Can PC makers survive in a post PC world?

Moderated by Jason Hiner | May 29, 2012 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: HP is laying off more than 27,000 employees and Dell's Q1 2012 earnings were weak across the board.

Zack Whittaker

Zack Whittaker

Yes

or

No

Jason Perlow

Jason Perlow

Best Argument: No

Closing Statements

PCs will likely never go away

Zack Whittaker

Why? I don't believe it falls squarely with the PC manufacturer. I feel we have yet to reach a point where the traditional PC model is replaced by something better. With that, PC demand will remain even as we venture into a post-PC world.

Having said that, it's not as cut-and-dry for PC makers. Most traditional PC makers have already pushed into the tablet world -- with some hits and misses -- and some will not survive. I think later on down the line, mergers and further cultural transitions will further dictate how we use computers, and PC builders will have to bundle together to weather the likely market share storms.

The thin-client approach that endorses cloud technology will develop during the Windows 8 lifetime. Despite its abhorrent visuals, it will keep the traditional PC business ticking over until Windows 9 -- when it will likely regain traditional PC focus.

Perlow said it well: This is about whether PC companies can sustain a business model on building and selling PCs. For that, it's a clear and obvious yes.

The writing is on the wall

Jason Perlow

Look, you don't have to be Carnac the Magnificent to see the writing on the wall. It's painfully obvious that we still have too many PC manufacturers and they have too many redundant products to sell, with a falling demand for their wares.

The majority of consumers desire and require inexpensive, mobile devices that do the basics (Web, Email, Social Networking) along with easy to use apps that leverage data stored in the Cloud.

Conversely, businesses and the enterprise want devices that are low cost, power-efficient, low maintenance and easily manageable, with the ability to leverage applications and data running in their datacenters.

Only Post-PC devices such as tablets, ARM-based systems and thin clients (such as Google's Chromebox) can achieve this.

Sure, some people will still require the horsepower and complexity of the PC. But this debate was never about the PC itself going away; it's whether or not PC companies as a whole can sustain a business model on revenue largely dependent on PCs.

And to that, the answer is a resounding no.

PC ecosystem faces transformation

Jason Hiner

This is a topic that we've debated before and we're certainly going to be debating again in the future. This is where a lot of big stuff is happening -- like Apple riding strong iPhone and iPad sales to pass Microsoft and IBM and become the world's most valuable technology company. And, it's where a lot of big stuff is going to be happening in the next several years -- thin clients, desktop virtualization, PC/smartphone convergence, BYOD, and more.

As Zack explained, the rise of tablets isn't going to put HP or Dell or Microsoft or Intel out of business any time soon. In fact, PCs are going to easily outsell tablets every year for the next five years. However, when we look at the overall mobile device market, there is still a huge growth curve ahead for smartphones to replace traditional mobile phones, especially in the developing world where these smartphones are going to become the de facto computers for the masses. When you combine that with the fact that tablets are eating the bottom out of the PC market, then you suddenly see how the traditional PC is going to evolve into specialized tool for high-end workers.

That's why I have to vote against the crowd on this one and side with Perlow, who more clearly articulated the future trajectory of the market and what it means for the way today's PC ecosystem is going to have to transform itself in the years ahead.

Talkback

88 comments
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  • Right, "post PC" - poisoning the well, anybody?

    Right, "post PC" - poisoning the well, anybody?

    Methinks Jason probably already made up his mind. Or at least is going to be very biased.

    I'm not of the belief that this is going to be a "post PC" era. I'm of the belief that PCs are just another form factor, and that our form factors are diversifying.

    I don't think that diversifying form factors is the same as killing the older platforms. I really don't. I have a smart phone, and I still use my PC plenty.

    Sure, ZDNet authors have used just mobile platforms sometimes to demonstrate "it can be done" - but their job is basically blogging. Blogging is nothing more than editing text, and yeah you can do that on any platform. Although they have to come up with clunky solutions (like bluetooth keyboards) because, in all honesty, mobile devices really [i]aren't[/i] good text editors.

    ZDNet seems to be obsessed with every new tech being a panacea. They really are, I'm convinced. If it provides even minimal benefits, they're willing to ignore all drawbacks and proclaim it the Solution To Everything, Ever. All they have are hammers, and everything looks like a nail to them.
    CobraA1
    Reply 5 Votes I'm for Yes
    • Post-PC is a buzzword

      If you look at the most productive way to use a tablet now, you have a stand to hold the screen upright and a bluetooth keyboard. Looks a lot like a laptop. Maybe in the far distant future when EVERYTHING is run virtually and we have nationwide high speed internet access you will see PCs no longer being used, because it will take almost no actual computing power to run a VM and you will have reliable connectivity anywhere you go.

