not before (and use Lenovo service for HW support). A new $100 SSD and a new $70 battery has breathed lots of new life into my 4 year old T420. Yeah, its no ultrabook but it’s perfectly serviceable in speed (2nd Gen i5 2.5Ghz), weight (4.7lbs) and battery life (6hrs). I’ve seen it in clients too… replacement cycles have collapsed in Corporates and will not come back.
Thin clients (most enterprise apps Oracle/SAP/Siebel/etc. are being mobilized and often work better on an iPad than desktop/laptop) are just frosting on the cake for longer PC replacement cycles. I can address most key management tasks on my iPhone/iPad so don’t resent the old Thinkpad too much.
Do you see significant movement into Apple’s ecosphere with its high pricing/high benefits strategy? I think the high benefits would include emulated Win10 running alongside OS X applications with Continuity to iOS apps.
(Should/would Apple ship a Win10 Continuity Bridge?)
“And even if they conclude they do need a PC, yet realize they only use it for a few hours a week or month, then how much will they be willing to pay for it?”
And how long will they hold onto the one they have despite its being an old clunker?
I think a good fraction of those infrequently used PCs will not be going away, so they are going to be replaced someday. When that time comes, as you say, the OEMs need to provide some tangible benefit that people are willing to pay for if they are to survive. It made sense to market based on price when PCs were supposed to be disposable, obsolete in 2-3 years. Now, PCs have become durable goods. OEMs will have to completely alter their mindset in order to build and sell PCs that are destined to be kept and used until they break.
Durability is one obvious thing to market. Decor is another (does your PC match your sofa?) tech specs, not so much.
a desktop PC has capabilities and requirements.
It requires money to buy (I’m assuming a mobile phone will get bought anyway), room to set it up, security to not get it stolen, a reliable power supply. I’d guess most of the next 2b don’t have that. A laptop partially takes those requirements away, but not wholly.
A PC used to provide a lot more power and better apps, but I’d argue that’s mostly gone away now. Unless you specifically need legacy apps, which new users don’t, 90+% of users can find the right app with good-enough performance on a mobile device. For cheaper too.
A PC does still provide much better ergonomics, much bigger storage, possibly 24×7 operation. That’s going away fast though: Windows and Android devices can be hooked up to a screen, a keyboard, a mouse, a game pad, a hard disk…
Even in the first world, I’m wondering if a Windows tablet doesn’t make sense for most users as a main PC. Plug it into the desktop doodads when at home/work, pack it up when traveling. The one issue with that is a tablet as second/third screen is still convenient to have alongside the PC… why not travel with that one instead ?
I don’t understand what your reply has to do with my comment. I wasn’t speaking of the next 2 billion computer users, but of those people who currently own a PC, and what they are going to do when the time comes to replace the PC they currently own.
“That’s going away fast though: Windows and
Android devices can be hooked up to a screen, a keyboard, a mouse, a
game pad, a hard disk.”.
Baloney. Yes, you can rube goldberg together a screen/keyboard/mouse for your tablet or phone. but why on earth would anyone want to do that when they can go into a store and buy a single thing that already has everything they need, that requires no setup or plugging together of anything to work.
Doing it all on a single device is much cheaper, and much easier too. Buying a desktop stand for your phone/tablet (or plugging a screen and hub to its HDMI and USB, or single MHL, ports) is much less $$ and effort than buying a desktop/laptop, the apps for it, maintaining it, synching all that to your mobile devices…
Furthermore, Windows tablets morph into a “real” (ie Windows/Desktop as opposed to Windows/Modern) PC when plugged into a screen+keyboard+mouse. That really cuts down on the cases where an old-fashioned PC is required on top of a tablet. That’s for if/when Windows/Metro becomes credible though, we’re not there yet, and some home and pro uses certainly won’t be doable even on a tricked-out tablet (multiscreens, gaming, number crunching…).
PS: not sure what “rube goldberg” means, I assume complicated and/or clunky
“This is my point about everyone who needs a PC has one.”
Shall we just ignore the entire continent of Africa then?
I think a lot of computing in Africa is going to be done with smartphones.
Agree with Space Gorilla, the PC over-serves dramatically those in the next two billion to come online. They are already doing everything the developed world does via their smartphone like banking, running their shops or businesses, etc. Tools have evolved outside the PC for this group.
So that is why it is clear, unless my bull case plays out which hopefully you read, that it is the smartphone from here on out.
It’s not just consumers were talking about though. Africa is highly agricultural today but more and more people will move to more modern jobs. Jobs that require a PC. I think it’s a mistake to ignore that.
I don’t disagree, hence what I wrote in the bull case for the PC article. However, it is also a mistake to ignore that these regions develop those tools outside the PC. Software and tasks evolve to meet the medium. PC literacy is outside what a farmer in Africa will go through to learn how to touch type /navigate with a mouse, etc.
“…but more and more people will move to more modern jobs.”
Will, This isn’t happening in the developed world (significantly). I think the emerging world will do 95% plus of its computing on tablets and phones.
Very low growth for PCs for the next 2B people – price, mobility, power requirements, and individual identity conspire against PCs.
I’m talking about Africa.
