“Asia Pacific personal computer (PC) shipments totaled 30.3 million units in the second quarter of 2012, a 2.6 percent decline compared with the same quarter in 2011, according to Gartner, Inc. The most notable decline came from China’s PC market at 5.4 percent, marking its first year-on-year negative growth ever.”
While Gartner shows good growth for Lenovo and big drops for others, the decline is small, more indicating that demand/supply for PCs (excluding tablets and smart phones) has peaked. Combine this with the spectacular growth of some of those economies and huge advertising budgets, I am drawn to the conclusion that small cheap computers are really killing growth in those markets. Instead of annually increasing shipments we see a pattern of decline while tablets and smart phones take off like rockets. Clearly x86 PCs are losing share to ARMed PCs and that other OS is losing share to */Linux.
The longer such a shift continues the more sure I am that it’s real and not a blip. This brings to mind my thoughts on usage of PCs long ago, when the Internet was still new, “Most people don’t know what to do with a PC.” In those days, folks ran a few applications like word-processors and games. Eventually accessing the Internet became sufficient reason to own a PC for most consumers, around half the unit-demand for PCs. Those consumers are satisfied with smart phones and tablets for accessing the Internet. The x86 PC world and Wintel, in particular, has lost a “killer app”.
The new technology is still new and large numbers of people have yet to acquire tablets but see the benefits. I expect this trend will continue for a few years at least and emerging markets will see about half of personal computing done with smart phones and tablets. So, that other OS need not apply. The world has moved on from Wintel.
Businesses are another matter. From the beginning they saw the PC as cost-saving compared to mainframes and businesses make money using PCs so the cost of the PC and its mobility is less important than that certain applications run. The shift to web applications is changing that too but it takes longer before the share of applications that are critical to most businesses will be web applications. At the moment more than half of business applications are web applications. That still requires thick clients to be widely used in most businesses. There is a shift to thin clients but it’s still small.
So, market share for Wintel is trending down towards 50% over the next few years. I have no idea what the share a decade from now will be, but I don’t see any resurgence to monopoly. It’s just too expensive and without benefit. The world can create its own hardware and software without Wintel. Wintel, to stay in the market will have to adopt open standards and play nicely with others, something M$ has not had to do for decades.
Signs that M$ sees this are everywhere:
- finally, M$ will share files in open standards in its office suite,
- finally, M$ will release a version of its client OS for ARM,
- finally, M$ is breaking reverse compatibility to compete with the new technology,
- finally, M$ is allowing OEMs to ship GNU/Linux, and
- finally, M$ is accepting it is no longer the elephant in the room of IT.
Oh, M$ will fight to maintain the monopoly wherever it exists but it’s a rear guard action like suing over software patents, “Surface” and “8″. There’s nothing they can do to “win”. It’s all about delaying the inevitable decline. Software patents, even if they are not killed by the courts expire eventually. “Surface” competes directly with OEMs, ~75% of M$’s customers. That’s a winning strategy, eh? “8″ looks to be a disaster in the short term. Businesses will have no use for it and half still cling to XP, let alone “7″. The rubber band between businesses and M$ is about to break.
We are seeing these shifts first in emerging markets despite the approximate equality of notebook and desktop shipments. Since the market emerging has the potential to be several times larger than the established markets Asia Pacific is a good indicator of things to come. The small cheap computers are an emerging market within an emerging market and rapidly displacing the old ways.
My recent foray into Walmart suggests the established markets will follow this trend. Not one ATX/big box PC was on display. More tablets and smart phones were on display than notebooks. I expect Walmart knows what sells.
This bodes well for */Linux as FLOSS fits well with “small and cheap”, no overhead on the price of software. To remain price-competitive, many x86 PCs need GNU/Linux or Android/Linux. I recommend Debian GNU/Linux because it will run on ARM, Intel, AMD, Via, and on any size computer from a $60 tablet to a $million mainframe. GNU/Linux has it covered. Android/Linux is OK, too, but GNU/Linux should be easier for XP-addicts to accept.
see also, I Cringley, “here’s Microsoft’s internal business strategy as I understand it. In order to regain mobile momentum they’ve deliberately hobbled the desktop side. That way they can reasonably claim desktop sales as mobile sales and vice versa. What better way to pick up 100+ million “mobile licenses” in the next 12 months?”