PC is dead, and everything is alright

February 17, 2016 · Filed Under Hardware & Peripherals, In Depth 

In Depth - A merciless lens pointed on the hot topics, passionate and detailed retrospectives, reflections beyond the appearances Worrisome reports and apocalyptic sights are spreading during these months (and in these years) about the state of the PC industry, a market unavoidably doomed to collapse while dragging away a lot of tech businesses with it. Reality hiding behind the marketing lie is of course much more complex and much less apocalyptic compared to what they describe, but even in the worst case scenario the issue is almost never evaluated by the only viewpoint that really matters. That is the one of the potential buyer for all this unsold hardware which will soon end up in a landfill.

The PC is dead, research firms say, or at least it isn’t very healthy: data provided by International Data Corporation (IDC) estimate in -10.6% the number of systems shipped to stores in 2015 compared to 2014, while Gartner stops at -8.3%; either way, this last year marked the fall of PCs put on the market below the critical threshold of 300 million systems - a result that brings the industry back to 7 years ago.

On time with every end of quarter, the reviews on the state of the PC market take Internet by storm by repeating the usual mantra: the business pie is shrinking, and manufacturers have to deal with a perennial transition phase that soon will turn into a bloodbath with very few winners. The analysts’ explanations about the reasons of the downfall are always diverse and always the same, for 2015 they talk about a strong dollar against the other currencies, competition from tablets and smartphones and about Windows 10 free offer which pushed many buyers to delay the upgrade.

Giving a closer look at the analysts’ numbers, if we consider the traditional PC market - those big, noisy and heavy boxes to put above or under the desk, to be clear - the drop in shipped systems for 2015 is greatly cut down (-2.6% IDC, -2.7% Gartner in the USA) and talking about free fall like (almost) everyone does sounds like a ludicrous thing to do. Companies and home users keep on buying PCs en masse, even though the hardware refresh occurs with a much more relaxed pace than some years ago.

IBM 5150

IBM 5150, the grey monolith that started everything

This is the point: these machines with a silicon heart have achieved a reliability on par with that of an appliance, in most cases who bought a PC 3, 4 or even 5 years ago and treated it well - maybe by installing an additional SSD or memory bank on the way - has very little need to buy a new system. The sole exceptions are hardcore players and enthusiasts who prefer to build their own custom PC to get the best performances at the minimum price.

I too, some months ago, put together a couple of builds (based on the Devil’s Canyon CPUs introduced by Intel in 2014) capable of providing huge satisfactions in every application and gaming scenario, and I would have already ordered the parts if the publisher I work for (Edizioni Master, a so-called “firm” whose conduct will deserve an in-depth retrospective in a hopefully not too distant future) had paid me the several thousands of euros they owe me since more than a year ago.

Personal lamentations about a penniless life aside, the true nature of the PC market “crisis” looks clear now: corporations are still selling hundreds of millions of systems every year, PCs haven’t disappeared either from homes or offices and technology progress turned what once was a trendy product into the fundamental block of the modern digital world. Purchase opportunities have never been so good for the user, and the only thing that really got depressed is advertising. This is the golden age of PC, marketing companies can quit the industry to devote themselves exclusively to the intellectually reduced needs of digital natives. No one will shed tears for their departure.

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