Yeah yeah, we said the same thing about the developed world ever since the iPad came out. Nothing happened and nothing of the sorts will happen anywhere.
We seem to be having a communications problem.
If economics is the deciding factor, yes a phone that can access the internet is more important. If I want to use the same tools I use at work, for the foreseeable future, that’s a PC. I can assure you that it would be impossible for me to have reached a point to earn a living today had I only had a smartphone when I was younger, and no, I’m not in the PC business.
The smartphone liberates one in physical space, within it’s capabilities. The PC remains the thought liberator. It’s not even close.
You’re missing the point Ben made, “Tools have evolved outside the PC for this group.” Your PC experience at work, the tools you use, and how you came to earn a living, none of that is likely to be relevant for the next 2 billion.
I was part of “that group” and went from having “second world” (European agrarian) problems to first world problems. I could not have done that without the PC, and I could not have done it with a smartphone.
Exactly. Today that pattern is being repeated, but with the smartphone as the liberator.
In space, not in capability or even extent of liberalization (freedom to code). Like I said, not even close.
No, also in capability and freedom. Your experience with PCs is only true for you. The next two billion are going to use different tools in different ways. What mattered for you doesn’t necessarily matter for the next generation. Any current limitations you can dream up for smartphones will soon fall away, that is obvious.
You just don’t get it. If you’re going to equate the total freedom of the PC in terms of programming with the limited model of iOS I can only call that position delusional.
What would it be? Choice of programming languages, choices of hardware, no “developer agreement” requirement, choice of sales channel?
I suppose financial, structural, scientific, and weather simulations will be done on smartphones. Pixar will do CGI on their iPads. Are you for real?
Freedom by your measure (spurious code for “open”) is a largely an irrelevance in this discussion. When talking about the next 2 billion users, almost none of your largely marginal PC use cases are of any value. Financial work (managing small businesses etc.) will be done on mobile using a plethora of apps (mobile only or legacy re-platformed), the other use cases mentioned are pitifully small and are already well served in the current user base and will drive very few PC sales in any markets. The next 2 billion computer users is by definition not NOAA, Pixar or Norman Foster & Associates. These functions already exist (or not) in almost all countries.
No question the market for PC’s will be smaller, as PC’s have been oversold. The role of PC’s remains as important as ever, if for no other reason to program mobile. It doesn’t get more fundamental than that.
Small point, it is PCs, not PC’s, just as it is 1990s and not 1990’s.
“If you’re going to equate the total freedom of the PC in terms of programming with the limited model of iOS I can only call that position delusional.”
The next 2B will be mostly Android users. Android sells itself as an ‘open’ unlimited model – “total freedom of the PC” Part 2.
I agree. That’s why I use Android, it’s the most “PC-like” of the two leading platforms. Let’s see what the universal model does for Windows Mobile.
I’m an iOS owner, but I see the writing on the wall regarding the next 2B. Google and now Intel are trying their best to move from Wintel domination to Gintel or GWintel domination.
Apple would love to achieve Apple ARM domination. It’s getting interesting, but the next 2B go to Android for sure.
Agreed. I can’t see Apple serving more than a billion-ish customers. But I’m not sure Google gets those next two billion. There’s a lot of interesting localization happening.
Who said anything about iOS? I never mentioned iOS or Apple. It will be a mix, mostly non-Google Android would be my guess, maybe an opportunity for Microsoft as well, and some iOS. You remind me of Ballmer when the first iPhone came out, he couldn’t see the future either, he was blind to what the device would become. All the limitations you mention will fall away, sooner than you realize.
You’re also making the mistake of assuming your definition of freedom re: computing applies to the rest of the world. It does not.
I mentioned iOS. Freedom is unambiguous, not “my definition”. I pick on iOS due to the artificial restrictions (imposed restrictions), the hardware deficiencies relative to PC’s covers the rest. It will remain in each generation for the foreseeable future that PC hardware will be superior in function to mobile hardware. When that changes, then you would be right. Until then….
“Freedom is unambiguous”
Nonsense, freedom is contextual. Your definition of freedom re: computing seems to be about whether you can code on the device or not. This simply doesn’t matter to many people.
Again, all the limitations you bring up will fall away, this is obvious. Capabilities continually expand, but limitations will always exist in some way, that’s true of traditional PCs as well. I can’t limit my thinking to only the present moment as you do.
“Freedom is contextual”
Does that mean you’re as free as you’re “allowed” to be? If so, then in the context of mobile operating systems iOS is the less free.
iOS is definitely less free for you, I agree. But iOS is more free for me. Chew on that for a while, see if you can figure out the truth of that.
There’s no ambiguity. it’s less free for you too. Coding for iOS requires a developer agreement with Apple, which can be revoked. When they restrict what anyone can code, they restrict you too.
What is true for you isn’t true for me. iOS is indeed more free for me. Try again.
What I told you is of mathematical (logical) certainty. Of course, in a free society, you are free to object.
Interesting, you really can’t view the world from a different perspective. iOS is more free for me. And yet you refuse to accept this. It doesn’t compute, so to speak. I can understand perfectly well why iOS is less free for you, but you can’t accept that your truth isn’t universal. Fascinating.
The best I could muster is that it’s “free enough” for you.
