PC Enthusiasts Need to Admit to the PC's Decline: It's Happening in the Spaces We Don't Care About Anyway
Some of us tech enthusiasts, PC enthusiasts to be exact, hate it when business analysts say that our platform is on the decline . And I'm a pro-PC guy, too. I get it. But I think we miss the mark when we attempt to exorcise our angst with those who have disparaged the PC sales market. I read this article over on PC Gamer, and everything they mention, about what they refer to as the gaming PC market, is in-sync with the majority of financial reports and earnings reports and overall projections and guidance. Dell reinforces that, and it's even more apparent in the XPS line being reinvigorated with gaming components in that product line. For years after the Alienware acquisition, the XPS line did not include hardcore gaming components in the available configurations, because Dell felt the Alienware's were enough and the market wouldn't support two lines of gaming laptops from them. Having owned three XPS gaming laptops before that time, I've been really happy to see them return.
But there are times that PC evangelists get wrapped around the axle about terms analyst's use without surfacing or acknowledging the truth of the shift that has been occurring. So I'm going to flip some of those terms to give an assessment that I think is in a more appropriate and accurate context. Because it doesn't matter whether or not it's Tablets, specifically, that people are using to displace PCs. Maybe it's Chromebooks. Or big smartphones. Or MacBooks. It only really matters that they're being displaced.
The fact of the matter is that it's not in the gaming PC sector, solely and specifically, that the PC sales market looks healthy. It's in the high-end PC sales market, of which gaming PCs are a subset. Today, there's just no alternate computing solution for what a high-power compute machine can do. The only real alternative would be to use Cloud compute for processing, but you have to have the ability to create the content to send to be processed in the cloud in the first place, which also generally requires a…you got it, high-power compute PC. And that's still not always viable if your created content is then GBs of assets. You have to have a network pipe big enough to transfer the raw files quickly, and more impinging, once the assets are in the Cloud, the pipe has to be big enough (fast enough) that your editing and processing UX doesn't crawl like a street sweeper.
But at the other end of the spectrum, what I call low-power compute solutions, there's a host of alternatives, and that's where the PC market has slipped. That space has also been the larger volume of sales for the market, which is why the PC sales market overall has slipped so much. Here's where the cliche statement these days, that if someone "just needs to do email and access Twitter and Facebook" , there are tons of options better than buying a cheap, low-power PC that still has to run the entire Windows 10 stack to do menial tasks.
So my recommendation is to not get hung up and parse every little word, or take a religious stance that analysts are wrong when they say that PCs are being replaced by Tablets. PCs are being replaced by general users, and not with new PCs. Who cares exactly which type of device is "to blame" for this usurping? Analysts were wrong, Tablets are just consumption devices, they cannot be used for real work, Tablets are just a fad. All that guff and PCs that can be replaced by low-power solutions are sill being eaten alive.
I would also skew from saying that analysts are just wrong in general. They’re studying the stock market, and what the stock market and investors want to see is deterministic and reliable outcomes and projections. You cannot just do well. You need to predict that you are going to do well and by how much. Overachieving is bad. That’s does not make Wall Street wrong, it just makes them different.
Tech enthusiasts and PC evangelists need to just admit that in the low-power compute space, there are tons of other options now that perform better, offer more flexible form-factors, way better battery life, and, most importantly, do not have the burden of self-administration and security awareness that a PC requires. That does not make us pro-PC types obsolete. That just makes the world ecosystem we participate in different. Failing to acknowledge that, and work within it, is what will make us and the PC industry extinct. Not Tablets.