SINGAPORE — Personal computer (PC) sales have continued their downward trend for the second quarter of this year, according to reports by research companies IDC and Gartner last Friday.
Asia-Pacific numbers have been slipping for five consecutive quarters and the decline is reflected across all regions compared to a year ago, Gartner said, citing preliminary numbers.
News reports jumped on the data, with headlines screaming the death of the PC. Yet, despite the irrefutable data, analysts and manufacturers are cautioning that it might still be too early to organise its funeral.
However, Senior Analyst of research firm Frost & Sullivan Naveen Mishra told TODAY it does signal the beginning of the end. He said: “As tablets increase their computing power, they are getting preferred status over chunky PCs.” A lot of young people are getting their first taste of computers not from PCs but from mobile devices, which are cheaper, he added.
Gartner expects tablet shipments to grow 67.9 per cent this year to 202 million units and the mobile phone market to grow 4.3 per cent with a volume of more than 1.8 billion units. “Consumers want anytime-anywhere computing that allows them to consume and create content with ease, but also share and access that content from a different portfolio of products,” said Ms Carolina Milanesi, Research Vice-President at Gartner. “Mobility is paramount in both mature and emerging markets.”
Managing Director of Toshiba Singapore, Mr Wu Tengguo, said: “Even though the PC market has fallen in the last few quarters, worldwide demand will continue to be very big (in excess of 300 million units annually), at least in the next few years. Portable computers continue to contribute to a larger portion of the PC market, which favours manufacturers that are focused on mobile computing.
“Some analysts also believe in emerging countries, inexpensive tablets have become the first computing device for many people. I think this is a very good sign as low-cost devices will eventually accelerate PC growth, as these users will eventually start to demand more performance as they become more familiar with computing technologies,” Mr Wu added.
Chipmaker Intel said PCs are evolving so much that it is hard to say what a PC is. “Phones offer compute-like capabilities, tablets have keyboards, PCs transform from clamshell into tablet with a twist but one thing is clear, computing is not going away,” said Mr Prakash Mallya, Country Manager, Sales and Marketing of Intel Singapore and Malaysia.
“The decline in numbers could be attributed to the industry not giving users many reasons to buy a new PC instead of a tablet or a smartphone.
“However, we’re seeing more innovation happening in the next two years than in the previous decade,” Mr Mallya said.
Not everyone is of the idea that tablets are ready to replace the workstation. Mr Clement Teo, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research, said: “People use tablets for quick applications, such as checking their email. But, for the purpose of working, on say a spreadsheet, they would still choose to do it on a PC or a laptop, purely for the computing power and the convenience of a keyboard,” he said. “The shift to tablets, such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro, is an experiment at best. People will default to a PC for projects that they can’t do on a tablet.”
Added Mr Wu: “Tablets and larger smartphones may be cannibalising PCs, but they do not totally replace them. In fact, many years ago, analysts believed desktop PCs would be dead when laptop growth started to cannibalise their demand. However, history has shown that there are still different uses for a desktop and, similarly, notebook PCs are demanded for different purposes. I believe the majority of users will continue to demand a mobile PC whether it is for both work and/or play.”
Mr Mishra concluded the PC is not down and out yet. “Desktops are still successful in some industries; for example, in a call centre where employees are not required to be mobile. A decade ago when notebooks first came on the market, people were calling for the death of the PC, but that did not happen. Tablets like the iPad may help users create content, but not all the applications are available yet.
“However, it is moving in that direction according to trends that we’re seeing in the market.”