No, iOS is more free for me, it affords me more freedom. That is what is true for me. You must learn to accept that your personal truth is not universal.
Totally agree. Too many rules can be suffocating, but some form of structure or guidelines are necessary to prevent either chaos or paralysis. We come across this type of situation or principle all the time in all areas of life (including raising children and governing nations).
iOS is also more free-ing and liberating for me, too — developers have enough freedom within a sound structure to create really creative solutions, which allows me to get on with the things I need to get on with; and that gives people like me and you the confidence that our time and effort to apply those solutions consistently and productively in our work is not wasted.
I would think that klahanas, actually understands this, innately; but he isn’t applying it or being consistent with the principal. Of course, he would quickly point out that he isn’t a child, and therefore doesn’t need structure.
He also basically thinks that “premium”, by definition, means the absence of structure — he would pay extra for the chaos that ensues, while some of us pay extra to avoid it ;). Trouble is, he thinks he is a free-agent acting in a vacuum. In reality, Google has already lost control, and the “freedom” of Android, for example, already means that malware is rife, Google’s payment platform, though years-old, didn’t become ubiquitous like Apple’s has virtually over night, etc.
Yeah, like all these things happen despite Android’s philosophical freedom and only because Apple influences an irrational band of locked-in sheep? No, some boundaries are simply required for the freedom of those acting within its sphere. That’s just inescapable. Managing the trade-offs is a real art form.
Very thoughtful, intelligent, and substantive post. Thank you.
There’s a fine line between freedom and anarchy. Though I would argue that one is free to be anarchic with their own property, within the bounds of the law. In societies governments manage that, in computers there are OEMS, standards bodies, etc.
“Too many rules can be suffocating, but some form of structure or guidelines are necessary to prevent either chaos or paralysis.”
Indeed, and when Mussolini was in power “the trains sure ran on time”. But the trains running on time are but one benefit at the expense of others. These “benefits” are not always mutually exclusive. The trains can run on time and you can be free.
It comes down to this…Apple is their users mandatory IT department. Like all IT departments they make the rules and decide what you can and cannot do. They decide the content of the network, the hardware, and what you’re allowed to do with the machines. They centrally install software, or make it available. In the corporate world, this is proper. The corporation OWNS the MACHINES. They also hire the IT staff, and tell them what to do. In other words, the owner of the devices retains control. For better or worse, that’s how it should be. The conflict with Apple is that their IT services are not optional, though a transfer of property has taken place. “Vertical Integration” also mandates further bundling of services which are neither optional or free. iTunes is mandatory for managing your iPod for instance.
So, in the end, I really lament “freedoms lost” under the Apple model. Since the choice of entering the ecosystem is a binary “red pill or blue pill” I argue against the “red pill”, as I would argue against Mussolini.
If you’re going to use historical references, please at least know your history. The trains running on time under Mussolini was simply propaganda, it was a myth, it did not happen, the trains did not run on time.
I understand why Apple’s model is less free for you. I get it. You should not use Apple products. But it remains true for me (and others) that Apple’s model affords me more freedom.
It’s the idea that matters. Even if allegorical, the allegory is historically true.
It doesn’t work if the deeper meaning is false.
What? Is it a secret that authoritarianism can lead to progress, productivity, and efficiency? Go ask the guys that actually built the pyramids. The problem is elsewhere…
“There’s a fine line between freedom and anarchy. Though I would argue that one is free to be anarchic with their own property, within the bounds of the law. In societies governments manage that, in computers there are OEMS, standards bodies, etc.”
Ah, you are lamenting the settling of the wild west of computing.
One thing you have to bear in mind is that it isn’t a straightforward matter of simply using your own property.
It’s not Apple telling you how to use the iPad or iPhone that you bought. It’s the use of their platforms that they built and maintain at great effort and expense; and they want to govern the integrity and experience of them (for both users and developers, in a virtuous circle). “Platform” = something you build on, not something *you* own.
And there are any number of examples of being restricted in the way you use *your own property* that go beyond governmental regulation. *Your* gun may need to be used in a certain way at a shooting range. *Your* bowling ball or ice skates may need to be used in a certain way at those venues. You may not be able to bring and eat your own food at certain venues. You may buy a house and find that the housing association / development places restrictions on the additions or “improvements” you make to *your* house. Then there’s software licenses which dictate you install it on only two computers, etc.
Of course, you are free not to use your gun or your bowling ball or your ice skates in such a place, but then you limit your options — and these may be the best venues around, affording the best experience of using these things.
When you buy a gun or a race car, you do it with the understanding you will use it on certain “platforms”. Of course, you object to this being the case with certain computing devices. That is why I suggest you are lamenting the settling of the wild west. But, if the platforms are sufficiently complex (as they are now becoming), and the value is sufficient, then why not expect or understand that vertical integration of some of these things can make them better overall? You don’t have to welcome it or embrace it, just appreciate it.
Anyway, I am not sure that you are fully appreciating SpaceGorilla’s point: most iOS users are not butting their heads up against the “boundaries”. They are getting on with using their devices in new and better ways than they are able to productively utilize under Android or Windows. That is ultimately freeing.
