Switch on or move on: Decline of the Desktop market

Over the last few years, one has seen the desktop sales drop significantly. This is a trend that has gone on unabated and there seems to be a steady decline. Will it recover or will it reach a plateau and reach an equilibrium?

Switch on or move on

The future of desktop

The answer lies in looking at the consumers and their behavior. I for one do not believe we have to looks at stats to understand changes. Stats can verify changes but sensing them is to go through a rational and objective thinking and making a logical conclusion. You may say its a hypothesis for starters. let the market prove or disprove your claim. This exercise is inevitable and bound create a learning.

There is a PC on my desktop
PC has been used for a lot of reasons by different kinds of people. Some use them for surfing the internet, some for working on files and documents. While other would probably be using it for personal entertainment like audio, video and games.

PC was the sole device which catered to a lot of activities like home entertainment, infotainment and professional needs. The desire for a new PC was more driven by the cutting edge technology that made PC’s faster and better than what they already were. So came the Pentiums, Xenons, Celerons and what not. A faster machine, a better capacity, a quite experience or a workhorse, think of any wish list, there was something out there suitable for different user needs. Laptops were slowly becoming inexpensive with lowered cost and people started switching from PC’s to Laptops. Laptops were getting slicker, lighter, better and came in all kinds of sizes. Things were going good till now but not for long. A disruption was around the corner. 

The disruption and an the awakening
Tablets didn’t arrive in the market with a bang. The earlier tablets were basically laptops with desktop OS and no keyboards, just touch to operate them. Then came the iOS and the Android operating systems that made them lighter and thinner and different in many ways. What they did basically was basically create a new market. It was for users who were mobile, used device for light weight activities like browsing, reading, music and video. Folks who realized the benefits immediately switched over. Other held on for prices to get affordable and practicality to set in, i guess.

Second disruption, kind of, happened when smartphone caught on in a big way. The beginning of smart phones was exciting, but with the aggressive and symbiotic growth that smartphones had with tablets meant that it further broke down the market into those who were more than happy to be connected with the world on a 4 or 5 inch screen instead of a 7 or 10 inch one. Apps became the ammunition for superiority and iOS and Android made a killing and devoured giants and lesser ones along the way. A completely new ecosystem had come to life and it was more than just surviving. It was adapting and growing beyond the wildest imagination of many pundits out there.

Mobility, Connectivity and Social established more than just mere buzzwords. They became the norms and it was the consumes who were taking the call, not the industry.

The new world order
Today, when you thing of a device, you basically ask your self these questions –

  • Am I mobile or want to stay like one?
  • Do I need to stay connected?
  • Do I need heavy computing, if ever?
  • Do I want to have fun and information on the go?
  • Do I want to be hip?
  • Do I want to change my device like clothes?
  • Will it support my profession or my social life?

Every combination of answer will either lead you to a smart phone or a tablet or a laptop or a Desktop. When you analyze the questions, you will realize that most people out there can do with a mobile and tablet. And that’s were the change is happening. More and more people are beginning to realize that their needs are very niche and can be catered to by a smaller, lighter and portable device with a experience that is fun. Of course, price will always be a swing factor. With smart phone getting bigger and cheaper and their operating systems wiser and better, the inevitable had to happen. Where does that leave the desktop? Well, those who really need a desktop will stay with it. Rest will move on to something better. That’s bound to happen. I see desktops for corporates & institutions, professionals, gamers, and techies. Rest of us might probably move on as the technology migrates to other platforms.
So what is the future for desktops?
More than desktops, I think it’s the operating systems that will change. For now, desktop and mobile operating systems are different. But as Ubuntu has demonstrated, a new paradigm is around the corner. Microsoft has done the same in a somewhat tacky way but Ubuntu has got it spot on, synegyzing all devices (be it desktop, mobile or any screen based device like TV) into one experience. The distant future is already being realized.


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