Slumping PC Sales Signal Rise of Mobile Computing

Consumers may be going mobile more rapidly than just about anyone in the computing industry could have predicted. Two new reports show sales of desktop and laptop machines dropping sharply in the first quarter of 2013. First-quarter shipments of PCs were down 14 percent worldwide from the same period last year, according to International Data Corp., with Gartner Inc. tallying an 11 percent decline. The numbers may vary, but the consensus is clear: more and more consumers are flocking to mobile computing.

Consumers may be going mobile more rapidly than just about anyone in the computing industry could have predicted. Two new reports show sales of desktop and laptop machines dropping sharply in the first quarter of 2013. First-quarter shipments of PCs were down 14 percent worldwide from the same period last year, according to International Data Corp., with Gartner Inc. tallying an 11 percent decline. The numbers may vary, but the consensus is clear: more and more consumers are flocking to mobile computing.

When Apple released the iPad three years ago, Steve Jobs predicted that the world was entering a “post-PC era.” Once again, his prescience about tech trends was spot-on. Tablets are catching quickly catching up to PCs, with sales predicted to approach 200 million this year. And it’s not just a function of the lower price point of mobile devices compared to PCs. The convenience factor looms large, leaving open the possibility that PCs could be further undermined with the release of voice-activated “wearable computing” devices like Google Glass.

Predictably, the rush to mobile computing puts pressure on PC industry giants like Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Intel, which will have to make serious adjustments to stay relevant. “It’s time for these companies to make some critical decisions and ask themselves, ‘How are we going to turn this ship around?'” said industry analyst Patrick Moorhead in an NPR report. Most significantly, Microsoft’s new operating system appears to have damaged its popularity more than boost it. Windows 8 was designed to emulate software running on smartphones and tablets, but the platform appears to have alienated many PC users. And because it’s designed as a touch-screen interface, it raises the cost of compatible PC devices. The biggest PC players have responded to the changing market by releasing tablet-laptop hybrids with detachable keyboards, but none of these have caught on like the iPad, and it doesn’t look like they’re gaining momentum.

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