Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, was more bullish. "Consumer will continue to be an important part of the PC market," he said.
The long-term slump, Gottheil is convinced, is less a matter of consumers rejecting PCs than an extraordinary lengthening of the systems' lifespans. "That has stretched out over the last few years, from three-to-four years to six or more," Gottheil said. "When it stops stretching, sales will be at the rate they were before. As people age into [personal computers] and gain the necessary dollars, they'll continue to buy PCs."
Gottheil contended that the reliability boost brought to PCs by solid-state drives has been one of the causes of the longer lifespans.
But Milanesi put that on its head by arguing that OEMs should strive to create, market and sell even more reliable, higher-end PCs as a way to survive.
That's been Apple's approach to personal computers for decades: Its Macs are more expensive than the average Windows-powered PC, and have a reputation as better built than the run-of-the-mill machine. Apple has eschewed volume for profit margin to make the Mac sustainable.
Microsoft, which has adopted the same strategy for its Surface line, is expected to expand into the desktop PC space with an all-in-one PC design later this month.
"Instead of looking at how phones are cannibalizing PC sales, OEMs should be thinking about how they can create a market for higher-end consumers," Milanesi said.
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