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

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Thanks everyone

    Whittaker and Perlow will post their closing arguments tomorrow and I will declare a winner on Thursday. Between now and then, don't forget to cast your vote and jump into the discussion to post your thoughts on this topic.

    Posted by Jason Hiner

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Consolidation in the PC ecosystem

    Will there be consolidation in the PC ecosystem in the years ahead? Who will be most likely to emerge as the winners?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Forget HP and Dell. Hello, Lenovo.

    I think Lenovo, considering its move into Brazil to target the emerging market in Latin America, will tip over HP in the coming year. Dell will likely continue on, barely innovating and floundering and wondering why it continues to lose market share, and Acer will just crumble. Acer's not really very good at anything. I also wouldn't be surprised to see some of the PC builders with a smaller market share merging in a bid to take on whoever emerges as the new number one leader. If that means Dell dropping down the chain and teaming up with Asus as an up-and-coming star in the tablet world, combined the two would be enough competition to have Lenovo quaking in its boots. Provided the worldwide regulators do not see it as an antitrust-brewing coalition of taking on the top dog in the PC building chain, I see no reason why it can't work. Having said that, as with the tablet and smartphone market, there's already a duopoly in Android and iOS -- and the same could easily happen with the non-tablet PC market.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    It's a virtual guarantee.

    Unquestionably. Lenovo is likely to usurp HP as top PC dog within the next two years because it is not as fat a company, it's a virtual subsidiary of the Chinese government with huge domestic demand for their products, and has done well diversifying into Android and Windows tablets in addition to smartphones. In addition to Lenovo getting bigger or even consuming weaker brands (Fujitsu/Toshiba/Panasonic's PC divisions or possibly even Dell) we may very well see Microsoft and Intel have stronger relationships with what we might now call Tier 2 or Tier 3 Chinese vendors, such as Asus and Acer, which are not nearly as margin sensitive as the Big Three. It is probably inevitable that a bunch of these Chinese and also Korean firms will consolidate as margins become hair-thin. It also would not surprise me to see Samsung's PC business improve due to their diversification and their leadership in consumer electronics and component manufacturing business as well.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    How do today's PC makers become leaders in the next generation?

    If you examine the manufacturers in the PC ecosystem, a lot them are already struggling, especially HP, Dell, and Acer. Lenovo and ASUS have a little bit of momentum. What do all these companies need to do in order to be leaders in the next generation of computing?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    PCs are like Nokia phones.

    Perlow is right. Apple has one version for each product. PC makers have every different possible combination of product. In fact, PC makers collectively are a lot like Nokia. The once-proud phone giant develops a phone, dubbs it a number like 6000. It upgrades the camera and gives it a different ringtone and brands it the 6100. There is too much fragmentation in the PC market, and frankly, it's not that OS X is easier to use, or Mac's work better -- they're just easier for the ordinary end-user. With Apple products, you don't have to know how it works -- it just does. Two words to PC makers with that in mind: simplify everything.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    Diversify and Simplify

    As I touched on earlier, diversification into Post-PC products by these companies and eliminating redundant products/streamlining is going to crucial in order to survive the transition. If we look at Apple as an example, they only have a few basic types of Macs and Macbooks -- the Macbook Air in two sizes, the Macbook Pro in three sizes, two sizes of iMac, two variants of Mac Mini, and the Mac Pro desktop. The Mac Pro is likely going to be discontinued or some amped-up Sandy Bridge version of the Mini or the iMac will end up taking its place (iMac Pro?) It also wouldn't surprise me at all to see Apple further streamline and eliminate the Macbook Pro/Air and just have a single Macbook line sometime in the future merging the technologies of both lines. Apple has no problem doing more with less, and its profits reflect heavily on that philosophy. By comparison, your average PC vendor has a lot more flavors of system they are trying to sell. For example, HP has at least 5 lines of laptops with multiple sizes within each line, and at least 16 types of desktops. This is madness, and it's no wonder the company is experiencing problems.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    How many workers will still need full PCs in a decade?

    Clearly, full-blown PCs are still going to be needed by developers, content creators, and others. What percentage of business professionals do you predict will still be using the equivalent of today's desktops and laptops a decade from now?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Less than a fraction.

    A decade from now? Less than five percent. I think Ultrabooks will rise up, and tablets will continue to chip away at the traditional PC market share. But I think the two will run parallel while occasionally crossing over from time to time.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    A lot less than exists today.

    Less than 10 percent of the current global PC population, if not as low as five percent. It could be even less depending on how big technologies like VDI take off. Give a developer or someone in the scientific/engineering field a lot of back end server power on a private cloud and a professional monitor attached to a thin client, with technologies like Microsoft's RemoteFX for server-side GPU rendering of virtual desktops, and the need for those big desktops could entirely disappear.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Intel's hybrid approach

    Intel is placing its bets on Ultrabooks and hybrid laptops with multitouch screens. Is that the right approach?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Why not?

