Skip to main content

The PC industry is now a zombie

All us older-timers – those of us who remember when the PC was first called a "microcomputer," then a "personal computer," then a "desktop computer," and then a "workstation" – wonder if there will ever again be a boom in sales during the mobile era.

At this point, my guess is no. This is because there is nothing left to invent for the PC that anyone can leverage. During the ramp up when desktops essentially took over homes and offices, sales kept increasing until there was market saturation. Every so often, something exciting would come along that required people to upgrade. All the most recent initiatives – blogging, Twitter, Facebook – have been cloud-based. Once you have a speedy Internet connection, you do not really need to upgrade the machines on the desk. Thus, we see a kind of stagnation.

The only reason people upgrade components or get a new system is if there is a catastrophic failure. With today's machines, this is rare because computers can go a decade without failing. The world is still full of PCs running Windows XP, which was released in 2001. I would guess that there are even still machines out there running Windows 2000 and doing just fine.

So what is the reason to upgrade? Maybe to get more speed to run certain programs faster. Adobe Photoshop can use as much power as you can throw at it, for example.

In the early days of desktop computing, upgrading was necessary due to newer and newer hardware being introduced, like high density drives, new hard disks, and certain kinds of graphics. Many of these required upgraded operating systems and often upgraded hardware. Once peripherals stabilised, this sort of upgrade treadmill ended.

There were moments when bloated software pushed upgrades but today's machines seemed to have absorbed all the bloat and much of it has been offloaded to the cloud.

The only stress put on most machines today is the lame browser that runs as well on a phone as it does on a Core i7. The folks left who use power and find it necessary to upgrade are the gamers who can get more and more realism with a faster machine running high-end graphics. Games can push the limits of PCs, but many people will get pretty much the same thrill from lesser machines.

Why this stagnation took place is a direct result of mediocre competition, and Microsoft Office is the prime culprit. Where, for example, is the PowerPoint killer? Apple released Keynote, the only serious threat if it was ever ported to the PC.

Limiting real competition in the market ends up sucking the life out of it, which is just what has happened. The PC industry has become a zombie; it died in 2001 and walks the Earth as the living dead. I see no way to revitalise it, and I'm not seeing any marketing geniuses emerge, either.

Image Credit: Pikolas