The PC Used to Rule the Tech World, but It's Going out of Style Fast  

A blog about business and economics.
Dec. 3 2013 8:26 AM

PC Sales Are Collapsing   

154744068
It's gonna be huge.

Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

IDC's latest estimate of the 2013 market for personal computers projects a remarkable 10 percent decline in sales for the one-time king of the technology landscape.

The main culprit, pretty clearly at this point, is mobile. I sometimes hear people talk about whether a tablet or a smartphone can serve as a "PC replacement," with people usually answering in the negative. But that's because the people I hear talk about this are usually people like me—people whose job involves using a computer as the key work tool and who also work somewhat irregular hours.

But suppose you have a more normal typical job taking care of kids or old people or sick people, serving food, cutting hair, fixing plumbing, driving a car or truck, or working a cash register? In that case it used to be that either you had to cut yourself off from the digital world or else you had to own a personal computer that was really built and designed for the occupational needs of professional computer-users. Now a smartphone keeps you connected to the internet so you can send and receive email, check Facebook, check sports scores, check the weather, play games, and even read Slate. If you've got money to burn you might supplement your smartphone with an optimized reading and video watching device like a tablet. Or else you might go with a large format "phablet" type phone to serve both needs in a cost-effective way.

Advertisement

Meanwhile, back at the office how much money does corporate really want to shell out for computer upgrades? Moore's law is still in effect, as we can see from the fact that 2013 smartphones are way better than 2008 smartphones. But for PCs, diminishing returns have clearly set in for folks who aren't doing a lot of video editing or "big data." When someone's computer breaks, of course you'll replace it. But are you going to upgrade just for the sake of upgrading? Why? Especially with everyone hating Windows 8, it doesn't make much sense.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
History
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 29 2014 3:10 PM The Lonely Teetotaler Prudie counsels a letter writer who doesn’t drink alcohol—and is constantly harassed by others for it.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 29 2014 11:32 PM The Daydream Disorder Is sluggish cognitive tempo a disease or disease mongering?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.