It is not a practical application of “freedom” to theoretically have the freedom to “do *anything*”, if at the end of the day you aren’t achieving all your desired jobs to be done as efficiently and productively as possible with at least some degree of enjoyment. Though I do recognize that your “freedom” is at least affording you some intellectual satisfaction.
And I would find myself far more sympathetic to your position on this particular issue, if I didn’t believe that Google is far more of a problem. It’s like saying, “I won’t live in Apple’s gated community (with it’s freedom from malware, etc., I’ll just take my chances on the other side of the tracks because I believe in law and order and the powers that be” — all the while not acknowledging that Google is the mob that controls all the politicians and police in town. (Google basically *owns* the internet, which is, incidentally, supposed to be free and open, as opposed to, say, a computing platform advertised as being developed and maintained by one company). You must see how idealistic and unbalanced your position is; the alleged “rosy view” that Apple users are purported to take of Apple, is by comparison quite pragmatic.
The article is titled “Hard Truths for the PC Industry” of the PC I believe this very freedom you discount is it’s very benefit. Yes, the Wild West!
The conversation then turned to the next 2 billion served, which was slanted to the third world. This third world will spawn scientists, teachers , doctors, analysts, and authors. All of them will communicate. Some will code programs that don’t exist on the market, to solve “their” types of problems. They may not own a Mac, and they may not know Xcode, but they may have a PC and know Fortran, Basic, Java, or “gasp” Flash. On the PC, no problem. Distributing the code on the PC, no problem. Freedom on how the IP they created, entirely upon them. It’s their users that will determine if the programs have value. And it’s the creator of the work that dictates the terms, NOT the OS provider! To me it’s as if an author in the English language, owes the Queen a royalty.
Having the OS supplier bundle (as a condition of use) applications, and other aspects of use, under the OS providers rules rightly breeds contempt. Otherwise, you have no argument against MS for using private function calls in Windows to better their applications over competitors (which they did).
You may remember the ARC and ZIP compression schemes. These were developed without permission from anyone, regardless of who’s interests were impacted. I’m sure hard drive and computer OEMs were not crazy about the idea, yet ZIP served computing well. What the App Store has usurped is the shareware market. Why don’t you think very expensive programs ($1,000+) are not prevalent on any App store? Do you think these people will have terms dictated to them? That 30% can pay for self controlled channel.
You bring up the housing association example. It’s very apt. You’re not just buying a dwelling, you are joining a community. All very good, all subject to criticism. There are pros and cons. Under a housing association you don’t really own your dwelling, you own the right to live there, under restricted conditions. There are very valid reasons to be critical of housing associations and to not only not live there, but to point out to others why they may not want to live there. Fences divide people! Intellectual fences are particularly scary!
In this very thread you heard me say that mobile has enhanced the average. That’s not freedom, that’s ease. You’re conflating difficulty with authoritarianism.
Regarding Google…I have no idea why you even bring them up. I defended the principles of the PC, not Google’s. At most, I said Android is the most “PC-like”. Anyway, since you ask, I completely agree with the EU’s right to investigate them and to regulate, not only them, but the internet, as a public utility.
Right, *some* will code. For the rest, “Tools have evolved outside the PC”, as Ben said at the top of this discussion.
That you couldn’t be where you are today if not for the PC is totally irrelevant. It’s where others will be at some future point that we are discussing.
Businesses are being run on smartphones. Believe me, I just got back from Dubai.
Also, you seem to misunderstand a lot of the tools out there. And Apple certainly is not taking a cut of everything. Most of the apps I use are free, but they tie into great business services which are not, like Freshbooks, for example. I use it for all my accounting, expensing and invoicing — and I do it all from the mobile app, which a breeze, with great reports. The app is better than the webpage that I wold be using on the PC. I am happy to pay the small monthly fee because it beats paying hundreds for a crufty old PC app, and I can do without the services of an accountant.
There are hundreds of small business examples like this. Run a whole store (physical or virtual), do inventory, fulfillment, take payments in person with a dongle, you name it. There are great apps and services to run any kind of business, even improve farming as Space Gorilla mentioned.
As far as platform fees for developers of paid apps, the developers are getting a service from Apple; they are benefiting from a stable ecosystem, storefront, hosting, payment processor, customer base, etc.
No, it is not like paying the queen to speak English. With all your talk of logic, I am surprised you went with this. Rather, it is like a Newspaper paying a source as it makes money on all the newspapers it sells. No source, no newsworthy article, no readers. It might look like Apple is the big newspaper or the Queen extracting a tax, but it isn’t: Apple is the lowly source; if the finished, distributed item (the article) benefits from the source it is built upon, the newspaper can’t just cut them out and go ahead and print the article anyway.
Each and every application you mentioned has been allowed to exist. I take peoples existence, and that of their work as a right, not an allowance.
Then, having been granted that allowance, they are required to deal with Apple, whether they want to or not.
Others have not even been that lucky.
Needing a developer’s license…who does that?
I call foul!
You have just conflated a whole bunch of stuff and built a straw man. Nobody’s “existence” or “work” is in question. Their ability to take that work (having used someone else’s tools to create it) and place it on a particular platform is the question. You don’t have the right to sell your lemonade off someone else’s lemonade stand; you certainly don’t have the right to walk into their kitchen and use their ingredients to make your lemonade before selling it on their lemonade stand — go try it sometime, you’ll be brought up short pretty quickly.
