Is the post-PC industry headed for premature stagnation?

Is the post-PC industry headed for premature stagnation?

Summary: The PC reigned supreme for decades, but there are hints that the timespan that post-PC devices will have in the sun could be much shorter.

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It's pretty clear that the PC industry has hit the tar pits, with PC sales expected to plummet by double digits this year. It's getting so bad that the big players – companies such as Intel, who were the engine for PC industry – are scrabbling to come up with an exit strategy while at the same time trying not to spook or panic investors.

See also: Jelly Bean dominates the Android charts, but where's the money? 

The reason for the demise of the PC is the sudden and explosive interest that consumers have for post-PC devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Post-PC devices exploded onto the scene, and they were shiny, new and exciting (and, for the most part, reasonably cheap), while PCs were, well, just old-looking and boring. People still need PCs, but how much they were willing to pay for them fell, and the gap between buying new ones increased.

But let's not forget that the PC industry had a good run, and enjoyed a reign spanning several decades. And while it was normal to expect that the post-PC market would enjoy a lengthy period in the sun, there's an early sign that this may not be the case.

The warning sign is contained in a recent Citigroup reshuffle of companies. While it came as little surprise to me that Intel was downgraded – it is, after all, a company at the heart of an industry that's expected to experience a 10 percent sales fall over the coming year – I certainly didn't expect to see Qualcomm removed from the broker's list of top companies.

Qualcomm is to the post-PC devices what Intel was to PCs. The American-based company designs, manufactures and markets digital wireless telecommunications products, and it has fingers in a lot of pies. But its flagship product is undoubtedly the Snapdragon series of mobile processors. This is the silicon that powers many of the high-end handsets currently on sale.

So why did Citigroup remove a company that is so central to the post-PC market from its list of top companies? One word – saturation.

Citigroup analysts believe that the high-end smartphone market is saturated, and that this doesn't give Qualcomm much room to maneuver over the coming quarters.

This should come as a worry to all who think that a buoyant post-PC industry will be what saves floundering PC tech companies. The high-end is where the money is at, and if some analysts are already saying that this space is saturated, then the potential to pull in profits could be prematurely curtailed. 

Topics: Mobility, Smartphones, Tablets

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39 comments
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  • The Post PC idea was silly to say the least

    Computers will remain a central part of our lives and no matter how much you want to use a Smartphone of tablet for your daily use you will always revert back to a real computer. Yeah we all want the latest craze like a tamagotchi (which is what tablets and smartphones are) but we will always have the need to buy and upgrade our PC's.

    The PC will NEVER die. It will always be a central part of our world.
    Dreyer Smit
  • Post-PC is non-sense

    Post-PC is a wrong assumption, it just changed form factors. Most tablets like ipad and android are catching dust after the initial enthusiasm. These devices are mostly used by kids. A PC class device, Surface for example, is required for anything serious. PC is here to stay for many more decades.
    OwlllllllNet
    • Post-PC is non-sense

      Full featured PC's and Servers make the world go around. In fact this website your viewing was created by PC's and run by servers. We are in the PC Plus era where PC's and Gadgets co-exist.
      Sean Foley
    • Chip architecture is irrelevant

      If someone makes a device and platform for ARM that can do serious work (and an iPad is such a device) then people will do that work on it. There's no reason it has to be a PC, although it certainly can be.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
      • Serious Work & iPad

        is oxymoron.But Windows RT can really do serious work. And gap of apps are decreasing very fast so there's no need to buy iPad over new versions of Surface RT for both consumption & serious work.
        Vish2801
        • Please define what you mean by "serious work".

          Just so that everyone understands your definition.
          Zogg
        • Huh?

          Have we learned nothing over the past couple of weeks?

          Surface RT is dead. WinRT is dead. The Windows Store, abysmal.

          Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, a combined failure of epic proportions.

