HP's Whitman says desktop PCs aren't dead. Did she miss the memo?

HP's Whitman says desktop PCs aren't dead. Did she miss the memo?

Summary: Actually, Meg, despite your optimism, they may well be.

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TOPICS: PCs
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(Image: HP)

From the "famous last words" department, apparently.

HP chief executive Meg Whitman on CNBC on Wednesday morning discussed the company's tablet strategy alongside its traditional desktop and notebook product range. Quick to point out that the company's business and enterprise business has a "tremendously strong lineup," she was also reluctant to call time on the traditional PC.

"We can go all the way from virtual desktop to workstations to desktops... by the way, desktops are not dead... to laptops to hybrids to tablets for the commercial enterprise," she said. 

Granted, PCs aren't yet dead but they are frail and dying. A quick look at the latest PC shipments statistics from research firm IDC almost says it all. 

HP holds second place in the worldwide PC shipments market, according to third-quarter figures. Shipping 13 million desktops and notebooks during the quarter, the company saw only 0.4 percent growth year-over-year.

It's no calamity on an Acer or Asus scale by any standards, which lost almost one-quarter of their market share year-over-year. But it's still not a rosy picture as the worldwide PC market declined by almost 8 percent.

Another missive from the research firm warned not to expect any significant recovery in the near future. 

New figures published in early December suggested the PC market will decline even further by 10.1 percent, down from the previous projection of 9.7 percent.

Bottom line: it's not looking good for the PC market. We've known it for a while, and in spite of the warnings and the advice, HP is sticking to its guns.

Although the overall PC market is sinking regardless of customer class, HP remains first or second place in the overall commercial PC space in every region it operates in. Not wanting to neglect its consumer roots, Whitman touted the company's bid to attack the middle-ground.

"All tablet, all laptop," she said, describing a new all-in-one laptop. "You can take the screen off. You can work with a regular keyboard. Or you can take the screen off and sit back and watch a movie on the airplane."

For HP, its hopes and dreams for a PC market recovery are naive at best. At the time when former chief executive Leo Apotheker wanted to spin out the PC business, it's now with the benefit of hindsight wasn't such a bad, pre-emptive strike.

Considering the company's PC business takes up about one-quarter of its revenue, the PC maker will have to reconsider exactly where the unit stands in the coming quarters.

You can watch the full segment on CNBC.

Topic: PCs

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50 comments
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  • Slowed growth does not equate to death

    I stopped growing upwards at around 17 and sideways at around 28, yet I am still very much alive. I've actually shrunk about an inch downwards and about 6 inches sideways since then and I am still very much alive.

    All slowed growth proves is that there is market saturation. There is still money to be made, but you need great strategy. The majority of computer consumers are content consumers, so it makes sense that they are gravitating to machines that primarily cater to that. However those content consumers cannot exist without the content creators, and the PC is still the best tool for that job most of the time.
    Michael Kelly
    • It isn't slow growth - its actually fairly rapid shrinkage

      There is sure to be a floor for PC sales, but it has not yet been reached. But make no mistake - we are not talking about "slow growth." PC numbers are really and actually in decline. Fewer are made and sold today than a year ago, and this quarter one year ago, fewer were sold than the year before.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
      • The PC business is a carcase flapping in the breeze

        It's dead, I'm sorry to have to tell you.

        It died two years ago.

        The Post PC era is here. Businesses are always the last to switch, but the always follow and join the popular consumer platforms. That's how the PC era began, and that's how it ended.

        Any rendering task can easily be done with a Post PC device and the cloud.
        Vbitrate
        • Rendering?

          "Any rendering task can easily be done with a Post PC device and the cloud."

          Interesting that you point to "rendering in the cloud" as the answer. Somehow I have a feeling that anything involving "rendering" is going to be a pretty small subset of computer users out there.

          Heck, I could point to accounting systems in the cloud as an example and it would be just as ridiculous, but would at least pertain to a much larger number of users.
          daftkey
        • The cloud?

          Didn't you get the memo?

          Any business serious about protecting its IP is about as likely sending it into the cloud as it is to fund an expedition to haul in that supposed diamond planet.
          hydroxide
        • I'm sorry. It's not dead! it is sleeping from the hype so called 'Cloud'.

          Business wise spoken, you might be right for large businesses above 150 employees, but for all home-Users, and smaller businesses. There is no money to invest in something Hyper then a bunch of pressed air, big blowing bubble, so called 'Cloud'.
          there is no European Financial institution or Bank, or Government, that would add their production data into any US Cloud Services. NOT ANY. Why? Ask NSA!
          As a matter of fact, Cloud, is just a modern way of saying old techniques like: S.a.a.S., I.a.a.S. / P.a.a.S. (Software- / Infrastructure- / Platform- As A Service)
          'Cloud' is just a Sales-Term, it sells good if you've got your story watertight.
          I believe that a Business desktop, can be Virtualized for huge Business Models, true!
          But don't you forget the Home-Users, Remote-Workers, Workers-From-Home, The 'Bring-Your-Own-Device' Users, Small-Business-Users, etc. etc.
          Their groups might be small in number,
          but there are millions of them....
          hundred, thousands of millions of them.
          "Ants are small, But they might live longer them Humans, if it is on Planet Earth."
          Mark Peter van Sijll
    • Still lots of use cases for desktop/workstation

      I use a desktop (fairly new) for my main job and a Windows tablet for mobility. I also use a thousand-core compute resource running Linux. I expect my next "desktop" will actually be a virtual workstation and the actual CPU will be racked in the datacenter somewhere. So there are many different alternatives to the "traditional box PC" available and the numbers will continue to decline.
      terry flores
  • they AREN'T dead

    They just never die, my last build from 2006/2007 with a Q6600 probably will get 10-15 years of use.