Far from a straw man argument you accuse me of making, you have it EXACTLY backwards. Or staying with our “mathematical certainty” you are 180 degrees opposite to the fact, or made an odd number of errors in sign (choose).
One can PAY for the device, PAY for the compiler and STILL not be able to sell or distribute their program. It is EXACTLY like buying the lemons, squeezer, water, sugar, and still you can’t sell lemonade, on your own front lawn, or those of your willing neighbors.
Even MS never did that!
No, it’s not your front lawn if it’s the App Store. Your front lawn is your own website. I already made the analogy to someone else’s lemonade stand or kitchen.
You’re right that there is a more closed model on iOS than on Windows or OS X. But I would say that even under Windows, you didn’t have a *right* as you term it. MS *allowed* more under Windows, as does Apple under OS X, than Apple does on iOS. That’s what Software EULA’s are, an allowance, not a right. MS would never say you own the copy of the software you “bought”, they would say you have a license agreement.
As I said, the Wild West is getting settled under iOS. The more services and conveniences and security you expect in a “community” (platform), the more tightly controlled it is. Now there is less interest in developing new things under Windows.
Developers are developing backend services that have apps that bring their services and data onto platforms that people want to use. If you want to use an Android app to access it, go for it. But the more thoughtful, more polished, more solid and safer apps for those same services are on iOS. Even Windows realizes this and has started putting out their own iOS apps.
Yes, my own front lawn is my own web site, which is not allowed.
Look, in the ’90’s there were “gated” internet communities such as AOL, CompuServe, and various BBS’s. Then there was the internet at large. The machines and OS’s did not restrict you from any of them. iOS’s implementation is “AOL only”, and that’s what I find wrong with your position.
This is important enough to deserve it’s own reply. MS gave conditions on how many machines you were allowed to use your individual copy of the software. You were also not allowed to distribute THEIR software. All companies did that. What they didn’t do was tell you HOW to use the software, or dictate to you what other software to use. That’s unfathomable. This is telling you whether you can develop YOUR OWN software.
It would seem tech is the exception, not the rule. Most of the systems we use and benefit from in real life are closed and regulated. Open doesn’t usually win in fact. I’m beginning to think that Apple’s closed and curated model is ‘table stakes’ in serving the premium consumer segment. This premium segment is looking for whole solutions, less friction, a quality user experience. I would guess over the next two years Google is going to have to make significant moves to close and curate Android in order to compete.
I think you’re right though, the reality that computing is being abstracted and simplified, becoming consumer-facing, this is really freaking out the traditional tech crowd. I see this as a natural evolution towards the kinds of systems that succeed in most of the real world, closed and regulated. But to people who grew up with the idea of ‘open’, this is terrifying.
That equally applies to MS and Windows 10 App Store / Windows Phone.
Actually, not it doesn’t. The Windows App store isn’t the only way to get software. It will fully support desktop applications. To my knowledge there are no restrictions.
I don’t think you understood what I was trying to say. If you’re complaining about the restrictions of the iOS App Store then restrictions on the Windows App Store or WP App Store are no different. They are equally restrictive.
As far as “full” Windows is concerned (ie: Windows for x86), then yes you can run desktop apps. But that’s no different than OSX. You can run apps for the Mac App Store or you can run OSX desktop apps.
When you’re comparing apples to apples, then there isn’t any difference in restrictions between WP / Windows Metro / iOS and Windows / OSX.
Don’t know if you read my edit.
First-The Windows App Store is not exclusive. There are indeed other ways to load even Metro Apps.
Second-You can sideload them.
Third-Has anything ever been rejected? Though I still disagree on principle.
Fourth-They copied Apple! :-0
“Freedom is unambiguous, not “my definition”!!!
Unambiguous? So i guess you 100% tout the party line – Google’s propaganda about being ‘open and free’ despite recent revelations?
Please, don’t be a pompous bore about Google Android’s ‘unambiguous freedom”.
No sir, I tout the rights of free thinking people and their ability to create as they wish.
“I have no emotional attachment to any company, not one.”
Yet within this very thread you’ve lit up Google’s Android like a July 4th celebration.
Of course it’s not emotion; just facts and reason, right?
All I said was that I use Android, as the most “PC-like”. If I celebrated anything, it was the PC. Rightly so IMO. I have no loyalty to Google, I also own a Windows Phone.
Heck, you could also say I trashed Android as “hardware inadequate”, when contrasting mobile versus the PC.
You’re committed to the idea of freedom as expressed most strongly in the PC. The following seems hyperbolic and perhaps it’s tainted the thread by being a bit over the top.
“If you’re going to equate the total freedom of the PC in terms of programming with the limited model of iOS I can only call that position delusional.”
Seems to me there’s plenty of freedom in iOS. It comes with ‘adult supervision’ of course, but I think Apple isn’t a bad actor for the most part.
You’re a fair person, and I appreciate your efforts in seeing past the heat of the discussion and to try to find meaning in my words.
I do stick by my words though. Rather than going into yet another diatribe, point by point, I’ll leave it at that. Of course, if you want me to raise points, I will.
