Why are Computer Sales Slumping?

By | January 18, 2017

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Why don’t people want “real” computers anymore

It’s not news that overall sales of new computers have been slumping for a couple of years now.  Worldwide the sales of PCs and Mac computers have been on a downward slide due to low consumer demand and a shift to more mobile computing.  Let’s take a look at some of the factors leading to the downturn, and why I think there might be a slight revival in the future.

The world is mobile

The last ten years has seen an explosion in the use of smartphones.  No other item has so changed the landscape of how we interact with computing devices.  We are now realizing the power of having what is basically a small computer, in your pocket.  With the always connected nature of high-speed mobile data, more and more people have taken their primary computing needs from the desktop to the pocket.

For the most part, people who use computers are only accomplishing simple things like updating social media, sending emails and shopping online.  Hardly anything that requires any real computing horsepower.  People have found they don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a computer setup that has way more capability than they need.  So for them, a good smartphone handles their day to day needs.

What about those who need a real keyboard once in awhile?  Well, there is a solution for that also.  First, there are several Bluetooth enabled keyboards that allow for a wireless connection to your phone or tablet that allow you to have a more traditional computer experience.  While no means perfect, it does work in a pinch.

There are even a few convertible laptops that you can separate the keyboard from the screen to use it as a normal tablet or a laptop format depending on your needs.  I have used one of these before, it’s not a great laptop since the weight is higher than a normal laptop which makes it prone to tip over.  And it is heavy for a tablet.  They also tend to be a little underpowered for even light use.

Laptops

I will make no excuses for it, I am a huge fan of the Chromebook.  Turns out, i
t is the only laptop segment that is seeing an increase in sales.  It is the almost perfect solution for someone who needs a laptop form factor without the cost and the overhead of running a full-scale OS like Windows or MacOS.  Chromebooks have come a long way from being Internet only and poorly supported.  These days any application you need to run on a laptop has a ChromeOS equal.  Most people do not need a Windows or MacOS anymore.  For doing email, social media, running a blog, or keeping up with friends and family a Chromebook will serve your needs.  They even look good now.

Laptops have come a long way overall in the amount of battery life and processing power.  Even if you need more than just the basic computing needs.  For instance, you have a business and need to do heavy processing with complicated Excel functions, database management or specific applications like AutoCAD or video editing.  There are laptops that can handle that type of need.  With simple and easy to use docks you can connect the laptop to a full-size monitor, keyboard, and mouse.  You can get the full desktop experience but can take your device on the road.

Laptop sales have been steady, but are following desktop sales down.

Desktops

Who really wants a desktop machine anymore?  Well, I know a few, but they do high-end 3D animation and video editing and design.  They need the horsepower and RAM to handle anything you can throw at it.  The day of the family desktop computer is coming to an end.  With everyone in the family having access to their own discrete computing devices that are cheap, there is not the demand for the big under desk heater.

Hardcore PC Gamers will look to desktops for their needs, but for most people, the desktop form factor is on its way out.  With the rise of console game systems and high-speed online gaming, the pool of PC gamers is shrinking.  While PC Games are better looking and a mouse is a better way to play those games, the price and ease of use of Game Consoles are really eating into the PC market.

The Cloud

Several years ago there was a big drive to set up multimedia servers in your house to stream all your movies and music to your TV.  But with the rise of Netflix and Hulu and many many other streaming services, that demand has been moved to the cloud.  “Cheap” high-speed internet has made this easier to manage and keep running smoothly.

Cloud computing has been shifting a lot of the computing power that’s needed to server farms located all over the country.  This takes the load off the local machine and allows for the resources to be lowered, making parts cheaper.  The best example is the Chromebook, again.

Stuff just lasts longer

People are holding on to their devices longer than they used it.  New computers last longer and are more future proof than their earlier counterparts.  Also, a lagging economy is forcing business and individuals from spending the money to upgrade every year or two.

The major corporate buys have gone a long way towards keeping higher end computer sales afloat.  Without the constant turnover of machines being needed, the market as a whole tends to have a bit of a downward slide.

If you do have some old devices around that you need to handle or dispose of, I have a couple of tips.

Bottom Line

There will be a bottom to the PC decline, but we are a long way from it.  As smartphones get more powerful and laptops cheaper, the desktop will be done, except for very niche applications.  I recommend most people would be served well with a good smartphone and a Chromebook.  Most people don’t need the processing power that a high-end Windows or Mac Laptop have to offer.

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What do you think about the future of computing?  Do you see a return of the desktop?  The death of the laptop?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below!