Traditional PC sales, including the Mac, are going down, while new mobile devices– smartphones and tablets– are growing rapidly. In the post-PC era is the Mac beginning to fade away, a classy relic from the past?
We Hardly Knew Ye!
First, allow me to clear up the semantics. In the post-PC era, traditional personal computers, including the Mac and Windows PCs, either desktop or notebook, are defined as PCs.
Second, yes, an iPhone and an iPad, as with most modern smartphones and tablets, is merely a mobile personal computer.
This isn’t even a battle of traditional vs. mobile computing devices. Traditional PC sales are going down (including the Mac), while mobile computing device sales, as exemplified by iPhone and iPad, are going up.
Is the Mac on its way out? Yes, albeit slowly. The Mac is an important and highly profitable segment of Apple’s product line, but the handwriting is on the wall. Mac sales are down and likely to continue that trend for years.
The power and usability of the Mac is slowly, step-by-step, being transferred to Apple’s mobile devices. The iPhone could be considered a Mac in your pocket. The iPad is merely a larger iPhone but without the phone.
Increasingly, people who own a personal computer are not upgrading to the latest and greatest. Instead, they’re taking their computing tasks to their smartphones and tablets. Look at any Apple Store. Nearly everyday you’ll see a large table populated by former PC (and Mac) users, learning to use the iPad or iPhone instead.
A Non-Reversible Trend
It is unlikely the Mac, or the typical, traditional Windows PC, will die any time soon. There will be improvements in battery life, CPU power, graphics capability, storage capacity, and screen resolution– for years to come.
The move to mobile devices by the great unwashed masses of computing device users is a non-reversible trend. Already, smartphones and tablets of decent quality and capability cost less to manufacture and distribute than typical Macs or PCs.
At what point will their internal components begin to rise in price? It’s math. Larger screen, larger memory, larger battery, larger case means traditional Macs and PCs could eventually cost more than they do today, because the economy of scale is changing. Just as telephone land lines are shrinking in number as people move to cell phones, how long before households don’t have a Mac or a PC at all, functionality replaced by a number of mobile devices?
We will know the end has come when tablets and smartphones begin taking over advanced functionality currently handled by Mac and Windows PC. Is Adobe working on Creative Cloud apps for iPhone and iPad or Android devices? Certainly. Apple’s iCloud-based iWork apps– Pages, Numbers, Keynote– are accessible and useful without a Mac (or, a price tag, it seems).
Wherefore Art Thou, Microsoft?
The post-PC era is here already. It’s real. And it’s having a tremendous impact on the status quo. While Microsoft and PC makers owned the past 20 years with Windows-based computers, those same companies are completely absent in the rapidly growing mobile world.
Apple may have been a profitable niche player among PC makers, but the company may be the best positioned technology company to prosper in the post-PC era with hundreds of millions of loyal, satisfied customers. Microsoft, Dell, HP cannot say the same. Today, they represent the relics of a nearly bye-gone era.