“It will remain in each generation for the foreseeable future that PC hardware will be superior in function to mobile hardware.”
So? It remained the truth throughout the 1980’s (and yes, down to today) that every generation of closet-sized mini computers were far superior in speed and capabilities than every generation of desktop micro computers. And there were and still are people whose jobs could not be done without the help of a closet sized computer. The fact remained, however, that the capabilities of the far cheaper and more compact desktop computer were adequate to the needs of the vast majority of people who wanted to own a computer.
Your devotion to the general-purpose PC is touching, but in terms of what most people need, it is irrational bordering on religious.
I refer you to my reply to Ben Bajarin at the top of this thread. Other posts in the thread as well.
“Most People” raises the average, a noble result to be certain, but “most people” is the antithesis of personal. If you do anything outside of the basics, mobile is lacking.
The only problem with your position is the context of this discussion, “With so many computers of other shapes and sizes stealing attention from PCs, do regular people need them anymore?”. Your examples are very niche, enterprise, and do not represent more than the current 2 billion. That is not a growth story. Not non-existant, but not the bulk of regular users.
The PC has never been “just” about regular users. Regular users are limiting, by necessity. Though Apple has done a great job making the PC more accessible to them, they never software limited the Mac (hardware is another story).
So when looking for serving the next two billion, “most people” can have a “good enough” use for “most tasks”. The main benefit is mobility for mobile. These 2 billion will need PC’s too, just not 2 billion of them.
“These 2 billion will need PC’s too, just not 2 billion of them.”
Or as Ben put it, “everyone who needs a PC has one”. PCs aren’t new, to either group of 2 billion users. The capability of computing to be more mobile than a laptop is.
And how exactly do you know that? We said the same thing with the rise of the iPad for the first 2 billion. Yet it was all smoke. Why would the next 2 billion be any different? How did our “tools” evolved exactly?!
Uh, lots of data is tracking the adoption of mobile devices, there’s no question that another couple billion people are going to be using these devices and ‘come online’.
Who said that about the iPad? Did you? I certainly did not. The iPad is not the tool for the next two billion. I’ve said for a long time that Apple will likely level out around a billion-ish customers, I don’t see that model expanding beyond that. I could be wrong of course, but Apple serves a more premium market, it can’t be the majority share of the total market.
The iPad is right about where it was expected to be, on its own the iPad is the top selling PC in the world. And there’s more growth coming, but it can’t be anything like the early growth. I did the math once using that early level of growth, it ended up with Apple selling something like 3 billion iPads a year by 2018, something stupid like that. So anyone who can do math could have figured out early on that the iPad would experience a dramatic slowdown in growth. The point being, I can’t think of anyone I take seriously that said the iPad was going to have two billion users.
Also, we’re not talking about iOS devices for the next two billion. Sure, iOS will make up some of that, but it’ll be mostly non-Google Android, that’s my guess.
The point about tools is that for these next couple billion, the toolset has been created outside the world of traditional PCs. That necessarily results in different tools, a different experience, evolution.
I’m all for non-Google Android!
I could be wrong, but I think the amount of localization that will happen probably means non-Google Android. Of course you can deliver a hyper local experience in other ways, but I don’t see that Google and official OEMs have any profit motivation to do this.
Except it’s not a PC and I have yet to meet someone who has an iPad but not a PC with a job.
Except people didn’t. The idea was that the iPad was a PC replacement. I’m not saying you said that. I’m saying that’s the impression I got.
This is what I wanted you to expand on originally. Stop explaining what the iPad is or isn’t. I’m asking (again) what tools do you think are available on a smartphone that a PC is not better equipped at? What’s so different about the next 2 billion? Their accountants and architects and developers have the same need as the first 2 billion.
“Except it’s not a PC and I have yet to meet someone who has an iPad but not a PC with a job.”
Denying that the iPad is a PC isn’t helpful, it only clouds your analysis. The iPad is a PC, it’s just doing different jobs in different ways.
“Except people didn’t. The idea was that the iPad was a PC replacement. I’m not saying you said that. I’m saying that’s the impression I got.”
Then you’re reading the wrong analysts. Or you didn’t understand the analysis. Or both.
“This is what I wanted you to expand on originally. Stop explaining what the iPad is or isn’t.”
This discussion was never about the iPad. You brought it up.
“I’m asking (again) what tools do you think are available on a smartphone that a PC is not better equipped at? What’s so different about the next 2 billion?”
It’s not a question of whether a PC is better than a smartphone. The PC is overkill for most people’s computing needs, so in that respect the smartphone can deliver a computing experience that meets the needs of most people, with the advantage of mobility and affordability. This is important for the next two billion because they’re not in the first world.
But there are tasks that are much improved by the use of a smaller mobile device with a touchscreen. Ask any farmer with a smartphone in the field, it’s great for data gathering on the fly, checking prices, booking sales, taking pictures, collaborating with an agronomist, ordering the right part for a repair from the field while you send a serial number or photo right then to confirm, and lots more. None of that is practical with a traditional PC, it’s all done better with a smartphone (pocket computer). There’s lots of other areas where the smartphone is better. But again, it’s not a question of which one is objectively better, that’s the wrong debate.
