I Need a PC and I Know It

on June 16, 2013

One of the fundamental characteristics of a mature market, is mature consumers. These consumers are mature in the sense that they know what they want and more importantly they know why they want it. This kind of maturity can only come with a defined sense of needs, wants, and desires.

That defined sense, can only come when you have experience with a product. Owning multiple generations of a product or category is required to fully understand not just what you want but why you want it. For many consumers they know by now whether they value a traditional PC like a desktop or notebook and they know why. These consumers know they need a PC and have a sense of what they want. Interestingly with smartphones and tablets, I don’t believe we have fully mature customers. ((I’ll dive into this in a future column, but some of the experimentation we are seeing in platform switching or experimenting demonstrates this nuance of the consumer market. ))

The Screens That Rule Our Lives

When the iPad joined our world, we knew it was more than a screen to entertain us. We knew it was a profound new kind of computer. At the same time, recognizing that the tablet will not replace the PC is a key understanding. For many, the tablet can and will become a primary computing device, but I doubt the presence of a more powerful computing will cease to exist in most consumers home in some way or another. But as important as the tablet is, there are many hundreds of millions of consumers who depend on the traditional PC to make a living. What is interesting for this class of customer is that they need a PC and they know it.

We are fond of saying we are in the post PC-era. What this term simply means is that the PC is no longer the only computer in which we can perform computing tasks. But the metrics of how a PC is valued has changed. One can make a strong argument that there are many consumer who don’t value the PC and will rather value the tablet and that may be true. But for those who need a PC, and know it, value has shifted from processing power to battery life.

Battery Life is the New MHZ Race

The raging question throughout the PC industry has been “what is going to get consumers to upgrade their PCs?” The answer is iPad like battery life.

At last weeks WWDC Apple released new MacBook Air’s running Intel’s 4th generation core processor. At one point in time when a company released a new PC, they proudly announced how much processing power it had, and the crowd would applaud. At WWDC last week when Apple discussed the MacBook Air, the crowd did not cheer or applaud when they announced the speed of the processor. Instead, the crowd went wild when they announced the new metrics for battery life. The new 11″ MacBook Air now has 9 hours of batter life, and the new 13″ MacBook Air now has 12 hours of battery life. Even now, we learn that after some benchmarking and reviews those battery life claims may even be conservative. No computer on the market comes close to these battery life claims and I will be interested to see if a battery life competitor to the MacBook Air comes to market this year.

Casually read some of the reviews of the new MacBook Airs and you will see how the reviewers are raving about their experience having more than all-day battery life in a notebook.

Without question there is a huge opportunity waiting for the PC industry with regard to notebook upgrades. Many consumers and corporate workers are using PCs that are out dated in nearly every major category. Yet it is not the high-definition screens, the touch screens (or lack there of on Macs), the ultra-thin design, or the overall look that will give their new owners a profound computing experience–It is the battery life.

Apple has set the bar high with these new battery benchmarks. All PC makers are making progress in this area and the new processors from Intel and AMD will help push this needle forward. ((If Windows RT can gain traction, ARM processors can be a solution for even longer battery life)) One thing I will be watching very closely with the fall lineup is the battery life claims from all the new notebooks. I am convinced this is the feature-of-all-features for the PC industry this year.