      That time is not here, or close. I think right now it's as you said "diversifying form factors". Some things are easier on a tablet such as POS use and leisurely consumption (think sitting on a couch watching netflix), while other things are easier on a laptop (checking/writing email, using windows programs).
      dsa791
      Reply 1 Vote I'm for Yes
      • POST PC is a MYTH

        I'm sorry but the lines will eventually blur I don't see tablets or smartphones replacing my PC as my primary device. I have all of these devices and guess what? I USE MY PC 10 Hours a day. I need a device that is rugged, dependable and without restrictions. I need to type reports, create spreadsheets and manage an IT Infrastructure. I can't do that with my media toys (Smartphone, tablet) Sure they are easy form factors to use if I want to view a document etc but my laptop does it ALL! The layoffs aren't really a sign of the PC dying off...its a sign that these companies are trimming their fat and preparing to take on a new boat load of cash with Windows 8 and all it has to offer. I see more intelligent devices that will allow a PC user to do more with less and to do it across all eco-systems. Apple was first but they are far from safe in all of this because there are plenty of OEMs with great design teams that are about to get a new toy in Windows 8! They now have a tool that allows them to do so much more! Apple has a giant target on its core and its about to get blown away by the PC Manufacturers!
        Rob.sharp
        Reply 3 Votes I'm for Yes
      • So very, very true

        [i]Post-PC is a buzzword[/i]

        [b]Paradigm Shift, Disruptive Technology, Post PC[/b] - all buzz words,
        used herever they can, though not anywhere near as much as before, as a new buzz word is in use, until that ends up means nothing, anymore.

        And using sales as a metric is the worse when they leave out so many factors in drawing their conclusions.

        many phones are FREE. Not computers, not laptops, not even tablets, (which is why there are far less tablets then their are smartphones). Yet these bloggers point to smartphones as "proof" people don't want a PC. It's not that people don't want PCs, in many cases these Phones are given to these people for FREE. (with the contract)

        Haven't seen that kind of deal with an i3 Dell, HP, Acer, ect laptop or desktop.
        Yet people are still paying for PCs. Sure the numbers have dropped, but PC's are getting better and lasting longer, more pewer, and parts galore from any number of web sites, so you have to factor that in. Smartphones? When the battery dies, they'll give you another free phone with that contract.

        Also, the competition in the PC market it far crowded then in the Apple market, so as HP loses customers to Acer, it doesn't mean that it's because people don't want PC's it just mean that they're buying from someone else. Apple's made sure they never have that problem with the Mac line of computers.

        So to dismiss so many external factors, and base a claim off of layoffs or sales, is IMHO, not looking beyond the data that gives you what you need, not what you want.
        William Farrel
        Reply 1 Vote I'm for Yes
      • HERALDING A NEW ERA!

        Welcome to the era of Disposable Computing where devices are not expected to be of much value beyond the 2 year commitment to your data plan...unless you are on Android at which point, your device might not be kept up to date for even the first year of your 2 year commitment. Luckily, you can always load some Cyanogen Mod-like bits to extend the life of your device if you are a do-it-yourselfer.
        gomigomijunk
        Reply 1 Vote I'm for Yes
      • Who needs a tablet for Netflix?

        I watch Netflix on my TV via my PS3.

        Tablets are a fad and once people get over them, the normal order will be restored.
        T1Oracle
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
    • huh???

      [i]I'm of the belief that PCs are just another form factor, and that our form factors are diversifying.[/i]

      what does this have to do with the question of the debate?

      "Can PC makers survive in a post PC world?" if you want to call it the diversified PC form factor era AND/OR the less frequent PC upgrade cycle era... so be it.. the question is.. is are Dell, HP etc cut out to handle this change?
      theFunkDoctorSpoc
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • That's a rhetorical question

        [i]"Can PC makers survive in a post PC world?"[/i]

        That's a rhetorical question because there ain't no post PC world to come within the next century. As clearly stated b4, we're only gonna be seeing different form factors that are made to perform certain tasks better than a regular laptop; other tasks will still be better off on a regular laptop.
        MrElectrifyer
        Reply 1 Vote I'm for Yes
  • Post PC World? What's That?

    This debate has come from the raising market of tablets and smart phones. They can't be the replacement of PC. Tablets, smart phones are good in their class but they're just a tool, they're just a new extension. Tablets and smart phones are getting popular for decreasing prise, mobility, style. It's just a trend to have that kind of gadgets. Go for any hardcore task you'll need a PC (Desktop or Laptop/Windows or Mac). Processing power, storage, customization, large view and so on, everything under a roof. Tablets and smart phones are designed to do some specific tasks. Other hand, the machine by which you can do everything is called a PC. So, PC makers will obviously survive but their approaches for marketing should be new, should be different; just like old wine in a new bottle.
    sourav_dey
    Reply 2 Votes I'm for Yes
  • Post Personal Computer World - Never.

    There are billions of PCs out there but there are just hundreds of millions of mobile devices. If I'm away from my desk I can see myself using a mobile device but when I get to my desk I want a good old fashioned PC with keyboard, mouse, touch pad etc. And we'll be buying them from a competitive marketplace, where I have a choice of hardware combinations to suit my particular requirements. that are easily upgradeable and where the manufacturers have a 5 or 10% profit margin rather than one of 30%. They will also have a means whereby I can easily achieve due dilligence when it comes to the security of my customers and my data and comply with such things as the requirements of the data protection act here in the u.k.. I most certainly don't want to have to go through some third party to copy data to and from the devices nor do I want some third party telling me what is and is not a suitable application to run on said mobile devices. Obviously if they come up with some kind of mobile device that has the flexibility and power of a desktop and yet the portability of the mobile device, then I will be interested - oh hang on - isn't that called a notebook....

    As long as personal computers are needed there will be people out there making them and people like me buying them.
    psychobdelic
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for Yes