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The PC is dead? Not so fast…

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According to analyst group IDC, worldwide PC spending dropped 6.4% last quarter. In an article in Computer Weekly the slump in sales was attributed to consumers shunning PCs in favour of attractively priced tablets and smart phones, and that commercial purchases also remained weak. Computer Weekly credits this to the persisting uncertainty in the economic situation across the region.

IDC noted that the choice of form-factors for desktops is greater than ever. In the same article, Canalys analyst Tim Coulling, said: “Buyers must decide between an Ultrabook and a standard notebook, a touchscreen and a non-touchscreen, as well as an increasing array of form-factors, such as clamshell, convertible and hybrid.”

That got me thinking. Is the decline in PC sales just about the changing form factor and growth of choice – or is it that fundamentally the way that we use technology has changed? In my experience it’s become commonplace for enterprises who move their operations and infrastructures into the cloud to shun large capital investments in shiny new hardware that sits on the desk, in favour of cut down and/or more mobile options. Really it makes no sense for companies moving to an OPEX business model for IT spending to then add a CAPEX cost into the equation.

With the advent of desktop virtualisation (VDI), it’s no surprise that PCs sales are down. Companies who employ VDI share the PC processing power and storage across a number of users making one PC able to support a number of users. Add this type of shared-benefit into a cloud model, and it’s easy to see why analysts are predicting the death of the PC.

Interestingly, when discussing the consumer’s and the enterprise’s adoption of cloud services at the Redcentric symposium last year, Chintan Patel from Cisco estimated that the majority of us (over 60%) only consume content, not create it. This means that we don’t need expensive processing power or vast storage that comes with a PC, we just need a way to view content. This would explain the rise of the tablet.

Personally however I don’t think that we’ll see the death of the PC anytime soon. There will always be a need for processing power even if it’s only to draft documents in Word or a spreadsheet in Excel. What perhaps is more important however is how we, as technology providers, help customers to understand the variety of choice available to them, and what suits them best.

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