thinking about PCs

Yes, I think the traditional PC is dying.

Desktops are already relics.  Waiting for any PC to boot up is a chore–especially if you get caught in one of those seemingly interminable update cycles Windows is so fond of.  Experiencing instant-on tablets just makes the PC look slower.

If you own a Dell or an HP, it’s worse than just the hardware limitations.  You’re also saddled with a heavy, clunky-looking machine that breaks a lot and where customer service is poor.

But the current slump in PC sales is considerably more shallow than the headline numbers imply.  Those include the crashing and burning of the netbook (I own one but thought that as a concept the netbook had long since died.  Apparently not until 2013).  Ex netbooks, global PC sales are down by 5% or so, year on year.

Consumers switching to tablets is a key reason for the lack of oomph in PCs.  Tablets are smaller, lighter, cheaper.  They’re instant on.  You can play tons of casual–or, like Kingdom Rush, not so casual, games on them.  By the way, my friend Pam told me about appsgonefree, an app whose sole purpose is to introduce you to free apps (Art Race is my favorite so far.)

I don’t think current tablets are the device of the future either, however.  They’re underpowered.  Invariably, apps are truncated versions of PC applications.  If  I want to do anything in depth, I invariably find that I have to leave the app and go to the “full” site via Chrome.  It’s hard to type on a tablet.  For iPads, the lack of a USB port makes it a pain in the neck to import anything.

That’s what makes the newest generation of Intel chips–with better to come as time goes on–so potentially interesting.  They the first Intel offerings tailored specifically for mobile devices.  They won’t cure Dell or HP’s lack of design flair or customer awareness.  But they will enable either much more useful tablets or cheaper, next-generation PCs  that we should begin to see this holiday season.

I suspect part of the weak PC sales story is that many potential PC buyers are awaiting the arrival of these new devices rather than purchasing soon-to-be dinosaurs.