Is the PC Dead?

August 27, 2015 by Jennifer A. Diffley

The era of home computing may be gone. 2015 marks the fifth year of declining PC sales. And, with the release of Windows 10, PC shipments are expected to continue to decline.

The days of giant PCs are over: no more rumbling, plastic behemoths wedged between piles of floppy disks and a continuous feed printer emitting the sounds of a minor rocket. The march of technology kept its steady pace, and now most homes have new sleek PCs and a decorative plant where the trash compactor-sized CPU used to be. But 2015 marks the fifth year of declining PC sales. And, with the release of Windows 10, PC shipments are expected to continue to decline, as most people are waiting to upgrade their PC until the Windows 10 license runs out in 2017. But even when the renewal window ends, the IDC doesn't see a solid recovery in PC sales until...well, ever.

The new Windows 10 on a laptop.

The reason behind the steady decline is due mostly to the widespread adoption of mobile culture among consumers. The concept of sitting at a home computer is downright peculiar to millenials, most of whom are more familiar with tapping than typing, and if it can't be done on a phone, then the next best thing is a MacBook. PCs have become synonymous with bloatware, bugs, and viruses: why struggle with a computer that is inevitably going to become infected? And why buy a computer when most tasks can be performed on a smartphone?

Businesses are moving away from desktops into either laptops or tablets, and that spells bad news for companies like Intel, which slashed its revenue projection by $1 billion after citing weak PC sales. Other companies are going to shift focus from traditional PC hardware to smaller, smarter processors; in this climate, adaptation is survival.

But that's not to say the PC is gone just yet. Gamers still rely on them for graphics-heavy playing experiences, and many industries use them for performing powerful tasks that a tablet or laptop couldn't handle. The real test will be when 2-in-1s, laptops, and smartphones become as powerful as PCs--and that's just around the corner.

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    euhodos August 27, 2015

    The reason behind declining PC sales is that many (most?) current PC owners are NOT upgrading because:

    (1) the current market fixation on “instant communication” has erupted in operating systems and system designs that favor self-important tubed-tweeters with their constant need to display their latest tat’s, pj’s, or li’l-ones-cute-spitup-piles.  Think I’m wrong?  Try turning off Chat in gMail.  Try using Win 8.
    (2) frankly, most older systems were better made.  No flame-war invite intended, but I’m not impressed with the ALL-SOLDERED-IN components of current laptops.
    (3) frankly, most older systems ran better productivity software.  IMNSHO Office ‘03 was the beginning of the too-feature-rich “suites” which now make it impossible for the user to maintain expertise with their PRODUCTIVITY tools.
    (4) Humanity began communicating using artistry to “decorate” the walls of their caves.  Thus the birth of the icon.  Later came the birth of written communication, so much more efficient and archivable.  Which of these, in this era of Tiles (nothing more than over-sized icons using too much precious screen real-estate) is MORE EFFICIENT?  Again, think Win 8.

    If I want a smart-phone (somewhat of a misnomer, again IMNSHO), I buy one.  I carry it with me.  I TURN IT OFF IN THE COURTROOM, at family gatherings, and when treating a new Date to Dinner and a conversation.  I don’t need it for computing any more than I need a car that will jog for me, or a pet rock that talks or squawks (incessantly), or a virtual trip to a physical courtroom half-way around the world.

    PC sales are declining because the industry is attempting to drive what had been a lucrative market in a direction which many members of that market are CHOOSING not to go.  What I have does what I need.  I’ve seen some mighty fast “texters” on those “smartphone” keyboards but not one I know can hit 100-wpm.  Increasingly, not one I know cares particularly about their productivity, either, given the constant distractions.

    PC sales decline is a SYMPTOM of a disease the industry has brought upon itself.

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  • Jordan BOEKEL August 27, 2015

    Sorry, but this line is just stupid
    “The real test will be when 2-in-1s, laptops, and smartphones become as powerful as PCs—and that’s just around the corner.”
    This is NOT “Just around the corner”. The performance difference between a mobile device and a desktop will always be there-it’s just a fact of life. Desktops are able to use more power for their processors thanks to their increased size and ability to utilise large heatsinks to dissipate that power. A laptop or smartphone will never be able to match the ability of a desktop to remove large amounts of heat.

    Additionally, some things are simply limited by our ability to use them. I would never want to use a smartphone, tablet or laptop for productivity if I could use a desktop. Desktops have larger screens, better keyboards, mice etc, all of which are for better for actually creating things rather than just consuming.

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    lbk August 27, 2015

    mobile devices don’t have adequate displays for many tasks which must display large amounts of information for operations. a good example would be powerplants, or even home control systems, such as burglar alarms. sure, the average teeny bopper will get along with a phone, but not the serious tech. I used to use a program that would display my control lan topology and note bottlenecks. can you imagine doing that with a phone or tablet? larger machines will always mean more processing power. also, if you can’t make blue tooth work and its important to locally connect to a node, Ethernet will always work. I have seen blue tooth not work due to high electrical noise in industrial settings.