    Ultrabooks are the natural evolution of the 'bog-standard' laptop. If anything, Windows 7 will keep Ultrabooks in play at least for the next couple of years. Windows 8 will in my view be a flop on the desktop and Microsoft will panic, undo the changes, and Windows 9 will spin back round and focus back on the traditional PC. I'm a pre-post-PC optimist.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    Not leaving much room for alternative plans

    I think there will clearly be some demand for Ultrabooks and Windows 8, but as to how deep it will be compared to tablets and traditional laptops running Windows 7 I cannot say. The prices for Ultrabooks certainly need to go below sub-$1000 or even less to make an impression, because your average consumer laptop goes for about $600. I can say, however, that by not investing in ARM-based semiconductor technologies, Intel doesn't have much of a Plan B.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Microsoft's leadership role

    With Windows 8, what do you think about the way Microsoft is playing its role as ring-leader?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Tablet, schmablet.

    Thankfully Microsoft has seen the light and knows the way forward. (Actually, Microsoft looked at what Apple was doing and pretty much copied it word for word). Microsoft had to appease two markets: PCs on the desktop, and tablets to compete with the iPad. As per the previous question, Microsoft can't lose. Or, if it does, it loses catastrophically and goes down with the rest of the PC making business. At the end of the day, Foxconn and plants that actually build PCs do not care whether it builds PCs or tablets. Neither does Microsoft, as long as PC builders know what they're doing.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    Hedging its bets

    Microsoft has always had an active role in the development of the Personal Computer between Intel and the PC vendors, so I don't see any fundamental difference in what they are doing with Windows 8 than what they did before. However, there can be no denying that with Windows RT, the company is hedging its bets between Intel and ARM, which is obviously making its traditional partners nervous since a huge amount of their revenue stream has been Intel and Windows RT's success is not necessarily assured. The last time Windows ran on multiple desktop architectures was in the early 1990's, when Windows NT was introduced on the PowerPC and MIPS alongside Intel. This is a big deal.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The transition for Wintel

    When we look at the PC ecosystem with Microsoft, Intel, and all of the PC manufacturers, how do you see them navigating this transition?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Win-win. Win-lose. Lose-lose.

    It's simple. If they don't adapt for the post-PC market -- and I'm talking about HP and Dell again -- the chances are they won't survive. Look up from the ground before you trip up. Having said that, those who join the game and try to compete may end up losing at the hands of better competing products. The thing is: PCs all look the same and function in the same way. They all run Windows, and Macs run mostly OS X -- or on the rare occasion -- Windows. Either way, PCs are stuck in this stagnant place where it doesn't matter to the end consumer which PC they get. For the business, they certainly don't. They just want it to be the cheapest for the value they get.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    The road is going to bust a few axles and path will be dangerous.

    Microsoft as a company will continue to survive by transitioning a large portion of its software business towards the enterprise and server-based computing. The consumer and business conversion to the Metro UI in Windows 8 will be a slow one while enterprises retain a significant amount of Win32-based desktop software infrastructure, while its enterprise business will continue to be strong and even expand. However, the continued health of its traditional partners such as HP and Dell are not necessarily guaranteed, as I have explained above.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Which companies are at risk?

    Which companies are most at risk in the Post PC era?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Anyone who has failed to adapt.

    It's the flip side to the previous questions: those who have not kept up with the post-PC evolution, and have failed to adapt their business models and processes to the developing tablet and cloud market, will be left behind. HP and Dell are plain PC makers, and both have suffered at the hands of the early tablet market in the late-2000's. That said, while Dell really fell flat on its face, at least HP had the TouchPad, even if it was doomed from the start.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    Anyone whose bottom lines rely on PC revenues.

    I think any company which has had revenues that are heavily dependent on PC manufacturing and sales had better start thinking about diversification and eliminating redundant products. Obviously, the big targets are Hewlett-Packard and Dell. Dell may still weather the storm because it recently bought WYSE, indicating a future emphasis towards smart devices, VDI and thin clients.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Which companies will rule?

    Which companies are best positioned to take advantage of the Post-PC era?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    It's back to the two-ol'-rivals

    Certainly I would say -- at least by my definition of the post-PC world -- cloud companies and PC makers that have or are imminantely ventured into the tablet industry. With that, I'm looking at Apple and Microsoft. Apple is in the perfect position because it has the entire ecosystem at its disposal. It has the iOS-running iPad and already has the lead in the tablet market. In fact, Apple is the tablet market. Windows will likely reign, but on the tablet format it will be interesting to see how it compares with iOS. I think Apple will likely stick to its guns and develop for its platform only, locking in users, while Microsoft will likely extend a productivity olive branch to its iPad-using rivals. Microsoft, if it manages to work its way in, could benefit if it doesn't completely screw up Windows 8, which it already has. People don't want a Windows-running tablet: they want a tablet running Office.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    Apple first, everyone else vying for second place.

