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The Passing of the Personal Computer Era 329

An anonymous reader writes "AllThingsD columnist Arik Hesseldahl noticed another milestone marking the passing of the personal computer era: for the first time since the early '80s, the share of worldwide sales of DRAM chips consumed by PCs (desktop and laptop computers, but not tablets) has dropped below fifty percent. Perhaps a more important milestone was reached last year, when more smartphones were shipped (not sold) worldwide than the combined total of PCs and tablets (also noticed by Microsoft watcher Joe Wilcox). While this is certainly of tremendous marketing and business importance to the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Google, Adobe, and PC OEMs, others may reflect on the impending closing of the history books on the era that started in Silicon Valley a little over 35 years ago."
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The Passing of the Personal Computer Era

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:36AM (#41352895)

    You buy a phone once a year vs a PC once every 3 years. I would expect 3x more smartphone shipments than PCs.

  • Nonsense. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:37AM (#41352897)

    The only sorts of people satisfied with a smart phone or an ipad rather then a proper computer never really used the computer properly in the first place. They do not do the same thing and you don't have the same control over it. That vital in business which is where much of the demand for computers started in the first place.

    The cloud has it's uses and I think it will remain relevant for as long as our smart phones aren't powerful enough to do run desktop level applications entirely in their own processors/memory. That day will come though. And when that happens why trust the cloud and a likely unreliable internet connection when you can run the whole thing live?

    The personal computer is as likely to go away as the pencil and paper... less likely actually. The iFad is enjoying it's day but in the end it can't deliver the same utility as a personal computer. And even if it could, there are matters of latency, security, customization, etc that are a systemic flaw of the cloud.

  • In other news... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pav ( 4298 ) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:38AM (#41352909)

    ...more bicycles were sold worldwide than family cars*. Pundits hail the passing of the family car era.

    Pffft... hogwash.

    * - I have no idea how many bicycles or family cars are sold, but it's at least plausible.

  • NEWS FLASH: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CajunArson ( 465943 ) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:38AM (#41352911) Journal

    Cheaper products that tend to have shorter lifespans because they have not reached the "good enough" level of performance and because teenagers tend to drop them requiring more replacements are sold in greater quantities than more expensive products that have reached OK performance levels and aren't trashed as frequently! Film at 11!

  • Re:Nonsense. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by afgam28 ( 48611 ) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @11:52AM (#41353033)

    The flaw in your argument is that you assume that people have to choose between a pc and a mobile device. I'm perfectly satisfied with my phone and tablet, yet I still have a "proper computer". In fact I have many proper computers.

    No one ever said that the post pc world would contain no pcs. The point was that a greater share of users would be doing a greater share of their computing from non pc devices.

    This is exactly what happened, and the people who were insightful enough to see it coming were able to make a lot of money from their prediction.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 16, 2012 @12:00PM (#41353091)

    We get a story about how the 'PC era' is over, even though there is no evidence for it. The mobile device is a supplement to a PC, the fact that people are turning to the mobile device for entertainment (web browsing, etc) isn't indicative of a mass move away from the PC.

    Everyone still needs their laptops for college classes, all companies still require work to be done on a laptop or PC, they aren't going away any time at least in the next decade. I can see the tablet possibly becoming the new laptop (once it runs a 'normal' OS and not a watered down one), you bring it to work where you have a bluetooth keyboard and mouse there... then you just bring the tablet home where you also have a bluetooth keyboard and mouse. At this point, is it really any different than a laptop? Is that really a post PC era, even though the computer is just a different form factor?

  • by QuincyDurant ( 943157 ) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @12:06PM (#41353137)

    Right. I haven't bought a refrigerator in a while either, but it's not because I don't like refrigeration.

  • by BrendaEM ( 871664 ) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @12:09PM (#41353159) Homepage

    I am sick and tired of people trying to bury personal computers. Just because smarphones sell, and there is a lot of money to be pried from their users, does not mean that we should abandon computers that we can actually get work done on!

    I own a tablet, but I use a laptop for word processing. I use a desktop for CAD and video editing. Because devices are small, they can be a marvel, but I remember when computers were much more useful with less hardware. Business did not want to spend the money for a 386DX 33MHZ, but if they did,they could run their whole business on it; smarphones are tablets are much more powerful and their are relegated to playing angry birds and small applets. People are amazed if they can write a single page of text on a smartphone, but were angry if they couldn't lay out a whole book on a 1GHZ desktop computer.

