Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The PC is not dead! Don’t let facts get in the way of a good story.

Jay McBain, Director, Small and Medium Business, Lenovo Americas
July 20, 2010

It seems like once a year an article or blog gets posted re-igniting the debate on the future of computing devices. Because I often speak about the future of technology, the topic is of great interest to me.

Why don’t other industries have the same black/white mentality?

Mutual Funds are dead!
The car is dead – SUV’s will take over!
The toaster is dead!

Perhaps other mature industries, with more than 30 years of history, see changes as trends versus end results. To illustrate, yes, SUV sales have increased over the past 15 years, but is it really the end for cars? Absolutely not. Cars are growing geographically (China and other emerging markets), by style (coupe, sports, etc), by price point, by usage, by target market (eco friendly), and dozens of other ways.

Looking at some of the sources of the “PC is dead” mantra, it is usually a new technology that inspires the prediction:

Internet in 1994
Thin Clients in 1996
Smart phone in 2002
Virtualization in 2005
Cloud in 2007
Netbook in 2008
Slate in 2010

Interestingly, if you look at thin clients, virtualization, cloud computing, netbooks and slates, all very newsworthy and loaded with mountains of hype, none of them have taken over 11% of the end user demand in business and government spending.

What makes the PC so resilient?

Interestingly, many of the decisions that were made in Boca Raton , Florida in 1980 created the longevity of the platform. IBM deciding to use third parties for things like the processor, operating system, and BIOS in their first PC created a truly open, non-proprietary sand box. Other decisions like plenty of internal and external ports created a platform that would grow and evolve with the technology world around it.

No one in 1980 could predict the importance of connecting them together. In fact, networking didn’t become popular until years later. Things like high level gaming, multimedia, graphic arts, communication and social interaction were also significantly beyond the vision for the PC.

The PC has always been an open and configurable device, with a very low cost of entry for any organization to add value. Thus, its ability to evolve is core to its continued success.

It is the central device that you will continue to rely on as companion devices grow, such as smart phones, slates, WiFi toothbrushes, treadmills and thousands of other devices come to market.

Now, the facts:

The good news for VARs, Managed Service Providers and other HW resellers is the growth of the PC market has rebounded very quickly from the economic downturn. In fact, NPD just reported that US Distribution and Commercial Reseller categories increase both Notebook and Desktop almost 50% year over year.

Globally, IDC reported that PC growth last quarter was over 20% with strong results across the globe. This happened to be the first quarter of sales for the Apple iPad. This was a very similar story to the rapid growth of the Netbook two years ago – very little impact on PC categories.

What does this prove?

The facts are pointing to a new reality in computing. Users are looking for companion devices where they add value, but rely on the PC as their home base. Interestingly, to configure devices for the first time, whether it is a BlackBerry or iPad, requires a PC!

Pervasive computing is a concept where you will likely own 20 or more computer devices in the next 5 years. The PC appears to be the one central device that organizes , builds, and customizes content for these other companions.

Based on the past 15 years, trying to predict the next 15 is next to impossible. Knowing that computing will continue to build ubiquity and new and exciting usage scenarios are around the corner, the PC is well positioned to adapt and thrive.