Sales slump 'horrific news' for PCs
The ailing personal computer market is getting weaker and starting to look as if it will never fully recover as a new generation of mobile devices reshapes the way people use technology, new reports have revealed.
The latest evidence of the PC's infirmity emerged with the release of two grim reports showing unprecedented declines in sales of desktops and laptops during the first three months of this year.
And it appears that a pivotal makeover of Microsoft's ubiquitous Windows operating system seems to have done more harm than good since the software was released last October.
"This is horrific news for PCs," said BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis. "It's all about mobile computing now. We have definitely reached the tipping point."
First-quarter shipments of PCs fell 14% worldwide from the same time last year, according to International Data Corporation - the deepest quarterly drop since the firm started tracking the industry in 1994. Another research firm, Gartner, pegged the first-quarter decline at 11%.
The deviation stemmed in part from the firms' slightly different definitions of PCs, but the PC market is in the worst shape since IBM released a desktop machine in 1981.
PC sales have now fallen from their year-ago levels in four consecutive quarters, a slide that has been accelerating even amid signs that the overall economy is getting healthier. PCs are going out of style because they typically cost more than smartphones and tablets, and are not as convenient to use.
Apple's late chief executive Steve Jobs, whose company propelled the mobile computing revolution with the 2007 release of the iPhone, declared that the world was entering a "post-PC era" shortly after the iPad came out three years ago.
In a June 2010 appearance at a technology conference, he likened challenges facing the PC industry to what happened to trucks in the US decades ago as a shift away from farming caused more people to move into cities where they wanted to drive cars instead. "I think PCs are going to be like trucks," Mr Jobs predicted at the time. "Less people will need them."
But the traditional PC still has a long way to go before it becomes obsolete. Despite the dismaying start in the first quarter, more than 300 million PCs are still expected to be sold worldwide this year. Tablet computers, a category that was insignificant until the iPad came along, is catching up rapidly: nearly 200 million of those deices could be sold this year. Meanwhile, worldwide smartphone sales could surpass 1 billion units this year, Mr Gillis predicted.