One picture is worth millions of words. Here’s a site that has plotted sales/shipments of various platforms of personal computing over the decades. The PC has obviously peaked while new technology climbs like a scalded cat. It’s also clear that the new technology is just getting started… and Android/Linux is overtaking whatever Apple puts out.
There are many reasons for why the new technology performs this way:
- the old technology is bulky, expensive, heavy, hot and noisey,
- the new technology is small, cheap, light, cool and quiet,
- the new technology is easier/faster to bring to market mostly because it is cheaper and has so many advantages,
- more choices stirs interest in consumers, and
- more options stirs innovation in producers.
The counter argument is that the x86 PC can do more faster but that is irrelevant as consumers don’t want/need to do more. “More” was just marketing hype from Wintel over the years to bring on new sales rather than any kind of necessity. A lot of basic roles PCs performed have largely been taken over by servers and USB devices: storage, computing, manipulation of data, and of course servers do a lot of stuff PCs cannot, like the social media. PCs do not scale well enough to do that.
The only question in my mind is whether or not M$ can swing the monopoly it had on x86 PCs to ARM. I think there’s not much chance of that working because the new technology is all about small and cheap whereas Wintel is all about big and expensive. Some things need to be big to perform well, like vaccuum cleaners, but a personal computer is not one of them. Moore’s Law, networking and ARM have eliminated the need to be big in IT. One does need to be flexible and the EULA of M$ and the need to cool x86 make Wintel deprecated. Intel is trying to remain relevant by it’s Atom line and pushing GNU/Linux but Atoms need to be one or two steps ahead of ARM to be in the same league of energy consumption. Eventually Atom and ARM will both be so low in energy consumption that difference may not matter but that is still a year or two away and Atoms still cost far more than ARMed CPUs to produce. There may continue to be a need for desktop/notebook personal computers but there is less need for them to be run by Wintel. The same is true for “social” servers.