The PC is not dead

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 16, 2013
Updated • Jan 16, 2013

Every once in a while so-called analysts proclaim the death of a company or device and while the dice they throw are sometimes right about that, they are more often than not wrong. The latest prediction is that the PC is dead and that is almost entirely based on a drop in 4th quarter 2012 shipments and the rise of tablets.

Tablets are the latest trend and they are doing extremely well right now, selling like hotcakes so to say. The majority of tablets are great for certain activities, like browsing the Internet, watching video, listening to music, messaging and other activities that require little to no input from the user. Playing Angry Birds on a Kindle Fire is fun and even movies are great to watch if you do not have a larger screen in reach at that time.

But when it comes to work, tablets fail more often than not. Not only can't you create new applications or games for tablets on tablets, a lot of regular work related activities are not possible either or at least not enjoyable.

Most tablets come without keyboard which makes typing longer blog posts or articles an unpleasant experience. Some tablets like Microsoft's Surface RT have optional keyboards attached to them and while that's raising the level considerable, writing is still limited because of the smaller keyboard and screen you work with.

Writing is on the other hand a basic activity. What about video rendering, designing web pages or coding the next blockbuster app? While you may find an app here and there that makes available the functionality, the limited screen size and processing power make this all but an enjoyable experience.

Casual games work well on tablet devices but most gamers prefer either a gaming system like the Wii, Xbox 360 or Sony PS3, or if they want the best and latest, a PC. Why a PC? Because it is the most versatile gaming machine out there. Can you play real-time strategy games on a console? Not really because of the fiddly controls. There are certain types of games that do not work on consoles, and yes, shooters are among them at least if you want to play fair and square and without auto aim.

Why are PC sales dropping then? It is actually pretty easy to answer. Modern PCs last a long time. Back in the days of the first Pentium systems you got a serious speed boost upgrading your system from a Pentium  to say a Pentium II, and the same was true for video cards which made big jumps a that time, RAM and even hard drives. PCs today can be used for years even if you are a gamer, and if you do not game or use other taxing programs on your PC, you can very well use a five or even ten year old PC for most activities without issues.

The performance gain of upgrading a two year old PC may still be noticeable but it is not a prerequisite for playing the latest games or working on the PC, and it seems that a lot of people have realized that. So, instead of upgrading the PC the money is saved or spend elsewhere.What's your take on this?


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  1. Alana said on January 20, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Hi there,

    I totally have to agree with your thoughts on this subject ; I’m a writer, and find it much more natural to bang out words on my laptop, than on my tablet. I think the PC, just like print media, will always be there, and might take possibly another generation to be phased out. Case in point? Those hideous keyboards that come attached to a tablet, making it look like a spineless (pun intended) laptop. Just my two cents!


  2. Gonzo said on January 17, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    PC = Personal Computer. They are thriving more now than ever, however the platform is changing. Desktops are already becoming a niche market thanks to low priced and adequately powered laptops. They’re not dead but they’re dieing. Gamers will find Intel’s upcoming GT3 integrated graphics capable of high end gaming as will many reliant on HW acceleration (CAD & Photoshop, etc.). A dock, large monitor, keyboard and mouse with “cloud” or local NAS will be all that’s needed for a desktop like experience.

    This “shrinking” trend will continue. PC builders will be SOL and will be using NUC like devices. Sooner than later traditional PC’s will be more expensive given the increased material cost and low demand. PCIe devices less common and more expensive.

    Maybe smartphone (Google Glass?) docks will be the bridge. A smartphone-> tablet dock. smartphone->laptop dock. smartphone->desktop dock. Such docks would bring the cost down when compared to owning 3 separate and complete devices. It’s years (decade?) off but it looks inevitable.

    In the meantime, the desktop and traditional laptop are still the best bang for the buck and should be for a few more years. Given a proper OS, processor and storage a smartphone is a PC. Please don’t forget that! Windows 8 on an x86 tablet should be proof enough. It’s coming, like it or not.

  3. Keith said on January 17, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    PCs in general are not dying. A good portion of PC users do not replace until they MUST replace. My case: the clock battery is about dead and the main drive is shot. That means the motherboard, bios, and OS are seriously out of date. This PC was a gift for college use and it worked fine for years with physical upgrades and tweaks. The motherboard is what now needs replaced to be capable of handling today’s tech. I will stick with a PC at the house and see this one in the shop for simple CAD. When the tablet can run full power CAD from the shop using my PC as the host processor, I will consider one. Even then, my PC will rule as the host.