PC in this context is a category term not literally a personal computer. But whatever, you’re just splitting hairs now.
I guess I just dreamed when I read article after article for years about how the iPad is directly responsible for the demise of the PC. Here’s one that’s tongue in cheek and pretty clear about it.
But I guess asymco didn’t read the “analysis” properly.
That’s just depressing. I prefer to see the future where he quits being a farmer altogether and moves to the city. Where he’s going to get a better job. Better jobs tend to come with a PC. And that is exactly what is happening all over the 3rd world, people move to the city as agriculture becomes more efficient.
This is exactly what this article is about, whether or not the next 2 billion will buy PCs or not. They can and will buy all the smartphones they want. It doesn’t change the fact they’ll buy PCs eventually. Smartphones will not prevent people from buying PCs.
“PC in this context is a category term not literally a personal computer. But whatever, you’re just splitting hairs now.”
No, I’m talking about humans using computers. What are you talking about?
“But I guess asymco didn’t read the “analysis” properly.”
Perhaps I misunderstood you. It sounded like you were complaining that analysts said iPads were going to replace two billion PCs, or be used by two billion people instead of PCs, something along those lines. That of course is ridiculous, and it isn’t what that Asymco article says either.
It is true that the iPad is taking over the job of PC for many people, so many that the iPad is indeed the world’s top selling PC. The iPad and other devices like it, smartphones included, are having an impact on PCs, it’s a tough argument to make if you want to deny that.
“That’s just depressing. I prefer to see the future where he quits being a farmer altogether and moves to the city. Where he’s going to get a better job.”
The farmer was only one example. There are plenty of jobs and use cases in cities that demonstrate the same principle in action.
“This is exactly what this article is about, whether or not the next 2 billion will buy PCs or not. They can and will buy all the smartphones they want. It doesn’t change the fact they’ll buy PCs eventually. Smartphones will not prevent people from buying PCs.”
That’s the right question, how many of these people will buy PCs going forward? But as I said, this isn’t a question of which is objectively better by some measure of specs. It’s about which tools will serve the next two billion users. Certainly there will be some PCs, I’m pretty sure nobody has said PCs will go to zero. But it is also obvious that other computing devices will have an impact on the sales of traditional PCs. We can see this happening already in the first world, so it would seem that outside the first world this should only accelerate. Time will tell.
Too bad it’s not a PC nor a competitor to one. People with iPads already have PCs.
Ha! That’s demonstrably false. It hasn’t happened in the 1st world and it won’t happen in the 2nd or 3rd. Accountants, designers, financial traders, developers, architects, engineers don’t work from an iPad. They use an iPad to take notes in a meeting like a glorified notebook, but it’s just another peripheral, not a replacement for their PCs.
As for your farmer, he can already do everything you mentioned using a feature phone. Except maybe taking pictures.
“Too bad it’s not a PC nor a competitor to one. People with iPads already have PCs.”
All my kids (teenagers) use their iPads as their primary PC, they have no other PC. Being in denial about the iPad providing many traditional PC jobs-to-be-done won’t stop it from happening.
“Accountants, designers, financial traders, developers, architects, engineers don’t work from an iPad.”
As the capabilities of the iPad, and other mobile devices, grows this actually is happening more and more. Most computing tasks don’t require a traditional PC. Some do of course. It helps to not limit your thinking to the present moment, always think a few years out. Limited thinking time-wise is why many people missed the success of the iPhone.
“As for your farmer, he can already do everything you mentioned using a feature phone. Except maybe taking pictures.”
You obviously don’t know much about modern farming. You need a device like an iPhone or an Android phone, or a small connected tablet. You can do a limited subset of jobs on a feature phone, but a proper mobile touchscreen device and app platform is another level completely.
Of course some farmers, like my father, still just use paper and a pencil for a lot of things. Take rock picking as an example, with an app I can place pins as I’m spraying a field, to identify rocks that need to be removed from a field, as I’m driving through the field applying chemicals. You know how my dad does it? He draws a rough outline of the field from memory on a piece of paper and then makes a little X when he sees a rock while spraying. It is not very accurate, and we’ve done damage to combines in the field because a large rock was not removed prior to harvest. One saved rock incident could easily pay for ten or more iPhones. And that’s just one example of a single task and a huge amount of value provided.
My father does have a feature phone, but there’s no way for him to do that task with it. His feature phone allows him to call people from the field, that’s about it. Any more advanced tasks are just too complex on a feature phone. But he can do much more complex tasks on his iPad. The iPad is actually the first computer he can use with ease.
So does my grandma. Neither of these people have proper jobs.
Actually, I’m really surprised any teenager today doesn’t need access to a computer for school work. I can’t imagine how horrible it is to write essays on that tiny screen. Even if they can, they can do it better on a PC.
I’m the one thinking about farmers moving to the city, a process that spans decades. When they do, they’ll need PCs for work. You’re the one thinking whether or not they can take pictures of their crops. Who’s not thinking long term?
We’re talking about 3rd world farmers, try and stay on track here.
If you truly are thinking long term then it should be obvious to you how much the capabilities of these devices will grow.