    Apple obviously has an extremely large lead in Post-PC devices with its own iPad, and everyone else is currently at a disadvantage due to its market penetration and the maturity of its developer ecosystem. Anyone who joins this bandwagon obviously is in a very good position to penetrate the enterprise and the consumer space as a software or services vendor. That being said, while Microsoft's current mobile offerings have had a lukewarm reception in the consumer space, the company still has tremendous potential for maintaining its lead in the enterprise, given significant advancements with the upcoming releases of the Windows 2012 Server operating system, the latest incarnations of Office, as well as Windows 8 and Windows RT. And while Google and its handset OEMs are doing extremely well in the consumer smartphone space, I do not envision a pure consumerization route for Android tablets in the enterprise a la iOS in the immediate future, at least not until some initiative is taken by the company to write or provide incentives for 3rd-party developers to write enterprise-grade tablet apps, or until they provide a good management framework. Perhaps at Google I/O we'll see some new developments in this area which I believe Android is lacking, particularly now that the Oracle litigation and the Motorola acquisition is behind them.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Let's define "Post PC"

    Okay, so when we talk about the "Post PC" world, what are we really talking about? For the average business professional and the average company, how does this look different than the past decade?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    This post-PC 'malarky'

    Let's just say for the sake of argument (and precedence) that Jason is right. We are in a post-PC world. So what is it? The post-PC world does not necessarily mean the traditional PC is dead. Far from. It just means we're including tablets into the fold. The cloud convergence is where we start to see the post-PC world. I would argue that actually, the post-PC world is not a world where PCs no longer exist. I see it as always-connected devices, including tablets and PCs, that have access to a hard-drive in the cloud. All in all, it means instead of storing our documents locally, they will be available anywhere and everywhere at any given time day or night. Datacenters will pop up overnight, hard drive makers will adapt or go bust in the enterprise market, and governments will eventually -- I hasten to add -- wake up to the borderless cloud problem.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    A return to centralized computing infrastructure

    The Post-PC world represents a displacement of computing from the traditional, 30 year-old Intel architecture used on desktop to the Datacenter and the Cloud. In essence, we are returning to a very similar highly centralized model that was popular in the late 60's and mid-1970's with mainframe-based computing. The only difference is that instead of a monolithic, purely mainframe-based time sharing model, our new centralized architecture can be distributed within multiple datacenters, using Public and Private Cloud infrastructure using heterogeneous vendor systems architectures and is more resilient and more flexible than ever before. Business professionals will be using extremely inexpensive ARM and Intel-based thin notebooks, tablets and thin clients (sub $500) which will use any number of software technologies that run within the browser or will use next-generation Web-based APIs and Web Services (Such as those available in Microsoft's WinRT and other HTML5 frameworks) to provide line-of-business application functionality. In addition, I see the application programming standards used by today's most popular mobile operating systems -- iOS and Android -- being used heavily in business environments to provide the front ends to these Web APIs.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Mic check

    Are both of my debaters online and ready to rumble?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    One two... one two?

    All systems go, here. Perfect timing: it just started raining in good ol' England.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    Ready.

    Kinda muggy here in Dirty Jerzey.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Which technologies will rule?

    What kinds of technologies -- both hardware and software -- are going to rule in the Post PC era and how does this play into the BYOD trend?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Tablets aren't PCs just yet

    Because tablets are 'lesser' devices than their PC cousins -- lacking physical keyboards for 'actual' productivity and hard drive space for files -- a lot of tablets outsource to the cloud. Having said that, with flash memory, it keeps tablets competitive. It also means they're more expensive compared to the whizzing hard-drive-using PC counterparts. The trouble is: you can't really bring your own cloud. Dropbox works well for ordinary consumers, as does SkyDrive, but Google Drive has still -- hmmm -- a way to go, let's say. There is no crossover from personal cloud to enterprise cloud, and this falls in conflict with the BYOD trend. You can bring your own cloud-enabled device from home, but find that it is stuck in either work-mode or home-mode, and there's no middle ground.

    Zack Whittaker

    I am for Yes

    An evolution of what exists today in the mobile space.

    Within five years, the average business professional will be transitioning from "Heavy" clients such as desktop PCs and business laptops with large amounts of localized storage and localized applications using Intel chips and Windows to very small and extremely power efficient, SoC-based systems using completely solid state storage (SSD) which will function mostly as cache for applications that run remotely. I see a mix of both ARM and Intel's next-generation Systems on a Chip (SoC) using sub-22 nanometer manufacturing processes fulfilling this role, with the predominance of the market being addressed by ARM-based devices as we move further into the future and backwards compatibility no longer becomes as pressing an issue. I also expect that during the 5-year transition period to fully Web-based apps, there will be a significant amount of virtualized desktop apps (VDI) via Microsoft's Remote Desktop Services and RemoteFX in order to bridge the gap. In regards to BYOD, I see mobile hypervisors such as Intel's Wind River, Open Kernel Labs OKL4, Red Bend's vLogix and VMWare's own Horizon product being used in conjunction with mobile software management solutions to provide security and partitioning for the employee that chooses to bring their own devices to work, particularly if they are Android, Windows Phone or Windows RT-based solutions. I also expect that for iOS, Apple will either partner with major enterprise software vendors for providing a similar type of security partitioning, or buy/roll their own solutions in order to make their mobile operating system a first class managed citizen in the enterprise.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for No

Talkback

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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