Death of the PC

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					The Death of the PC -

Is the PC really dead? Many pundits have claimed to answer this question and they can segregated into
two camps - (1) those who believe that tablets are replacing PCs as "Post-PC" devices, and (2) those
who believe tablets are merely "PC-Plus" devices. IBM, having sold their PC business to Lenovo in
2005, falls squarely in the Post-PC camp, while Microsoft is a proponent of the PC-Plus line of thought. I
would say the "Post PC" camp is closer to the truth.

To explore this further, let's first take a look at the current state of the PC market. It has been a very weak
year for the PC industry, and Q4 2011 has been even weaker. These figures cannot be explained away
by weak macroeconomic conditions as spending on smartphones & tablets has exploded over the same
time frame. In fact, these weak results can be attributed directly to spending on emerging mobile
technologies instead of PCs. This trend has been even more pronounced in the consumer segment, as
enterprise sales have kept PC sales relatively afloat in 2011.

How have companies been affected by these market conditions? HP & Dell have seen their revenues
plunge. Dell has responded by distancing itself from the PC business and focusing on enterprise
servers. HP has pinned its hopes on Ultrabooks and Windows 8 to save this market, but as I've stated
earlier, that's very unlikely. Three of the other top vendors (Lenovo, Acer & Asus) have diversified into
Android Tablets and will be releasing Windows 8 tablets as well - betting on the field is usually a good

Now, let's try and understand where the PC is headed. In order to do this, we need to break down the
market into two segments - (1) The Consumer PC Market, (2) The Enterprise PC Market. As PC
penetration levels are extremely high, both these segments really represent the replacement market.

1) The Consumer PC Market - The consumer technology industry is in the midst of the mobile revolution,
and the PC has been the biggest victim. This revolution is being driven by two factors - usage patterns
and price points. So what are the usage patterns of an average home PC user? Browsing,
communication (email, chat, social networking), media (pictures, music, video), light word processing and
possibly light picture editing. A tablet offers the same functionality, with a touch interface, at a far lower
price point ($200-$600). The only disadvantage to a home user is the inability to write out long emails/text
(or blog posts) on a touchscreen, but even this has been overcome with the launch of hybrid tablets with
keyboard docks (true "Post PC devices" like the Asus Transformer series, and similar products from Acer
& Lenovo). Now, with the upcoming launches of cheaper tablets with even more processing power (new
Amazon Kindle, Asus Memo 370T), it is safe to say that the PC is truly dying in the consumer market.

2) The Enterprise PC Market - The enterprise market is currently somewhat of a safe haven for the PC.
A lot of companies have started buying tablets, but are currently using them as "PC Plus" devices for
their mobile workforce. The enterprise market tends to be far more risk-averse than the consumer market,
as usage trends depend on compatibility of legacy and productivity applications - Microsoft has pinned
the future of Windows 8 on this. But tablets are taking some massive strides forward, that should start
pressuring PCs soon. First, both the iPad and Android tablets have good virtual machine applications,
that will allow company servers to run legacy applications and run it on tablets. Second, the rise of the
"Webtop", i.e. a phone/tablet hooked up to a blank monitor/keyboard, will have an interesting
impact. Ubuntu on Android has recently been released, and it offers all the functionality of both, Android
and the Linux Operating System (including full Office/Productivity Applications). These two innovations
should       help    the    enterprise      market    transition      to      the      "Post    PC"   era.
Going forward, Google has decided to focus Android development on Webtop solutions, with multi-touch
trackpads, which would primarily be applied to Hybrid tablets. So, it looks like even though the enterprise
market is squarely in the "PC Plus" era, a Post PC era is a distinct possibility in the future.

Analyzing both these market segments, it's clear that consumers are driving the Post PC revolution, with
the enterprise slowly making its way. It may not be too long before the PC goes the way of the dodo.

Next week's topic - The iPad and the Tablet Market

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