“So excuse me if I don’t believe your teenagers don’t use a PC. Actually, who’s gonna even hire them if they never used a PC?”
This demonstrates that you are not actually thinking long term. As I said before, you are free to deny that iPads are actually being used as PCs. My kids don’t care if you don’t believe their iPads are their PCs.
As for third world farmers, they can benefit immensely from these kinds of devices. The basic tasks are quite similar, it is the scale and equipment that is different.
It doesn’t even really require forward thinking. All one has to do is examine history. The PC has several decades of existence to be significant with that next 2 billion. If it was going to transform Africa or anywhere else in question it certainly has had ample opportunity. Yet it is mobile that is making a difference today. Even to the point where the PC is already becoming less significant in those areas.
I also don’t understand this thinking from the dissenters that somehow when discussing the importance of mobile and how it is shaping computing this means the advocates think the PC is dead. I think Ben and others here have been very clear this is not their belief. It is just that their are many factors that make a PC extremely difficult to own and operate. Alternative means becomes a necessity and the smartphone and tablet fit that bill to the point they become central not secondary.
“It doesn’t even really require forward thinking. All one has to do is examine history. The PC has several decades of existence to be significant with that next 2 billion. If it was going to transform Africa or anywhere else in question it certainly has had ample opportunity.”
That’s an excellent point. When I talk of thinking to the future I mean the capabilities of the device. I see so much analysis that talks about devices not being able to do X, Y, Z today, while missing the truth that the same devices will soon be able to do X, Y, Z. It’s only a question of time. Ballmer laughed at the original iPhone, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the iPhone would evolve.
Five years from now smartphones will be incredibly powerful, able to handle many more complex tasks simply with the addition of accessories. The same is true of tablets. We might see a kind of distributed PC. But I imagine we’ll still hear people say those devices aren’t PCs.
I wonder, what is so sacred about traditional PCs that we’re not allowed to suggest that other devices are also PCs?
“I see so much analysis that talks about devices not being able to do X, Y, Z”
What they miss is that those devices don’t need to do “X, Y, Z”. They do “A, B, C”, which is what makes them so useful.
“I wonder, what is so sacred about traditional PCs that we’re not allowed to suggest that other devices are also PCs?”
Now that is a good question.
Agreed, new devices are often additive, offering new jobs-to-be-done and new ways of doing old jobs-to-be-done.
My kids do the same kinds of things with their iPads that they would have done with a MacBook or iMac, but they are also doing things they simply could not do with a traditional PC. They make a lot of movies and music, often running around outside with their iPads, capturing video and audio. Or when they’re illustrating or writing, they’ll also be outside. It’s tough to do any of this with a traditional PC. You could get by with a MacBook but it’s a lot easier with an iPad. But stuff like going out at night to use an app like Star Walk to learn about astronomy, is that even practical on a traditional PC? There’s lots of other use cases like this.
I guess if all someone does is sit at a traditional PC all day, I can understand where some of this “iPad is not a PC!” attitude comes from. Humans don’t like change, it can be terrifying.
Hi Ben, in the first world, a modem will not save the pc, but the whole SkyLake wire-free stuff sounds incredibly interesting. it resonates on the “one port Macbook”. And maybe, my dream of a VGA free conference room will become reality in my lifetime
The PC has been compartmentalized and its different functions have been offloaded to different mobile devices. The best thing to do when changes of this kind happen is to adapt accordingly. Intel and Microsoft can definitely adapt to the new challenges.
Microsoft would have been better of remaining a software provider, making apps and applications for every new emerging technology. Intel could still make chips for a variety of applications. That is the only way to survive.
These are big companies and have tremendous inertia. It is expected of them to be slow to respond to changes and they can welcome the changes and see how they can continue to survive in the changing landscape. Otherwise they can become irrelevant.
Intel could have explored the auto, medical, aerospace, communication areas for potential future growth instead of settling down to making chips for PCs and servers.
Technology market can be brutal and big giants can fall and shatter. DEC, Motorola, Nokia, HP and even IBM are prime examples of companies that were completely derailed and shaken up. These were giants in their own rights not long ago.
One thing about that compartmentalization… I’d really like the transition between devices to be more seamless. Not just at the basic level everybody does (forward texts and notifs to the PC…), but actually run the same apps in a window on my desktop. That way sync happens faster, formats don’t get messed up, and to be frank, many mobile apps are better than their desktop counterparts. Also, cheaper.
MS seems to be all about that, except they’re still lacking apps and the OS is either backwards or a big unknown.
Apple has come out against that from day one, arguing touch and non-touch can’t coexist. I’m expecting a good old fliparoo at some point in time, maybe for the next presidential campaign, to keep with the zeitgeist ^^.
That leaves Android, which has a few ways to do it:
– simply install Android on a PC. You lose Windows though, that’s a bit drastic…
– Install Android in a VM. That’s what I’m doing right now, and it works fine on my main monitor, but not on my secondary monitor (VirtualBox quirk) where my Android window belongs.
– Google has just released a Chrome extension that turns Chrome into an Android… device. That’s a bit scary though, Chrome is turning into some Frankenstein monster. I don’t even like it as a browser, I’d rather the Android stuff were a separate app.
– There are specific utilities (BlueStack ?)