Apple press rushes to write off PCs

Apple’s chums in the press, who are desperate to prove that tablets really are the next thing, have been banging on with strange claims that the PC is dying.

Reuters even went as far as saying that Silicon Valley’s old guard is “waking up to the fact that the era of consumer PC may be in its twilight”.

The basis of this has been last week’s awful earnings figures from some big names in technology. This, they say, proved that consumers are dumping desktop PCs and going mobile.

They said that Microsoft Windows sales, which are a reliable indicator of PC market strength, fell short of expectations for the third straight quarter. The only one making money was Apple with its shiny iPad.

In the traditional pro-Apple press release writing we have come to expect, Reuters said that “Apple, which single-handedly showed with its iPad that many consumers are more than happy with an unladen, light and mobile computer, obliterated all estimates by selling a whopping 9 million tablets.”

This is all proof that people are dumping their desktops and moving onto iPads and into a Jobsian Utopia, it claimed.

However, nine million tablets from Apple is a drop in the bucket for PC sales worldwide. Even if Android tablets had a similar figure. Tablets might have had an effect on netbook sales, but anyone who has tried to use them for real work will find them frustrating and slow.

What the figures are telling us is that PC sales generally are down. There are a number of reasons for this. Most of them are economic. No one claims that tablets are killing off flat screen televisions, but there is a downturn there too.

This economic uncertainty has seen many of companies not upgrade their PCs at all, which is why there are so many XP machines out there, a figure many in certain corners ignores. If you have 50 percent of punters using Windows XP it means that half of the users have not upgraded their gear for at least three years.

One fact that the Apple press failed to realise is that even Jobs’ Mob is not selling its tablets in the economically strapped EU – so if the iPads really are replacing PCs they are only doing so across the pond.   

Yet, for some reason, some are keen to pin an ordinary slow down in the industry to tablets. If it was tablets that were responsible we would expect to see them introduced across the board. However, it seems to be a uniquely Apple phenomena, another gimmick which will pass.

Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Management, was quoted by Reuters as saying that the desktop, at least for consumers, probably doesn’t have a great future, and the iPad and similar tablets can deliver a lot of the functionality of a laptop.

He has a point in some regards, but it is about consumer seduction rather than true functionality. Games on the systems won’t hold up to PC gamers. The one thing they do well should be ebooks, but they have failed to knock out technology that uses E-INK such as the Kindle.

Yet Ghriskey claims that worldwide shipments of smartphones are already overtaking PCs, and by 2015, more than 300 million tablets will ship, not far behind 479 million PCs expected to be made. Does that mean the future of the expensive, consumer-attractive Macbook is at risk, too? 

Now, 2015 is a long way away, and by then tablets might be far more useful than the toys we see around us now.

But the Economic Times of India  reports that there is no chance of tablets entering developing markets.

India’s PC market, like China’s, is growing and it seems that the tablet boom has not reached them yet. The difference might be that they are all economies that are growing and not suffering from economic worries at the moment.

Then there is the point where those aged Windows XP boxes really do get killed off and have to be replaced. Once the economic worries, particularly in Europe, are calmed, then we will see the tablet will either evolve into something more useful or replaced by more mobile PC technology.