Slow News Day: Tablets Will Overtake PCs

by Mark Wilson

Another news/opinion piece that laments the death of the personal computer. Except that it doesn’t. Generally, editors — not the writers — generate the headline. “The PC looks like it’s dying” not because of the Rise of the Tablet. Someone whose job it is to study the PC market observes, “Bottom line is still the economic conditions worldwide.”

I’m still a little bristly from the otherwise-generally-correct Farhad Manjoo proclaiming the end of the notebook computer in Slate two months ago. As I observed at the time, Apple’s preview of iOS 6 and Mountain Lion, its desktop operating system, showed a symbiotic relationship between the two operating systems and not cannibalization of the desktop OS by the mobile OS.

Other reasons that explain the decline of PC sales — which are not related to “the tablets are taking over” — include the following: (1) lots of people own one or more computer already, but not one or more tablet; and (2) high-end computers have gotten so cheap, and clock-speeds have topped out around 3 GHz, that the days of instant obsolescence are behind us. Memory, disk space, and processor power are all cheap and plentiful. Because a good computer that will last several years is cheaper than it used to be, the refresh frequency is less than it used to be. A quick search at Best Buy’s website reveals that a pretty good HP laptop is $700. The “pretty good” laptop of yesteryear would have cost multiples of that.

No, Virginia, PCs are not going away anytime soon.