  4. Ken Saunders said on January 17, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    When they come out with tablets that have 24″ high resolution monitors like the one that I’m looking at right now with split screen capabilities so that I can watch TV or whatever and work at the same time and that can handle web development for PC’s and devices of all sizes and that allows me to create dual monitor wallpapers and watch movies in high definition and run 50 applications at a time and that won’t be obsolete in 4 days, I might consider getting one.

    The thinking is all wrong. The idea, and the smart capitalistic one and plan should be to work on going as seamlessly as possible from device to another.
    Some are focusing on that on not on just a plan to try and make one thing dominant over the other.

    Many phones can do what tablets do. Are they the death of tablets?
    Do people that have huge screen TV’s go home and watch movies on their tablets? No.
    The appeal and purpose for these devices is portability.
    Enterprise, government, scientists, architects, military, TV and movie studios, and on and on will be using PC’s long, long after I’m dead.

  5. dean said on January 17, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    I’m not talking about using a tablet as a tablet.

    I’m talking about using one, with a docking station so that you have a full size monitor, keyboard and mouse.

    And then when you need to, you unplug it and go. You don’t do any programming or rendering on the go at the minute, so what would be the problem with not being able to do it in that situation?

    I use a laptop for work in the same way (No desktop), but when I get to work I have a full size screen, mouse and keyboard… it’s no different to using a tower, other than the fact that I can take it home with me an do anything I need to there. A tablet would be even more convenient in that it’s so much smaller and lighter.

  6. X said on January 17, 2013 at 4:11 am

    Please bear in mind that all posters, except for one masochist, are using PCs.

    Each one of the above statements boils down to: “No, the PC won’t die because I AM using one”.
    Implying of course, that I AM important, what I AM DOING is valuable, an I WILL never die…

    For one, you can be/become useless long before you’re dead. And then, cemeteries are full of indispensable people.

    In a capitalistic society, if something doesn’t sell, it’s as good as dead.

    And PCs are not selling as they were…

    I won’t elaborate on the why’s..

  7. Nebulus said on January 17, 2013 at 2:06 am

    @dean: There is more to a PC than power and price. Usability for certain tasks is an important aspect (think programming). Screen size is another. And maybe the most important aspect is: can I run on a tablet every piece of software and every OS that I can run on my PC? Because I believe that the answer is “no”.

  8. dean said on January 17, 2013 at 12:44 am

    Part of me wonders why, if a tablet was a s powerful as a pc and roughly the same price, would we not just shift to docking stations? Why have a big, noisy, dust gathering hunk of metal sat in the corner?

    I’m not saying the pc is about to die, because the from all these comments, nobody wants it to die…. And I fail to see why. If tablets can get as powerful (big if I know) then why not bin the tower (not the mouse and keyboard) in favour of a go anywhere tablet?

  9. bill blagger said on January 16, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Twitter is a politician-free zone!?! Might have some appeal to me after all!

  10. Morely Dotes said on January 16, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Anyone who thinks PCs are dead has never used a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) package. And even if we assume the processing power of a tablet will equal desktop PCs in, say, 5 years, that power comes at a price: CPUs and GPUs use electricity at a rate that is proportional to the processing power. A tablet with the usual battery and equal processing power to a desktop PC is going to have a battery life measured in minutes Not even in tens of minutes). That’s simply not practical.

    And then there’s storage capacity. My “daily game” uses more than 22 GB on my PC’s hard drive. My tablet has 16 GB internal and 32 GB SDcard storage. Even if World of Warcraft would run on it, I don’t want to devote that much of my mobile storage to a single game! And I shudder to think of trying to control my character, chat, and manage equipment with a touchscreen interface.

    PCs are only “dead” to casual computer users who don’t have to do anything significant (and to politicians, who are notoriously non-tech-savvy anyway and mostly can’t even use Twitter).

  11. sades said on January 16, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Maybe if all you do are internet and tweeting all day.

  12. The Mighty Buzzard said on January 16, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Dice is already plural.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2013 at 6:20 pm

      Right, thanks for the correction.

  13. bill blagger said on January 16, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    JMO but, as Martin says, PCs last a while and recent ones are probably far more capable than *most* peoples’ uses for them. Seems tablets are adequate for many and if you just read but don’t contribute to e.g. discussions such as this, they probably are. Added to that, Windows XP and Windows 7 still work fine while Windows 8 is a big jump for many, which doesn’t encourage sales of new PCs.

