At Goldman Sachs Technology Conference earlier this week Tim Cook spent a moment on comparing iPad to traditional PC sales. Cook stated, "To put the 23 million iPads sold in the last quarter in some context, HP, who is the world's largest PC seller, in that same quarter, sold 15 million PCs. So 50+ percent more iPads were sold in that quarter than PCs, and in fact if you look at the full year last year, there were more iPads sold than HP sold of their entire PC lineup. And so there has been a sea change here, but I think we're in the early innings of this game." Today, Gartner Research issued a press release concerning the dire shape that the personal computer market as we know it is in. It's clear that PC's, as in traditional desktops and notebooks "will continue to be marginalized," stated one of Gartner's analysts. Yet stats are only one part of the equation and there may be a glimmer of hope for the PC on the horizon.
"The PC market in Western Europe is in a downward spiral," said Meike Escherich, principal research analyst at Gartner. "In 2012, it experienced the second consecutive year of decline, but less steeply than in 2011, when the PC market in Western Europe decreased 14 percent. The second consecutive yearly decline indicates that the issues the PC market faces are beyond a weak economy, a poorly understood new operating system, or Ultramobiles being priced too high to generate demand."
But it's not all doom and gloom just yet as there are some bright spots of a PC rebound. Yes, shipments were down notably in Western Europe and particularly in France. Yet shipments were generally up for the larger players in both the UK and Germany.
On the negative side of the equation, Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner stated that "While PC vendors keep hoping for a 'PC plus' era, in reality we are in a smartphone/tablet era, where tablets are winning the battle for content consumption and smartphones are at the forefront of mobility. PCs are continuing to be marginalized and 2013 will be no different."
On a slightly more positive note, Meike Escherich, principal research analyst at Gartner stated that "While 2013 will remain a challenging year for the PC market in Germany, the introduction of Intel's Haswell CPU will possibly create a little more optimism in the Ultramobile segment as users begin to see the value of a full day's battery life and better performance products." Escherich is no doubt referring to the entry of Intel's next generation Ultrabook Convertible.
Stats Can't Predict the Next Wave
I've said this many times before and I'll say it again. I checked out HP's Envy X2 Ultrabook Convertible lately and fell in love with it. As Escherich alluded to in her statement, the arrival of the Haswell processor will be ushering in a next generation notebook called the Ultrabook Convertible. This next generation notebook will be both a notebook and tablet. It's a value play that will undoubtedly tempt those on a tight budget and those who want to work with a traditional notebook during the day and in the evening enjoy a tablet to surf the web or read an ebook. It's a device that may very well have the power to reinvigorate the PC sector over the next few years.
I personally own an Apple iPad with a Retina Display and absolutely love it. But it does have some limitations for my work. So I'll be purchasing an HP Envy X2 or equivalent once it's powered by Intel's Haswell processor. On that note, I don't think that I'll be alone. The removable display on HP's unit is lighter than my iPad. It'll also give me longer battery life and a traditional keyboard when I need to be productive; all at an affordable price.
Yet with that said, there's no doubt that smartphones have become the epicenter of everyone's tech universe with tablets close behind. Apple ushered in this revolution and disrupted the PC world as we knew it. In fact, let's be honest, it tore it to shreds in a heartbeat. That's just a fact.
In light of the coming shift in personal computers, specifically with the introduction of the Ultrabook Convertible later this year, we're bound to see the PC sector enjoy a bit of a welcomed rebound beginning in Q4. While PC's will never return to their glory-days for most of us, they're equally not about to drift into the sunset either. Each computer device has its own unique strengths and weaknesses and we pick and choose our tools and toys very carefully so that they meet the needs and demands of our social and work lives.
At the end of the day, always keep stats in context. Gartner's research is important because it mirrors the current market reality on the ground. But stats didn't foretell of the coming impact that either Apple's iPhone or the iPad would have on the market, and they never will be able to foretell the impact of a new powerful trend on the horizon. So in the end, could the coming Ultrabook Convertible deliver that market magic needed to reverse the doom and gloom surrounding the PC today? Only time will tell.