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.