Even if you only vaguely pay attention to technology news you no doubt heard how PC sales are at an all-time low and that Windows 8 is the cause. I am here to defend Microsoft’s Windows 8 – sort of.
It cannot be disputed that PC sales have been declining and in fact are indeed at an all-time low. Why this is a shock to everyone simply amazes me. If you look at this trend with a very broad scope – it is easy to explain and more importantly to be expected. Here are some facts to look at before reflecting on what is actually happening in the consumer market as we speak.
During the early 1980’s the first low-cost home computers began to appear on the market. A price war began and home computers were soon showing up in homes across America. IBM PC clones began dominating the market by the late 1980’s. There were always rivals like Apple during this time period, however PC Clones were the easy choice for most people. By 2001 personal computers, running Microsoft’s Windows operating system were controlling the market. This dominance continued until the third quarter of 2008 when laptops made their first real (affordable) appearance in the consumer market. At the time computer sales had reached the one billion mark.
Laptops date all the way back to 1976 however for the consumer these mobile computers became a true option in 2006 and 2007. The appearance of truly affordable and usable laptops by mid-2008 is important because it marked the first time that personal computers had a true competitor, the laptop. Consumers now had a real choice when it was time to replace their old computer. Should they replace their PC with a laptop or purchase another PC? In fact the choice consumers were making regarding personal computers when provided options is clear as far back as this point in 2008. During the third quarter of 2008 laptops outpaced personal computers in sales. Let’s be clear – Windows XP was the operating system at this time. Windows XP had nothing to do with the shift away from personal computers. I believe that the same can be said for Windows 8 today, but we will get to that later.
The competition for sales is only beginning in 2008. Just like laptops, smartphones are older than you may think. The first actual prototype appeared in 1992 built by IBM. Bell South than built one in 1994. Then Nokia premiered Nokia 9000 in 1996. As you can see smartphones have been around for quite awhile. Companies including Palm, HP, Blackberry and even Windows were writing software for smartphones throughout the mid to late 1990’s. By the late 2000’s right around the time of the truly affordable laptop the popularity of smartphones was proven. Here you have the second competitor with personal computers.
Tablets like smartphones and laptops have a longer history then one might expect. Did you know that the first patent for a “tablet used for handwriting” was granted in 1888? That is not a typo. 1888 – Not 1988. For the purpose of keeping this article as short as possible lets jump ahead 122 years. You see it was here, in 2010 that Steve Jobs introduced Apple’s iPad. This was a disaster for personal computers. This is because many consumers simply do not need the complexity of computers. Many people only require the ability to access email, the internet, the ability to shop online, games and the ability to write letters and other documents. Apple’s iPad offered this. The operating system as this time running most computers was Windows 7. PC sales which had already been declining continued to do so. To make matters worse for PC sales Android tablets appeared in early 2011 followed by the Amazon Kindle in September of 2011 and in October 2012 Microsoft launched it’s Surface tablet line. Tablets today are appearing in every size and shape imaginable.
Fast forward to today as we near the end of this article. Today personal computers are at a crossroads and Microsoft is obviously very aware of this. Computing tools are all around us truly for the first time in history. Today consumers can choose personal computers, laptops, smartphones and now tabletsto meet their computing needs. Most consumers simply will not purchase “all of the above”.
Microsoft also realizes that the way in which we use our computers is evolving, even if many consumers refuse to acknowledge it. Think about it. With the exception of most personal computers all of the devices I mentioned in this article have “touch screens”. There is no reason that computers cannot be used in this manner as well. This is why Windows 8 is designed in the way that it is. I believe that Microsoft sees a day in which we will use our smartphones, tablets and computers all in the same way and that all the devives we use will be synced together.
Personal computers sales will never be what they once were. Let me be clear. In my humble opinion Windows 8 has very little to do with this so I really hope that people stop blaming it. Competition from within the digital market is the explanation. For many users a tablet or even a good smartphone meets their everyday digital needs.
Windows 8 needs to and will improve as Microsoft’s development of it continues. But to blame the woes of computers sales on it is foolish, easy and wrong.