The post-PC era isn’t post-PC. It’s PC plus.
Tablets are selling well. PC sales are declining. What does it mean? That we’re entering the PC-and-a-bunch-of-other-stuff era.
Tablet Shipments Forecast to Top Total PC Shipments in the Fourth Quarter of 2013 and Annually by 2015, According to IDC (IDC press release, 9/11/2013)
It’s the story that would not die! It’s the end of the PC era! It’s the end of Microsoft (which, oblivious, continues to increase revenue at comfortable operating margins, year after year after year)!
Not what most industry commentators keep saying, over and over again. What it is:
- Television shipments are in decline.
- Tablet shipments aren’t just increasing, but ten or so tablets are sold for every television.
Conclusion: The advent of tablet devices has taken us into the post-television era.
Congratulate me! I’ve achieved perfect incoherence. Impressive, eh?
The PC marketplace is now saturated. Every consumer who wants one has one. Every seat in every business that needs a PC has a PC.
And we’ve just about reached the point where the software people use the most no longer requires more and more RAM and CPU cycles.
Which means the only reasons anyone has to buy a new PC are (1) the old one has worn out; or (2) they’re starting a new business or growing the one they have, and need them for the employees they’re hiring.
We aren’t entering the “post-PC” era. We’re entering the PC-and-a-bunch-of-other-stuff era. Call it the PC-plus era if that’s less of a mouthful. Here are the main pluses and what they mean to you:
VDI: Virtual desktops, the trend that refused to start. Instead of using the storage and processing power that’s sitting right in front of each user, you’re supposed to prefer a bunch of additional servers, more complexity in your networks, and more draw on the limited AC power you’re able to pipe into your data center.
VDI is real, but not general-purpose. It’s fine for production workers whose responsibilities are limited to a fixed set of enterprise applications. You can save a few bucks (but less than you might think) by buying specialized VDI terminals for them, and you will gain a bit of control, so what the heck.
A variant … offline VDI, where each PC image is managed centrally, but is executed locally … would be a terrific possibility for BYOD, if only the user’s device was a Windows tablet that could support it (Android and iOS-based tablets just can’t handle the load). Beyond that? Mostly, you’ll irritate people.
Employee smartphones and tablets: Business travel is annoying, as anyone who does a lot of it can explain in much more detail than anyone else wants to hear. The last thing you need to do is make it more annoying by forcing travelers to haul two laptops along – the one IT provides for business use, which is already an annoyance, plus their personal laptop to handle personal business, which doesn’t go away just because they’re traveling.
IT can make a lot of friends by providing smartphone apps that provide secure access to basic functionality for enterprise applications, plus a VDI client for tablets that allows travelers who don’t need to do a lot of computer work do what they do need to do on a tablet.
Consumer PCs, smartphones and tablets: This is what will hurt the most. Consumers will continue to use PCs to interact with your company’s website. Nothing you’re doing now will go away.
Meanwhile, a lot of them will also want to use the functionality you provide through your website on their smartphones. Casual customers (and “customers” who don’t buy from you but do want your content) will be happy to use their phone’s browser … often, they won’t even care if you don’t provide a specialized version of your website built for the smartphone’s small screen.
But regular customers will want an app for that … not only because an app’s user interface is designed from the ground up to be useful on their smartphone, but because the whole experience is smoother. Make that two apps – one for iOS, the other for Android. And you never know … if Microsoft is able to sell Lumias in any quantity, you might have to make it three.
Then you’ll need another set of apps designed for the tablet’s form factor.
Oh … and you probably won’t get to add any staff to handle all of this additional responsibility.
What can you do about it?
Oops. Sorry … we’re out of space. Stay tuned for next week’s episode of All Things Considered I think I’ll Take Up Organic Farming.
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Full disclosure: My employer, Dell, sells lots of products and services connected to this week’s topic. None of the folks who are responsible have asked my opinion, though. In the interest of symmetry I haven’t asked them for theirs, either.