In this opinion piece, Andrew Birmingham, editor of business site Which-50.com says despite the tech companies’ marketing efforts the sales of desktops and tablets are in rapid decline around the globe…
We are all witnessing the death of the PC industry as the desktop sector goes gentle into that good night. There is little rage evident, except perhaps among the shareholders of some previously lucrative technology outfits.
Six years ago this week, Apple’s then-CEO Steve Jobs announced to the world that the long-rumoured iPad would finally hit the shelves.
The third of April 2010 was iPad day. Fanboys ignored city ordinances around the world and queued from midnight.
More importantly, the global PC industry soon went into rapid retreat — although it would be another 18 months before it became apparent in the numbers, with 2011 representing Peak PC.
As the chart below — based on Gartner data from business intelligence service Statista — demonstrates, sales have retreated to levels not seen in almost a decade.
Here’s the interesting thing: the iPad itself is in retreat. By 2015, a quarter of a billion units had been shipped, but even by then iPad’s moment in the sun had passed.
Smartphones and the awfully named phablets (half phone, half tablet) are now so ubiquitous and so heavily featured that the tablet market has been disintermediated.
Apple is still a winner, though, having disrupted its own market with the ongoing strength of iPhone sales.
That’s quite an achievement, actually. An incumbent disrupting its own business, and doing so with an existing product — the iPhone — and not with a new device. Effectively disrupting its new product line with its old one.
And the company’s decision to run the same operating system across the iPhone and the iPad now looks extraordinarily prescient. Imagine the value destruction and wasted capital had Apple loaded its shiny new tablets with an entirely bespoke operating system about which would it now be contemplating obsolescence.
Rise of the machines
Of course there’s an even bigger reason for the slow and inevitable death of the PC industry and for iPad’s gathering decline*. And that’s Android.
Mountain View’s genius now extends to well over a billion units worldwide and a market share to make an antitrust lawyer blush. Not bad when you consider that in 2007 there were no Android mobiles loose on the Savanna. None.
The ubiquity of smart mobility, the preference for the smaller platforms in the emerging markets where most of the world’s population live, and the extraordinary ecosystem that has emerged around the phone, guarantee the that the day of the desktop is over.
An earlier and faintly pathetic attempt by a cluster of competing PC companies to spur worldwide PC sales through joint marketing last year missed the key point. It is not only consumers who have changed their preference. Manufacturing and distribution infrastructure and investment has now shifted to reflect consumer preference.
Even the core source of its profitability — the supply chain — is abandoning the personal computer.