          So, while it may or may not be possible for people to do 'real work' on devices such as the iPad, they are most certainly NOT doing work of any device relying upon the nonsense forthcoming from Redmond.
          QuantumEntanglement
      • Not the same

        Other than tiny screens and flimsy tack on keyboards, that you would have to work on for 8+ hours a day.....yeah, no reason.
        mepallow
    • Re: it just changed form factors

      Most of the new form factors are not running Microsoft Windows.

      You can argue about whether it's really the "post-PC" era, or not, but one thing is undeniable.

      It's the post-Windows era.
      ldo17
      • Most people in the world still have Windows devices in their homes,

        and they have very little reason to purchase a new Windows PC, because, what they already have is still quite capable. When PCs are designed to work for 5-10 years, chances are that, consumers will not be buying a new PC as often as they do with their mobile devices.

        The real meaning of the post-PC era should be onGoingPC era, since people are keeping their PCs and aren't really replacing them with tablets or smartphones. There are still more PCs in people's hands and homes, than tablets or smartphones.

        Sales slowdown of PCs does not equate to a no-PC or post-PC era. The PCs people have at home are not being replaced nor being sold nor being given away nor being trashed. Most everybody who had a PC in the last 10 years, still has one.
        adornoe@...
    • Surface?

      Hahahahaha! You got to be kidding.
      granchingon
  • What?

    How does "the market has become saturated" come to mean "the era of post-PC is dead."

    In fact, it means quite the opposite. It means that smartphones and tablets have so taken over that there's just not a lot of room left for the sort of explosive market growth investors have grown used to.
    dsf3g
    • and...

      Removing Qualcomm from the portfolio may be more of a recognition that some other players are entering in the market and the market will probably not grow fast enough for all the players. If Intel is looking for an "exit strategy" from PC devices that means they're looking into the mobile space. Also the smartphone market's growth is started to slow down.
      BorgX
  • PC+ Era

    We are in the PC+ era where PC's and Gadgets co-exist.
    Sean Foley
    • Good idea...PC + era

      That is exactly what we are in and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Adrian, please read http://www.drdobbs.com/web-development/the-ever-fatter-thin-client/240157951 and write a response about it. Everything Andrew says seems to be the case. We want more features in our tablets and phones, we want them to be more PC like. OS and form factor will need to evolve more like the Surface (complete PC in a tablet form factor).
      jgoode@...
  • Overblown

    "It's pretty clear that the PC industry has hit the tar pits, with PC sales expected to plummet by double digits this year."

    I think those predictions are a bit overblown. And I think this idea of "PC vs post-PC" is a bit overblown as well, as such devices are not mutually exclusive with PCs.

    "One word – saturation."

    That's pretty much the reason for PCs declining as well. That, and there's little incentive to upgrade, as hardware has outpaced software. A computer made today will likely run software made even ten years from now.
    CobraA1
  • scrabbling

    Then maybe they ought to stop playing scrabble and get back to PC design.
    happyharry_z
  • Post PC is waiting...

    ...on the next step. When Windows XP is finally unplugged, it will set off another buying frenzy as the remaining Windows customers have to make a choice. Obviously, they won't choose Windows, since they haven't bought anything from Redmond this century...
    Tony Burzio
    • Just nitpicking.

      Didn't XP come out in 2001, which was in fact in the current century.
      Sam Wagner
  • Fewer bought /= few used

    Webifying applications has played a large role in setting a fairly low bar for computing specifications needed for most users (particularly corporate users). The chase for more processing power, memory, and bigger, faster hard drives has pretty much played itself out. Computers are no longer items that are uselessly obsolete after 3 years, and now can remain viable until the hardware gives out (7-10 years in no longer unreasonable).

    The retirement of Windows XP next year should help get some of the more ancient machines in use replaced. Eventually, manufacturers will adjust to 6-8 year refresh cycles, and their year-to-year earnings will stabilize. Considering that most companies can't even be bothered to re-write their own apps to eliminate Java vulnerabilities once and for all, I don't see them re-engineering them to work on tablet devices or phones, assuming it is even practical to do so.
    jvitous