The Evolution of the PC

on May 22, 2019
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The PC form factor is not dead. It has proven quite resilient. Research study, after research study we have done at Creative Strategies has continually demonstrated the PC is the device the majority of the market comes back to for many of their primary workflows. This is not to say work can’t be done on a smartphone or a tablet, but that the PC is still the central hub of work for the masses. This resiliency of the PC form factor is leading to a number of new innovations and evolutions as consumers look for new hardware that fits their central workflows.

There have not been many considerable leaps in PC innovation in the past ten years. The PC industry has tried to make the PC more tablet-like, but the next frontier will be making the PC more like the smartphone. Interestingly, from some recent research we did, we asked consumers which smartphone features they would like on their PC/Mac.

I highlighted things like instant-on, all-day battery life, face authentication, and connectivity for a few specific reasons. Not only where these answer choices, the top ones consumers would like to see on their PC and Mac, but they speak to different needs and wants of the consumer. Face authentication, for example, speaks to the increased security desires consumers want to see on their PC that is now becoming common on all modern smartphones. Instant-on has been a function of our smartphones for years while most consumers still need to wait seconds, sometimes minutes, for their PC to boot up and be ready to use. A smartphone, generally, gets all-day battery life while most consumers experience less than 10-12 hours of battery life on their PCs.

Connectivity was the feature I was a bit surprised ranked as high as it did in our research. While I have personally been quite bullish on having a continuous connection to the Internet in the PC form factor, there has felt like moderate demand so far. Talk to anyone with an always connected iPad, and they will sing the praises of the convenience of never having to worry about an Internet connection. Having used a connected iPad for as long as they have existed, I continually found how my workflows would change when I’m mobile, and I’d choose to do a work task on iPad instead of my phone simply because I knew I had a connection. This was something we were curious to test in our study, so we asked consumers if they had a choice between their PC/Mac and smartphone to do certain tasks which one they would choose.

In an era where we debate how many jobs the smartphone takes from the PC, the reality is the PC is still better at many core work-related tasks. You see this show up in our research where, when given a choice, things like email, working on documents, and even watching videos are all everyday tasks consumers prefer to do on PCs. Again, all of these are possible on smartphones, but the PC is the right tool for the job.

PC Evolution
The evolution of the PC is happening because it is the right tool for many jobs. This is why one of the most interesting parts of the PC industry happening is the rich segmentation we see developing. There is no one size fits all PC form factor design but rather a wide range of notebook and desktop designs to fit the needs of changing market demands. This is a reason I’m glad Intel is seeing competition from Qualcomm and the Arm architecture is finally becoming relevant to PC designs that focus on highly mobile consumers.

We have written and analyzed Qualcomm’s Always-On, Always connected PCs quite a bit here on Tech.pinions, but with two years of product designs under their belts, each generation has seen improvements. Continual evolution in the PC sector demands competition with the underlying PC architectures that power them. Intel’s X86 architecture has dominated the PC industry, but Intel has always struggled at bringing extremely low-power products to market. Low-power, better battery life, instant-on, etc., are the staple features of smartphones powered by Arm and the Arm architecture is well positioned to bring these features to new notebook designs over the coming years.

Many of our writers here at Tech.pinions have had a chance to work with products from Lenovo and HP running Arm/Qualcomm solutions, and we have all been impressed with the incredible battery life they offer. This gives me hope, and consumers will see more of the value of devices that have true all-day battery life, are always connected, and have zero wait time to start being productive.

With Computex around the corner, expect to see many new designs of PCs that challenge the conventional wisdom of how a PC looks and functions. PC hardware makers are working to bring new innovations to market to fit the need of a dynamic and quickly changing PC category. The big trend you will see is how many of these new PC designs are starting to include many features that have been the standard in smartphones.

Evolution and Innovation in the PC category requires a new architectural approach with regard to processors. Intel knows this, and Arm and their partners like Qualcomm know this and healthy competition beyond X86 is good for the industry and consumers.

If you would like to see the full report/white paper we co-published with Arm, here is the direct link to the data and my commentary on the results of the research.