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Are we witnessing the demise of the PC?

BusinessFeatures
by Adrian Simpson, 28 Nov 2012Features
Are we witnessing the demise of the PC?

Recently, I read the dramatic verdict issued by Gartner that the UK PC market "is now on an ever-declining trend".  According to the analysts, Q3 of 2012 saw unit shipments in the UK drop by over seven per cent, to fewer than three million. In addition, the consumer and B2B markets fell by eight and six per cent respectively – and the desktop and notebook sectors also both posted declines.

Meanwhile, mobile devices – smartphones and tablets alike - are continuing to grow in popularity. This got me thinking about a much debated question in the IT industry: will mobile domination see the extinction of the PC?

If we are to base the response purely on some of the sales statistics which have come out recently – the answer seems to be yes. However, I would argue that the situation is far more complex. Of course tablets and smartphones are becoming an increasingly popular option (both in a B2B and consumer context) but I’m not sure that mobile devices are in the process of wiping out PCs altogether.

Although PCs and mobile devices share common characteristics; in my mind, each has their own distinct strengths.  In a business context, the PC is still pinpointed as the leader for content creation, even in light of huge steps forward in this area for mobile devices. The mobile device, on the other hand, evidently has the edge when it comes agility and flexibility – enabling employees to work and digest information whilst out on the move.

The issue with the ‘PC extinction’ argument is that the rise of mobile, doesn’t automatically equate to the complete demise of the PC. After all, despite the huge popularity of laptops when first introduced, desktop PCs weren’t wiped out altogether.

From both a practical and financial perspective, the idea that businesses (or individuals for that matter) are going to get rid of fully functioning systems at the drop of the hat is just not viable. The challenge instead is actually how to manage the use of two different technologies and how disparate devices can be used together, to complement one another.  In our personal lives it it’s more of a conscious battle to justify purchasing yet another new tablet!

Rather than witnessing a total demise of the PC, I think we are instead seeing a shift in user demand and a need to manage multiple devices. Definitions are becoming blurred when it comes to technology; we are seeing a continual oscillation, where competition is forcing the IT industry to constantly innovate.

Touch screen desktops are just one example of how the market is responding to the change in consumer demand for more usable devices. Moreover, the launch of Windows 8 for mobile devices, laptops and PCs indicates there is a space and demand for a shared platform for mobile devices and the desktop.

I’m not saying that PCs won’t be replaced eventually – given the astounding levels of innovation in the UK and across the world, and the huge strides we are seeing in the technology sector year on year, it is almost impossible to predict the exact shape and form devices will take in 10 or 20 years’ time.

However, what I can say is that although the PC is facing a volatile future, the pressure is forcing continuous innovation - so let’s not start writing the eulogy just yet...

Adrian Simpson, Chief Innovation Officer for SAP UKI has been at SAP for over ten years working on the rollout of new technologies within SAP, within the partner ecosystem, and ultimately to SAP customers. This has included managing teams within SAP Portals, the Global NetWeaver Initiative, Customer SOA Advisory Office as well as the Technology and Innovation solution architects.

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