  14. Lucas said on January 16, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Where is all the content people are enjoying on these devices going to come from? You going to design a website on your phone? A movie on your pad? Creating new games on your xbox? When you can do all these things with these devices, congrats, you have a more portable PC. Gadgets are for consumption, PCs are for creation.

  15. kalmly said on January 16, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    At last a rational article on the topic of the “dying” PC.

  16. fokka said on January 16, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    ah heck, here’s my 2c on this dreadful discussion:

    first, everyone who proclaims the (imminent) death of the pc is either sensationalist, or simply dumb.

    sure, tablets are the new prom queen in IT and slate sales will probably continue to rise for years to come, but does that mean everybody suddenly throws their pc out the window? i don’t think so. the market is shifting in the light of new technological possibilities, but that’s what a market does. heck, that’s what everything does: change.

    although i personally can’t find a reason to invest in a tablet, i embrace the change they bring with them. maybe my next device will even be an asus transformer book, but i’ve got one problem: in what category will i fall, then?

    i mean, i don’t wanna kill the pc and stuff!

  17. Dave said on January 16, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    PC will never die. I will be getting desktops all my life because they deliver the best power i need.

  18. CMMC said on January 16, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Posting this from my low-budget ICS Android phone (Xperia Topo) which I bought 3 weeks ago.

    Did not expect much from this platform, but I just don’t need the PC anymore except for complex things like music composition and 3D gaming.

    Ubiquitous computing is here, and it is clumsy and adware-driven, much like the Windows 98 ecosystem, but it willl dominate

  19. Ray said on January 16, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    I agree with that. Serious gaming needs powerful and decent PCs as well as video work and photography. PCs will still be here for some time.

  20. Maou said on January 16, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Tablets are just toys, computers are the real deal.
    I may buy a x86 tablet to run certain Japanese games but aside that I really dislikes android and ios, If I can´t install my own linux system then i don´t wanna touch ARM tablets for a while.

  21. Yoav said on January 16, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    I agree with the article. Tablets are great on the road but are not even close to replacing the PC for me.

  22. EuroSkept1C said on January 16, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    @Ernestas, sure, Tablets will become as powerful… But then what? Why would you need as powerful Tablet? Would you start playing Battlefield 3 on the bus or while you’re defecating? The PC has become a standard and it’s truly irreplaceable. In almost nothing can a tablet replace the PC. Only in portability while given it’s size, still hard to imagine why to dumb the comfort of a nice desk, a nice chair and your entire PC. I literally fail to figure it out. What other kinds of processes need as much power that a tablet can truly replace the PC? In graphics departments? They even use the biggest and best monitors.

    Most likely the future you imagine is decades away. I mean, what we see in futuristic movies.

    Tablet is a luxury, expensive, non-vital and at its most part unpractical, small device. And with the power you’re talking, it will be even more expensive. You see, Laptops got almost as powerful as PCs, while being a lot more expensive and still they didn’t replace at all the PC. For work, yes, but only because it’s portability. In offices and industries you don’t see laptops…

    Let’s say you’re an average, non-rich guy now and you’ve to chose 1 or maximum 2 devices… What would these be? I’ll start first: A PC and a Smartphone. If I was a student in a city away from home, most likely a laptop and a smartphone. Take the results of the masses, and tell me… where this tablet fits in order to maintain its dominance? Truly, I don’t even compare a tablet with a PC yet. Personally, I’m pretty convinced they are two extremely different things. Certainly they don’t belong in the same category. But that’s just me, obviously.

  23. EuroSkept1C said on January 16, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Like “PC Gaming which is happily dying since… 1985”.

    Exactly the same case. And Jesus Christ… This time they have Tablet as the killer? Bloody Hell… It’s beyond amusing.

  24. Nebulus said on January 16, 2013 at 11:39 am

    I agree 100% with the article. The PC is not dead, and it will probably last a long time from now. It is true that the sales drop, but for PCs to disappear it would require for people to replace them, not just to buy more tablets or smartphones. I mean, if I own a PC and buy a tablet, that means that I contributed to the increase of tablet sales, but I didn’t scrap my computer.

  25. Ernestas said on January 16, 2013 at 10:43 am

    I agree with the article, but maybe the PC IS dead… I mean tablets are only halfway right now… In the future they will become as powerful as PCs. So even though the traditional keyboard and screen will not be gone from our desktops, PCs as boxes might go away and be replaced with tablets or even phones…

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