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A closer look at the demise of Microsoft’s monopoly and PC market slump

Unless you’ve been hibernating for the last five years, you may have noticed one of the most dramatic shifts in technological history: Microsoft, once the most valuable (and probably the most powerful) company in the world is now just another tech company.

A big tech company, for sure, but one that is being increasingly marginalised by the shift away from the desktop PC and companies such as Apple, Google, and Samsung.

If you need proof – if you’re desperately holding onto the belief that the PC will persevere – just take a look at the following graphs that were drawn up by Business Insider.

The first graph, above, tells the same story that we reported last week: PC sales have declined for five straight quarters, mostly due to low-end buyers opting for tablets instead of netbooks and laptops. Smartphones aren’t quite so directly involved with the PC’s demise, but their meteoric rise certainly isn’t helping the PC.

The second graph, above, is a dramatic visualisation of Microsoft’s swiftly declining share of the global consumer computing market. Eight years ago, 95 per cent of consumer computers were powered by Windows; today, it’s around 20 per cent. As you can see, this shift is almost entirely down to the growth of iOS and Android.

Finally, this graph shows you the stagnation of the PC market in detail – plus a handy marker for when the first iPad went on sale (April 2010). The three huge quarters are mostly due to the release of Windows 7 – but the release of Windows 8 in Q4 2012 barely makes a dent.

At this point it’s fairly clear that tablets are nibbling at the PC’s market share – but we should still be careful not to infer that the iPad has single-handedly decimated PC sales. There are all sorts of other factors that might come into play, such as the abhorrent nature of Windows Vista, upgrade cycles, a poor economic climate, and so on.

What these graphs primarily show is that PCs are still selling in large quantities – but instead of being the technological cornerstone of our lives, they now have to compete with smartphones and tablets.

If we cast our gaze to the future and extend the lines on the graphs by a few years, it’s clear that this trend will continue until the PC is merely a specialised device for productivity and gaming. As tablets and smartphones close the performance gap, and input devices improve, the PC market will shrink even further. (See: The smartphone is the PC of tomorrow).

In short, these graphs show you why Microsoft is shifting away from PC-centricity, why the Xbox One is making such a huge play for the living room, and why Windows 8 is so tablet-oriented – continuing to focus on the conventional personal computer would be suicidal.

Image Credits: George Lange/Contour by Getty Images; Asymco