Is the post-PC industry headed for premature stagnation?

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.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

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. 

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