    RISC processors might be the way of the future, but my laptop is still 10x faster than my tablet, for now, and there is no reason to make them faster if we don't expect better software. AMD's failure in the marketplace means that intel has gone dormant like a sleeping bear--stagnating the desktop market. Microsoft is trying to wall-in the open PC garden. Ubuntu screwed up by trying "Unity." Gnome screwed up by turning its back on desktop users, and for removing too much usefulness.

    I like that people network more and can collaborate on projects more easily, but we have grown too dependent on single points of failure. To some, Google is the internet; that scares me. We are building too many card houses, and sooner or later, they will fall.

  • by Ben4jammin ( 1233084 ) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @12:09PM (#41353165)
    That may be your hardware replacement schedule, but I doubt that is true for the masses. With ATT, you are eligible for a phone upgrade after 2 years. I think many people keep them longer once they find one they like, if for no other reason than to avoid having to "learn" a new phone.

    On the PC side, it has been my experience that most people have computers older than 3 years. The Slashdot demographic is probably not indicative of the general population in this case. I would put the average age of a home PC at closer to the 5-7 year range. Same with corporate. Where I work, the main DB servers are on a 3 year refresh, as are the customer facing computers. Everything else is 5-7 years.

    So while I agree with you that people will probably buy more smartphones than computers in their lifetime, I would not put the ratio at 3:1 nor would I expect a 3 year refresh cycle. Although I am sure the manufacturers would love it if the consumers did follow your schedule.
  • by bbelt16ag ( 744938 ) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @12:22PM (#41353271) Homepage Journal
    its time to buy the hardcore processing power pcs now! the prices are going to go up. I am going to do everything i can to buy two more desktops and a laptop this christmas. On top of a new car..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 16, 2012 @12:27PM (#41353319)

    "With ATT, you have paid off the hire-purchase agreement on your old phone after two years"

    I radically fixed your spelling.

  • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @12:30PM (#41353331)
    The point really is that most consumers use their computers for a few functions like facebook, web surfing etc. For that, a smartphone or tablet is enough. In the past, they needed a computer/laptop because it was the only option. Geeks here on slashdot don't always represent consumers. Geeks need much more than consumers and a tablet isn't going to be enough for them.
  • by pointyhat ( 2649443 ) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @12:35PM (#41353391)

    What a load of rubbish.

    What has happened is that there is a singularity on "good enough" PCs.

    Most of the people I know have PCs that are 4-5 years old because they are absolutely fine with what they have and it still works. They rarely go out and buy new stuff. The same is true of the company I work for. We bought decent quality dev workstations 4 years ago and they are still spot on now. Same for standard desktops.

    People aren't buying stuff as much because what they have works fine.

    I live in an expensive bit of London, UK and you'd expect it to be Apple everything. It's not. It's 5 year old ThinkPads everywhere.

    Windows 7, Windows 8 will run perfectly fine on a machine designed for Windows Vista.

  • by Zero__Kelvin ( 151819 ) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @12:45PM (#41353473) Homepage

    "You do not, in actual fact, need dual quad-core processors, 24GB of DDR1600 memory, or the latest Radeon 7000 series or nVidia Kepler video card to check your email, surf Youtube, and edit your TPS reports"

    True, but we don't need to worry, because Microsoft is working on solving that problem as we speak!

  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @01:01PM (#41353605)
    YASIFS (Yet another sky is falling story). The overall computer market is still growing.
  • by kenh ( 9056 ) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @02:52PM (#41354611) Homepage Journal

    It's been 30+ years since the Mainframe was going to be replaced by personal computers, why do we imagine tablets will replace personal computers any time soon?

    For those unaware, the mainframe is doing just fine - a solid, profitable market for IBM since the early 1950's?

  • by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Sunday September 16, 2012 @04:04PM (#41355463)

    Knock it off with the trolling.. Piracy is an excuse, nothing more as console games are pirated all the time too. The publishers want control, something they cannot get on win32 but can on the shitty consoles.

Solutions are obvious if one only has the optical power to observe them over the horizon. -- K.A. Arsdall