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    Grady666 August 29, 2015

    I couldn’t agree more with the 3 comments above- Especially euhodo’s, the PC is NOT dead, and I don’t see it happening unless it continues to follow its(unfortunate and oblivious) trend’s mentioned by euhodo’s above. I can’t really add anything “new” to the above comments, they sum it up well, but I can re-quote the line in this article that bothered me enough to create an account(I’ve been visiting All About Circuits for 4+ years now, before its awesome site upgrade :p):

    “But that’s not to say the PC is gone just yet. Gamers still rely on them for graphics-heavy playing experiences, and many industries use them for performing powerful tasks that a tablet or laptop couldn’t handle. The real test will be when 2-in-1s, laptops, and smartphones become as powerful as PCs—and that’s just around the corner.”

    I’m a big gamer( I actually got into gaming after I got into PC Hardware, then later electronics/Embedded systems, Primarily FPS’s), I will always believe that a Desktop has its purpose of being just that(and can be made portable, depending on the form-factor and the hardware chosen; If you wanted), a desktop. I will parrot this again in different words: If I want something portable and powerful, for the sole use of when Im not able to acess my desktop, I will buy a Laptop.

    There are many things that the desktop enables you to do that a laptop or 2-in-1 just CANNOT. Multi-monitor setups at higher resolutions, as Jordan said: Superior Peripherals, And most importantly more compute/processing power, expandability, and the ability to customize them on a level NOT possible with a laptop or “2-in-1”. I understand the idea of being able to achieve better performance(IPC, Power draw, Graphics Compute power, ETC) on smaller Die’s, over time this will happen, but I do think there will be a ceiling, when either there’s a long stall, with very small incremental performance gains, smaller than on the Desktop side.

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    lazarus78 September 11, 2015

    PCs are not dead. They never will be. The mobile market is just expanding, which is rather annoying. A laptop will never have comparable power to a desktop system at the same price point no matter how you spin it. Heat dissipation is the limiting factor, and battery life will limit you further from doing any intensive work for very long.

    My work uses some Surface tablets, and they have been nothing but a headache. Its hard to beat the reliability of tried and tested desktop PC.

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    lvanderlinde September 11, 2015

    Bring me a smartphone with a 4 terabayte harddrive, a serial port and 6 USB ports and I will buy it. Also make sure it has at leas a 450 mm screen and a keyboard that can be typed upon.
    Unless that, the PC will never die.
    The smartphone and tablet just don’t have it. And yes, I have both smatphone and tablet, so I know, they are only good enogh to phone and send whatsups.
    Windows 10, don’t ask me, I had to throw my PC away after upgrade to it. Became an expensive doorstop. PC shops could not save it. Sorry Microsoft, you failed again.

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  • mjag17 September 12, 2015

    The (desktop) PC market is just getting closer to the size of its true (but perhaps previously poorly defined) audience.  The market for mobile devices is necessarily larger than for desktop PCs, just as the market for individual tools (a screwdriver, pliers, etc) can be expected to be larger than the market for tool sets/toolboxes - the average user rightly buys just the tool(s) with the functionality they need.  With the PC market, users were forced to buy the whole toolbox.  Now they’ve got the option to buy the tools they need.  But neither the toolbox nor the PC are going to disappear any time soon.  In fact they’re only getting more features as far as I can tell.

    Ever been asked by someone why you bought 16MB of RAM or a 500MB HDD?  (or perhaps even lower amounts at earlier times)  Or told that learning these computer things aren’t really useful and are a waste of time? (am I showing my age? lol)  I have, time and time again.  It’s probable that they honestly didn’t need or want whatever benefits I saw from the increased capacity, or the computer itself.

    All of those people had to buy PCs at the time (for work and home use, to type and print stuff, for research etc), but would potentially have preferred to buy and use a mobile device instead, as it could serve all those purposes (assuming we ignore infrastructure availability, maturity of the tablet SW ecosystem(s) then, and career development opportunities of learning computing skills).  To me, that’s a lot of “default” PC buys, easily accounting for the erroneously perceived size of the PCs market.

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    Wilfried Pannen December 04, 2015

    The problem with laptops.
    Not modulair, when you need specific hardware (or want to avoid specific hardware with crappy drivers) you need to search for ages to find a laptop, only to discover that not a single retailer is selling it…
    And then there is no option to choose the OS.

    I’m trying to buy a PC, but i refuse to buy something that does not offer me what i’m looking for.

    If the PC is dead then it is killed by the industry itself..

    It would be nice to have a formfactor for todays hardware that would allow for customisation.
    Mainboad, LAN, Wifi, Audio and Video separated (Where possible) and NO FORCED OS PRE-INSTALLED

    There is more under the sun then Windows13

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    AudioHead October 03, 2017

    My introduction to the PC “revolution” was back in the day of DOS.
    Still to this day I use my desktops, to build,modify,test, and install new software.
    I understand a hands on attitude is not a “common” activity.
    The concept of modifying for use and purpose will keep these workhorses
    around for a while yet. So this point is Just a reminder there is a wide diverse population, that use the PC as a “lab”. Lets not forget Re purposing extends the life of a would be archaic box.That slow sales a tad ... So it’s not like a cell phone always buying the new model. You can’t up grade the components (with a standard cell phone that is ) Back in the day The PC was the ONLY option, but no more. Just ONE tool in the kit now days.BTW I do like my cell too. 😊

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