Why The PC Is Not Doomed - Antony Leather ( Forbes) 21/8/2013

There has been a lot of press coverage in recent months about slowing PC sales. Lenovo has recently reported that its smartphones and tablets outsold its PCs and the venerable computer itself has seen the longest sale decline in its history, continuing from late 2012, right the way through 2013. Global sales have dipped below 80 million in a quarter for the first time too.

Tablets, such as Apple AAPL +0.16%‘s iPad are largely the cause, and who can blame the consumer? A tablet can do many things a PC can such as browse the Internet, play and stream video and dabble in social networking. 

Despite all this gloomy news, though, there are several very good reasons I believe the PC isn’t going to roll over and die in the next five years. In fact I believe the PC will remain the cornerstone of many households for at least the next decade and beyond.

Firstly, the PC has been the most popular single home computing device for longer than any other. Laptops and netbooks have risen and fallen and Intel INTC -1.01%‘s new Ultrabook platform – essentially a low-power, super-portable laptop, while popular isn’t going to take over either.

Secondly, the PC is still evolving. It still represents the pinnacle of technology, and the latest, most expensive PCs that use cutting edge hardware from the likes of Intel and Nvidia NVDA -0.2%, are already faster than the next generation of consoles such as Sony SNE +0.1%‘s Playstation 4 and Microsoft MSFT +1.61%‘s Xbox One, and vastly superior to tablets and smartphones.

PCs are now much smaller than they used to be. Some cases are the same size as shoeboxes,while many people I know now own what’s called an all-in-one PC, which is essentially a monitor and PC combined – a great way of saving on space, and many are touch-screen capable too.

The PC also has countless communities that involve PC enthusiasts. These include gamers, and those that edit videos, photos or create 3D renders – there are even vast communities that build and modify the PCs themselves in their spare time, much like you’d see in an episode of American Chopper.

Gaming on the PC, despite countless people predicting its death for years, is still hugely popular, largely thanks to downloadable game platforms such as Valve’s Steam and EA’s Origin – both of which take all the hassle out of installing, updating and backing up your PC games. The PC is also a fantastic platform for creating music and is the preferred platform for working with 3D printers too.

So why have tablets eaten into the PC market so much? Well, not all of the figures represent a decline purely due to the rise of tablets. Since 2008, we’ve been in one of the worst ever economic recessions , which has meant many people held onto their PCs for a bit longer before upgrading or replacing them.

Many tablet sales are likely due to people wanting a cheaper way of getting online in these hard times too – why spend most of your monthly net salary on a PC, when you can get an Apple iPad for half the price?

The iPad can do most things but it's still a comsumable device and not as flexible as a PC

Another reason tablets have been so popular is that the Internet is a largely consumable medium; we watch videos, we look at photos, we read news and listen to podcasts.

It’s fair to say even I spend more time doing this on a portable device  than on my PC. However, when the tables are turned and you want to edit content, deal with files or work with professional programs, the tablet suddenly becomes your worst enemy.

On a trip to see relatives recently, I used an iPad for a weekend, and I was amazed at just how much longer it took me to perform many tasks than it did on my PC – even things such as online shopping and filling in forms.

Anything to do with word processing or content creation is still done most efficiently on a PC and doing it on any other device will simply take longer – this isn’t something that tablets are going fix. Perhaps the PC’s biggest trump card is that it can still do everything, where tablets, smartphones and even laptops cannot. It can surf the Internet, it can play games, it create and edit content be it websites to magazines or newsletters to professional levels – other devices simply fall short of these feats in one or more areas.

So, rather than being wiped out by the tide of new portable devices, the PC is going to do what it’s always done – sit back and ride out the storm. It will still be here, albeit possibly in reduced numbers in 10 or even 15 years time, but it will be sitting alongside smartphones, tablets and whatever other gadgets we choose to take with us when we walk out the door.