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The PC is dead? Then the Chromebook must be comatose

Bill Snyder | July 18, 2014
Microsoft haters close their eyes to any evidence that PC sales are still strong, which they are

If Chromebooks were flying off the shelves of Best Buy, it might indicate that the Chromebook is becoming accepted in the huge consumer market, but that's not what's happening. If you look at consumer sales of Chromebooks in addition to sales in the commercial channel, you get a mere 800,000 units sold over the last five months, Baker says.

That's simply not a big deal.

I want to be careful to avoid giving the impression that Baker is cool to Chromebooks. He's not. "Building on last year's surprising strength, Chrome's unit strength ahead of this year's education buying season shows how it has become a legitimate third platform alongside Windows and Mac OS X and iOS," he wrote.

Although few pundits acknowledged it, Baker's report also included positive news about PCs. Windows desktop sales in the resellers' commercial distribution channel increased by 25 percent in five months. Imagine that: Sales of Desktop PCs, another platform the smart guys have long since written off, is growing.

For PCs, it should be about finding a stable bottom, not a race to the bottom
Given the Chromebook's relatively tiny market share, it makes little sense for Microsoft and the PC makers to worry about it. They have other problems around the shift away from the PC's dominance. And both companies know it.

Intel is struggling to find its footing in the new mobile-centric world, but revenue from its traditional core products gives it a good deal of breathing room to develop new lines of business. Microsoft is having a difficult time adapting to new realities, but even its Windows 8 debacle reflected a corporate acknowledgment that serious change is imperative.

Still, old habits die hard. Microsoft and some of its PC partners this week kicked off yet another race to the bottom with the announcement of an ultracheap PC called the Stream. It won't fly any more than the netbook did, and in fact is simply a step backward. The PC's problem isn't its cost but its relevance in an increasingly mobile world.

Selling $200 PCs, which users should expect this Christmas, as Microsoft said at its Worldwide Partners Conference, makes no sense. The pricing will kill margins and probably win sales from only people who were thinking about buying cheap, 7-inch Android tablets.

Most people who opt for a PC, as opposed to a high-end iPad, like the platform and its ability to run familiar Windows productivity apps like Office. They won't buy a slow, clunky PC -- whether it is called a Stream or a netbook.

And that uptick in PC sales may be transitory, a brief respite from the PC market's hitting true bottom. It's quite likely that the end of Windows XP support is fueling a business upgrade cyclethat may not have long legs.

Yes, the PC platform is in decline. But it's a long way from dead. Just look at the evidence.

Source: InfoWorld


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