When Apple co-founder Steve Jobs launched the iPad in 2010, he announced the post-PC era. We could just as easily call it the mobile era, or the handheld device era, but the signal that Jobs gave was unmistakable.
The PC would never be the same, never have the same prominence or penetration as mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad. If the post-PC era is here, and PC sales are dropping in a death spiral, who’s to blame?
Microsoft? Or, Apple?
Despite a veritable rash of new PCs, notebooks, notebook tablet hybrids, the launch of Windows 8 and Microsoft’s own tablet-cum-notebook line, traditional PC sales have fallen off a cliff.
In the most recent quarter, traditional PC sales declined as much as 15-percent, the largest such decline since the early days of the PC revolution.
The jury is still out on whether Apple’s Mac line suffered a drop in sales or an increase in sales (two different reports, about 15 points apart).
Regardless, by adding tablets to the count (and not smartphones), Apple is the largest and most profitable personal computer manufacturer on the planet.
That reversal of fortune is a stunning turnabout for a company that was all but left for dead half a generation ago. What happened? Who is to blame for the death of the PC, or perhaps more accurate, who is responsible for the post-PC era?
Is it Apple, with the iPhone and iPad line? Or, is it Microsoft with Windows 8, and a line of hybrid tablet notebooks that are selling like a change to Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?
Dead, Or Dying?
Frankly, the PC isn’t dying so much as becoming less centric to our computing needs. Far less centric. Too much of what we used to relegate to a PC can be done on an iPhone or iPad. That trend change also means fewer people need to upgrade PCs to newer models.
I think of what’s happened in just the past few years as a perfect storm. Smartphones began to take on tasks formerly reserved for PCs– Email. Browsing. Apps. Then, along comes the iPad, and even the notebook looks heavy, slow, and outdated.
Microsoft shares some blame in the fall of the PC, too. Some PC manufacturers are putting the blame for weak sales completely at Microsoft’s door. Windows 8 hasn’t caught on with the home buyer, and less so with the enterprise.
Windows 8’s Metro interface was too much of a drastic change for buyers, already pained by using Windows for 20 years, but hundreds of millions have been attracted to the simplicity of Apple’s iOS devices. Microsoft reportedly plans to bring back the Start button in a rushed update to Windows 8, but it may be too little too late.
Microsoft’s hybrid touch screen notebooks have met with a similar fate– buyer resistance and buyer’s remorse. That perfect storm of events has worked to cause traditional PC sales to fall dramatically, while smartphones and tablets continue to increase rapidly in number.
I won’t give Apple all the credit for the demise of the PC (which hasn’t actually happened yet, and probably won’t), but the company certainly heralded the post-PC era with iPhone and iPad. Still, Microsoft deserves some kind of credit for shooting themselves and the entire PC industry in the foot. Twice.