Clearly, the PC is not even close to being dead as a primary power content creation platform. Recently a New York Times article, an academic thought leader, Raj Echambadi, and an industry analyst, Business Insider have shed new light. A rift in perspectives emerges between increasing market demand for mobile (smartphones and tablets) and its relationship to the existing PC market.
The debate has complex drivers including workplace computing requirements, user demands, and geographic expansion of computing into emerging markets. Arguments around use-cases, workflows, and different opinions on the ultimate purpose of computing in the home come to bear.
Yesterday, Raj Echambadi, Professor of Business Administration and James F. Towey Faculty Fellow at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign wrote, “The PC Is Not Dead (Yet!)” Raj suggests that the PC is now complemented increasingly by mobile access to the web. Further, he suggests, that one must focus on design thinking (my words) and be customer-centric (his words) in finding the balance. Raj’s commentary is from a NY Times article on device-hopping shoppers. The NY Times identifies different uses of mobile and PC platforms for different steps in the consumer shopping process and purchase workflow.
As a result, Raj clarifies that hardware makers and content providers “need to provide an ‘integrated’ experience for consumers, irrespective of the device they use to access.” In support of the premise, Raj also references my post: The PC Is Not Dead – Please Stop the Obituaries.
Also yesterday, Business Intelligence posted their report The Death of the PC [Slide Deck] a near death, but not yet, conclusion. It has dozens of economic, market and industry charts showing the decline of the PC against the economic growth of smartphones and tablets. The charts and graphs are very convincing.
However, the dissent among readers is more telling. The Comment by Kevin Wayne Pledger, the Editors’ Pick comment today identifies two flawed assumptions of Business Insider’s analysis. The first: “smartphones and tablets will replace PCs, rather than supplement them.” Second, it is incorrect to assume the “number of hours logged on a smartphone or iPad is indicative of decreasing use of PCs.”
Product Manager Perspective
Project teams for the market entry product (tablets and smartphones), have a plan for adoption. There is no doubt that successful companies like Samsung, Microsoft, Apple, et. al, discuss migration strategy, interoperability, translation, and other user-adoption dynamics well before product launch. They have modeled adoption across the most appropriate users, computing needs, workflows and interfaces. I have no doubt these discussions had deep dependency on a vibrant PC user base for many years to come.
Product managers (and corporate executives) would be failing to only focus on market-share shift (think pie chart) from PC to mobile. The leaders I know focus on growing the market overall (size of the pie). It seems those on the outside are preoccupied with predicting the death of the PC over mobile platforms.
My Assessment of Content Creation
My assessment of the PC’s long-term utility for content creation remains unchanged. I have found it impossible to be as productive as with a PC (desktop). It’s just that simple. The economic measures are not about sales and penetration numbers compared between the two. We should instead be examining the broader changes in user-experience dynamics. We should look closer at how we are responding unique and better tools each for content creation and access.
The headlines represent ill-directed thinking, and drive unwarranted fear in CIOs and IT departments. The advent of mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) opens access to the internet to a new market of users and customers. New technology like this segments the future market differently.
The premature predictions are usually false. Petroleum-fueled vehicles took decades to fully replace horse powered transport. Mainframe computers continue to coexist with the PC. Likewise, smartphones and tablets will take years, to balance their existence with the PC.
People productive typing 100+ words a minute, programming software or managing websites with million-lines of code are not going to be immediately replaced by touch and voice-activated interfaces. I have an open mind, and it could happen but not that fast.
With hype about the PC’s death – show caution in moving users. If productivity drops because people with a keyboard and laptop are “forced” to go to a tablet due to fear-based decree, one would not want to defend that position to the CEO. Make your own call, but obituaries are premature.