The PC isn't dead, and OEMs need to get ready for the coming upgrade superstorm

The PC isn't dead, and OEMs need to get ready for the coming upgrade superstorm

Summary: The PC is far from dead. What we've seen over the past few years is a restructuring of the upgrade cycle. And it seems that the delay in upgrading systems has created a pent-up for new systems.

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The PC is far from dead. What we've seen over the past few years is a restructuring of the upgrade cycle. And it seems that the delay in upgrading systems has created a pent-up for new systems.

This week analysts at Gartner predicted that worldwide PC sales were set to grow, and that much of this increased demand will come from upgrades.

It makes sense. After all, unless businesses are going to run PCs until they die – which, on the face of it might seem like the best way to get the most from the investment, but in reality it isn't because of the upset this causes – people are going to need new desktop and notebook systems. Not only are there some things that can only be done effectively while sitting in front of a keyboard and screen, but the increased demand that software places on hardware will eventually make old silicon obsolete.

I've said it before, but I think it's worth repeating again: the PC isn't dead. What is dead is the old aggressive upgrade cycle that saw PCs being replaced every few years. Not only do people have more cool, shiny things to spend their money on – smartphones and tablets and the like – but also PCs have reached the point where they're powerful enough to last longer than ever.

While there was a time when people felt the need to upgrade their hardware every couple of years, now a system can still be serviceable for five years or more.

But while five years is an eternity in computing, it's still a finite amount of time, and at the end of that period people – consumers and enterprise alike – will start thinking about buying a new system.

It's also a great time to buy. Prices are low, performance and battery life are at an all-time high, and Microsoft has been working hard to make Windows 8.1 a much better, more refined operating system than Windows 8 was.

And if Gartner is right, that time is coming, and if that's the case PC OEMs need to be ready to deliver what consumers want, because it might be the last chance they get to sell someone a new system for many years. This means:

  • Having a range of systems available at price points to suit everyone (some will want budget systems, some will want high-end systems, while the majority will opt for something in the middle).
  • Sticking primarily to traditional input devices. Touch screen systems are cool, but despite how Microsoft wants things to be, most people want a system with a keyboard and a mouse of touchpad.
  • Realize that Windows 8 is cloaked in, well, let's call it a bad vibe, so make sure you have plenty of Windows 7 systems on offer.
  • Realize that this is upgrade surge is most likely going to be a short-term thing, and that future upgrades will come in less predictable waves rather than regular cycles.

See also:

Topics: Microsoft, Hardware, PCs, Windows, Windows 8

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44 comments
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  • Oh well... the King never died.

    After wasting money on iPads/ Android tablets, people have figured out that they are pretty much useless and are no replacement for a PC.
    Owl:Net
    • Only idiots think they are complete replacements

      But they are reasonable substations, which in turn draw out the PC upgrade process.

      Before smartphone and tablets, the only device most people had was a PC. Now they have up to 3 devices.

      For most people that means a change in patterns for upgrades. People will still buy new PCs but they won't be buying them as often as they did in the past. Some years it will be a new phone others a new tablet, and every 5-8 years a new PC.
      yoshipod
      • +1

        This article has it covered. We still need laptops and PC's but they last a lot longer.

        What is going to be interesting is that people have become used to svelt design and a quality feel. If an upgrade storm is comming, the OEMs better watch out. I'm sorry but they've been very lazy - I've looked in PC world; the £500 standard laptop is just as bulky and heavy and cheap feeling as it was in 2006. They're more powerful, the displays are marginally better, but an average consumer will be hard pressed to WANT it. They'll likely just get it because they need it.

        Oh there's ultra books and retina MacBooks and such, but the £800+ market is not going to be any less niche in a world where a laptop is just a secondary item.
        MarknWill
    • No

      1.) They are not, and never were, replacements for PCs.

      2.) They aren't useless - they are a new type of device, that does new things better than PCs do. A courier or a restaurant health inspector can't really lug a PC around... however a tablet works perfectly, and has created a new on-site data entry capability they didn't have before.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • iPads and other tablets are new FORM of computing

      They were never trying to replace the PC in the traditional sense of how users us a PC. Instead, they are built specifically to meet consumers majority use case for personal computing. The scale have shift with these devices.

      The average consumer doesn't need to lug around a laptop, pull it out a bag, place it on lap, open it up, wait for it to start, just to reply to an email or check Facebook, or shop Amazon. A tablet or even a smart phone is perfectly suited for the way the average use a personal computer today, on a daily basis. And because of its form and capabilities, consumers are using these devices in ways and places they couldn't with a laptop or desktop. Have you seen waiting rooms lately? Who wants to pull out a laptop?
      dave95.
    • I Guarantee They Wont Be Upgrading To Windows 8.x

      They will be moving to Windows 7, a license that most companies running XP already own anyway, because desperate and greedy MS forced it on them by shoving it down their throats... "take it or else"!