    Other than a vid card upgrade I haven't touched it, run 8.1 like a champ and plays any game easily.
    everss02
    • Oh really?

      Q9400 from 2009 here. Am thinking of bumping up the ram to 8GB to better support VMs. Other than that, all good until we go all tablet around 2016.
      symbolset
      • Yeah my cpu is non SLAT

        so I can't run hyper V, but to upgrade I would have to buy new ram, cpu and mobo

        So virtual box is good enough for now, not worth $500+ in new stuff just for hyper v
        everss02
  • About 50-60% of netcomputing is now mobile

    and that percentage will grow until ... 80-85%.

    PC is marginalized - just like Windows. People should understand that Microsoft is indeed a Neanderthal of IT.
    MacBroderick
    • Can't speak to that, but I can say

      that what we do understand that MacBroderick is indeed a Neanderthal of ZDNet, and IT in general from his comments today, and in the past.

      Why does he always say that computers are exclusively used to surf the web, and nothing more ?

      Oops? I wasn't supposed to mention that, Mac?

      Sorry. ;)
      William.Farrel
      • Answering the question

        "Why does he always say that computers are exclusively used to surf the web, and nothing more ?"

        Because he (or she) is dealing in theory, not fact.

        In addition, the PC is definitely not dead, but is morphing into different form factors. Every device out there today that is either a smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop computer, or even a watch! is in some form a PC. To just use regular laptop/desktop sales statistics and tout that "the PC is dead" or even dying is simply false.
        BruinB88
        • No it isn't

          it describes something real and tangible.

          Tablets and phones are not simply the same old, same old transcribed onto new smaller devices. We're doing new and different things with them (the real time capture of photo and video media to social networks, the use of "on the go" facilities such as geolocation, light sensors, and acceleromoters, that make travel, jogging, and biking a more interactive experience.)

          And we're omitting many of the classical activities of a PC from these devices. We're not processing preset styles of "documents" (such as spreadsheets, word processing documents), and instead creating rawer forms of unstructured data in things like EverNote and OneNote. We're not doing multi-user logins on these devices, or printing via drivers, or hooking up wired peripherals.

          To use the term "post PC" is to understand and accept that this shift in usage patterns is real, actual, and happening.
          Mac_PC_FenceSitter
          • re: "We're doing new and different things with them..."

            "We're doing new and different things with them (the real time capture of photo and video media to social networks, the use of 'on the go' facilities such as geolocation, light sensors, and acceleromoters, that make travel, jogging, and biking a more interactive experience.)"

            None of which I use for work. Until then, the PC won't die. At some point, I assume it will... just not now.
            Badgered
          • aahhhh... Another "leisure user" heard from.

            "We're not processing preset styles of "documents" (such as spreadsheets, word processing documents), and instead creating rawer forms of unstructured data in things like EverNote and OneNote."

            Total crap, my friend. Business efficiency and BPM depends upon standardized data input... which means standardized forms and documents.

            According to your theory, Jane in procurement no longer needs to use one of our stodgy old order forms.. she just types the information sort of "free form" into EverNote and sends it along for processing..

            And, what about accounting? Did the IRS suddenly decide that its okay to stop using their tired old forms and just shoot them an email with your financials on it?

            OH, and can I stop using our restrictive, highly-formatted payroll database and just ship folks their pay-stubs and records via my Facebook account?

            I don't know what world you're livin' in, but it isn't the business world.
            ribzilla
    • Keep wishing...

      Despite the constant well-wishing of ABMers like yourself, Microsoft isn't going anywhere. It is becoming more clear that mobile and desktop platforms are converging - something Microsoft are ahead of the game on (for once).

      Ubuntu Touch is really the only non-Windows OS to make meaningful progress in this area, and it is still more or less "beta" software. Apple and Android are still working under the assumption that mobile and Desktop are going to have a hard separation. In the long term this will help Microsoft.
      daftkey
      • Explainer: ABM

        "ABM" is Microsoft shorthand for "Anything But Microsoft". It's a way of describing people who would prefer to not purchase the company's products, and internally issued with derision. Outside their community however it is a growing movement.

        "Anything But Microsoft" recognizes that through various means - business leverage, marketing, platform lock-in, astroturfing like the above, Microsoft has done as much as it can to prevent the progress to a new mobile computing world because they do not control it as they do the desktop computing world. Their view is that all these wonderful new things must be stopped before people like you and me start to expect wonderful new devices that do remarkable new things for us every year. Their unease at the loss of control has grown to abject terror.
        symbolset
        • In other words...

          "I have no counter-argument to your post, so I'll try to explain why "ABM" isn't such a derisive term."

          ABM is an opposite but similar term to NBM ("Nobody But Microsoft"). They both refer to a subset of people who wear blinders when discussing software, either championing or deriding a piece of software because of its source, rather than its merits.

          While I agree that there are good reasons to avoid Microsoft (along with any other software manufacturer one could name), these terms dosn't generally refer to a rationally-thinking person.

          Now that you're done with the "I'm rubber you're glue..." retort, how's about addressing the actual core of my argument there, sport?
          daftkey
          • It's hard to have a serious discussion...

            ...when one uses derisive terms to refer to those with opposing points of view. I'm an ABMer and proud of it, but MS-boosters (which I hope is a neutral term; if not I'll try a different one) invariably use it as a term of derision, guaranteed to put people on the defensive.

            We have the same problem in our political culture. I hope we solve it before civil war breaks out.
            John L. Ries