by Balaji Narasimhan

So, is the PC making a comeback?

Jun 05, 2016
BusinessComputersComputers and Peripherals

The arrival of the smartphone and the tablet saw the PC getting relegated to the sidelines, with some pundits screaming that the PC is dead. But the doughty fighter found its feet at Computex 2016. But is it back for good?

Once upon a time, the only device we had was a PC. But now, the arrival of the smartphone—and its bigger sibling, the tablet—have ensured that we spend more time away from the PC. This meant lower sales, and people started saying that the PC is dead.

But what really happened was that the cycle was lengthened. Instead of a PC every three years, people started buying one every five years so that they could buy other devices. But this cycle crisis has caught on with smartphones too, to make no mention of tablets, which have been witnessing stagnation for a long time—IDC said that, in 2016, global tablet shipments will drop 9.6 percent over 2015.

Now, some good news—at Computex 2016, we witnessed a revival of the PC and the “I told you so” pundits, who said that the non-PC devices are nothing more than a passing fad, are having the time of their lives.

But is the PC really back? Or are we merely witnessing a small blip, as users upgrade their PCs, to forget about new PCs for the next five years? Should we quote Twain in reverse and say that the revival of the PC is a mild exaggeration?

Vendors realize that no segment will get too much growth because they will all compete with each other. This might lead to interesting M&As involving PC and smartphone companies.

We now live in a world where multiple devices are vying for our attention, and our wallets. We have tablets, smartphones, watches, VR gear and PCs, all clamoring for our money. And money being a commodity that is always in short supply, we have to delay the purchase of some products so that we can buy other products.

While this is bad for companies, there is good news too—while earlier people waited and bought products that were not cutting edge, you may now see them buying products that are really new—the logic could be that, because you are only buying a product once in five years, you might as well buy the best there is so that you can get maximum mileage.

Another trend this might spark off is the arrival of companies that deal with all computing products. Apple is a classic case in point—it has phones, tablets, the Mac, watches—you name it, they have it. This way, no matter what product you are upgrading, Apple is sure to get your attention, and your money.

But many companies are not doing this. Some traditional vendors are still having PC businesses, with smartphones as a new offering, while many smartphone makers don’t have anything but smartphones—they, like the post-PC-era believers, thought that the smartphone will sell endlessly.

But now that we have seen smartphones and tablets falter and the PC pickup, vendors are bound to realize that all devices will be there, and naturally no segment will get too much growth in the days to come because they will endlessly compete with each other. This might lead to several interesting M&As involving PC companies buying smartphone companies, or vice versa.

The word “disrupting” is a tired one that has been overused, but with your permission, let me use it just in this one line—the disrupting smartphone competed with the disrupting tablet and was disrupted by the PC that it originally disrupted.

This is the new reality. Accept it.