      MS is finished. After Windows 8.x the world is moving on.
      orandy
      • Nice fantasy,

        nothing to replace Windows 7 or 8 that is even close to as universal. lagdroid and linux are not even in the conversation on the desktop but keep living your Windows free fantasy.
        hoppmang
    • Re: No replacement for a PC having worshipped the Surface Pro 3....

      "After wasting money on iPads/ Android tablets people have figured out that they are pretty much useless and are no replacement for a PC"

      Correction.Should read iPads/Android and Surface Tablets.

      No replacement for a PC having worshipped at the altar of the Surface Pro 3. Make up your mind Owl:Net you can't have it both ways.
      5735guy
      • So you can't run PC applications on a Surface Pro 3?

        Yes or No?
        Make up your mind.
        I don't agree with Owl:Net comments any more than yours.
        thekman58
        • Re: So you can't run PC applications on a Surface Pro 3?....

          I have no doubt that the Surface Pro 3 is more flexible than the average Tablet (the previous generation Surface Pro included) but essentially the Surface Pro 3 without adding a Keyboard 'at considerable expense' is in fact a glorified Tablet.
          Is it a PC? I say no. A proper PC has a real estate size screen to work with. Lets face it theres not much that can be done with a 12" Display. A proper PC has a 21" or 27" Display. Yes I am aware of the argument that the Surface Pro 3 can be connected to an external Display but once again as with the Keyboard it is extra expense.
          5735guy
          • 21" display?

            So laptops aren't PCs either? That's a weird stance to take.
            chefgon
          • So laptops aren't PCs either?

            Laptops are still a compromise however a lot less so than a Tablet.
            5735guy
          • Not much of a compromise

            It strongly depends on the kind of work you're doing. A serious graphics workstation for running AutoCAD and stuff like that is a bit more practical on a desktop with a very powerful series of video cards. But a new laptop can handle a lot of stuff, especially if you're able to work with multiple displays.
            Galidari
          • Huh?

            You're an idiot. Sure, on a PC with two 4k screens I can have up to eight 1080p res windows into applications, control panels and VMs without having to switch between hidden windows anywhere, and that makes one aspect of my job extremely efficient, but I do the majority of my job on my phone these days - I can connect to any network, control any server or support system, perform diagnostics, write reports and documents, run training and remote assistance... My workstation is an extremely useful and powerful piece of hardware, but I'm only at my desk for less than 10% of the working day (I do a great deal of work in the evenings). Four years ago it was a laptop and mobile broadband connection that gave me PC access when away from my desk, but I reserved it for urgent cases because it was cumbersome. Smart phones and tablets have given me constant, simple connectivity that is eminently usable.

            I'm a highly sophisticated user. I actually make use of the full real estate (the correct use of the term) available from two 4k screens. And yet I can still do 80-90% of my job on a *phone*. No, it doesn't replace a PC, it is complimentary. But to suggest there's 'not much that can be done' on a 12" screen is, frankly, idiotic. 12" screens are pushing UHD resolutions now. You can fit more on them than on CRT screens, and they did the world fine for a very long time indeed. If I had to, I could do everything I do on my workstation on a 12" screen, it just wouldn't be as efficient. As it isn't on my phone, but I can get a great deal done on my phone during the day that saves me hours of work I no longer have to do when I get back in the evening.
            TrevorX
    • I only slightly disagree

      While I don't think computing totally on a cloud is very efficient (or desirable, if you want the truth) tablets serve a really good purpose in getting light duty stuff done where a laptop isn't practical or convenient. The average user just kills me sometimes because their uses for these gadgets leads them to wonder if owning a computer is worth it in the long run. But getting actual work done and having local processing power is still very important. Lots of things can go wrong with clouds in general. A simple change in business strategy can render some platforms useless. It has happened in the past and it pissed a lot of people off.
      Galidari
    • You missed it by a mile...

      Tablets and other great devices are nothing more or less than an extension of your PC or Mac. Once you get besides yourself and understand and use these tools, you won't have to live like a Neanderthal any longer.
      DarkWorks Entertainment
  • more like

    a $hi1tstorm where PCs are a niche.
    GrabBoyd
  • Steve Jobs was right all along.

    As tablets and smart phones become more capable devices and more people purchase them, their needs for traditional PCs to do everything will begin to decline. Not go away but decline in use and as a result upgrade cycle. Jobs called this movement post-pc while Gates wanted to coin it PC-Plus. Obviously both men had vested interest in the coinage but post-pc has stuck. Jobs also said it would cause discomfort with many and he was right.

    The average PC consumer can do nearly everything on these modern tablets and smart phones today as they did on their legacy pc.
    dave95.
    • Watch the flag number climb

      "Jobs also said it would cause discomfort with many and he was right."
      dave95.
    • Everything except serious productivity

      Media editing, workflows that require or are dramatically enhanced by multiple monitors, etc. Even if you had the power that a desktop PC has inside of a tablet, the quality of peripherals and applications impedes workflow and thus productivity. Your average user, and especially business user will not, in the near-future be able to throw away his desktop PC (or laptop) and get serious things done on his tablet. Hybrid tablets (like the Surface Pro 3) are still a compromise at this point.
      Zeroangelmk1